illustration: Serhi Melnyk/iStock

Take Charge and Get Your Vehicle Battery Ready for Winter

By Graham Heeps

The average battery lasts three to five years in Alberta, varying by vehicle and usage. AMA’s manager of technical services, Randy Loyk, recommends testing your battery at least once a year after it reaches three years of age.

“A battery gets harder to charge as it ages,” he says, “but it may not show its wear until colder weather comes and the car won’t start. Testing the battery lets you know how close it is to the end of its useful life.”

AMA offers free battery tests, member-exclusive prices on replacements, and free installation through its Mobile Battery Service. Members can make an appointment to have their batteries tested—and, if necessary, replaced (in select cities, hours vary). AMA has also partnered with Lube City for testing and replacement; they’ll check your battery during a regular oil change.

When the time comes, AMA’s Mobile Battery Service and Lube City offer member-exclusive pricing on CAA Premium Batteries. They’re made for Alberta’s extreme temperatures and come with an industry-leading six-year warranty, free installation and environmentally friendly disposal.

A range of traditional lead-acid batteries is available alongside select absorbent glass mat (AGM) batteries for new vehicles packed with electronic features. These batteries are sealed and use premium virgin lead. “In testing, we found that an AGM’s voltage is only about 0.3V higher, but it’s enough to make a difference in vehicle operations,” Loyk says. “If your car came with an AGM, you have to put an AGM back in.”

Roadside replacement isn’t as simple as it used to be. For some vehicles, technicians must register the battery in the vehicle’s computer to keep the correct charge rate. A replacement may also necessitate resetting electronic components in your vehicle, such as windows and stereo systems.

What you need to know about hard-to-install vehicle batteries

Some batteries might also take an hour or more to remove and replace due to their location—in a wheel well or under a seat, for example. For these, AMA Approved Auto Repair Services (AARS) facilities can do the job.

In winter, cold starts—plus heavy use of the headlights, heater and electrical devices—make it even harder for your battery to fully recharge, especially if you make a lot of short trips. To help, consider using a battery tender, which tops up the battery and then automatically shuts off. Connect it to your vehicle when idle; it’s particularly helpful if you’re away from home on vacation or not driving for long periods of time. AMA centres sell tenders in two sizes for cars and trucks, with member pricing from as little as $43.

More ways to help your vehicle when the cold bites

Synthetic oil: If your vehicle came from the factory with synthetic oil, refill with it. It’s engineered to help engines operate in colder temperatures.

Block heater: AMA recommends that any vehicle stored outside be plugged in at -15 C or colder. Set a timer for three hours before you start up.

Pre-winter auto maintenance: batteries, chip repair and more

Fuel up: Keep your vehicle topped up in winter. You never know when you’re going to get stuck in snowbound traffic.

Winter tires: Check that tires have plenty of tread depth and are properly inflated. Winter tires are the safest choice below 7 C.

Make an appointment with our Mobile Battery Service to make sure your battery is winter-ready.