Winter has arrived in South Africa, and rumour has it that it may well be a cold one.

If you have not yet unpacked the winter woolies and blankets, the sooner you do it the better.

Winter is also generally when ageing car batteries or those with slight defects show their true colors. It would be wise to get the battery tested to prevent an early-morning non-start.

Although a battery may last for many years, battery specialists advised that it needs to be replaced at least once every three years.

Telltale signs that the battery may need to be replaced are that dreaded grrr noise when you try to start the car, bright lights when engine revs increase but dim ones when it is idling, any fluid leaks near the terminals and a slow cranking engine when you turn the key in the ignition.

Here are eight tips to ensure optimum battery performance:
• Ensure that you drive your car regularly and for a long enough distance to enable the battery to charge properly.
• Take your car to a battery service specialist and get it tested. Replace it sooner rather than later if the test indicated any defects.
• Park your car in a closed garage or storage facility or pull a cover over it during the night.
• Ensure that the battery terminals are clean and secure.
• It is not wise to disconnect the battery as this may affect vehicle electronics to the point where OEM intervention may be required.
• Ensure that your car’s radio, air conditioner and other electronics are switched off when you start your car. Allow some time for the engine and battery to warm up before switching these on.
• If the car won’t start at the first try, wait for 30 seconds or so before you try again.
• Keep a set of jumper cables at hand and should it be necessary to use it, consider it an indication to get the battery tested or replaced.

When in a hurry or pushed for optimum productivity, a dead battery or flat tyre can really ruin one’s day, especially so first thing in the morning. Remember, prevention is better than cure.

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