ST. CLOUD – The National Weather Service has placed the entire state of Minnesota in a Wind Chill Advisory, and it’s fair to assume plenty of vehicles in central Minnesota will struggle to start up at some point over the coming weekend.

Darrell Jarnot, General Manager of Batteries Plus Bulbs in St. Cloud and longtime expert on batteries, says it’s always a good idea to get your vehicle’s battery checked before icy temperatures arrive.

“It’s just critical to keep your batteries charged at a full voltage,” he says. “So, that’s 12.5 or 12.6 or higher. If your battery is below 12 volts, you will have issues in this cold weather.”

Jarnot says cold weather doesn’t ruin batteries – it just highlights any problems that were already present.

“It’s heat that actually destroys a battery,” he explains. “But when we get really cold weather, it influences the mixture in batteries, like acid and distilled water. So, the heat destroys the battery’s electrolytes, and then you’ll just notice it with the cold weather.”

Jarnot says many people have been putting fewer miles on their vehicles during the COVID-19 pandemic – leading to a number of atrophied vehicle batteries.

“A lot of people really haven’t been using their vehicles as much,” he said. “And if your battery gets down to around 12 volts or less, sometimes that battery can freeze on you – it can actually freeze just like an ice block.”

Jarnot says there are a variety of ways for drivers to keep their batteries strong and ready to turn over in subzero temperatures.

“Charge your battery periodically, or pick up a battery maintainer that you can keep plugged in,” Jarnot suggests. “During a cold snap, you’ll have a constant charge going into your battery that will prevent it from freezing and it should always be charged and ready to go.

“And, starting your car will definitely help that,” he adds. “You’ll want to let your vehicle run for a while to let your alternator charge your battery.”

Jarnot says there are a few obvious signs it’s time to swap out your battery. He also suggests checking the date code stamped on the battery, indicating the month and year it was manufactured.

“If you turn your car over and it seems like it hesitates or has a more difficult time, that would mean that your battery is getting a little weak,” he says. “A battery’s life expectancy is around four or five years with our climate. “So, if you see a date code that’s dated five years or longer, you may want to get your battery checked out.”

Winter or summer, Jarnot says vehicle batteries don’t last as long as they used to.

“There are so many power demands,” he explains. “You have your Bluetooth, your back-up cameras, heated seats, heated steering wheel. “I’ve had some of the old timers mention, ‘my battery lasted me eight years,’ and I said, ‘well, you had power locks and power windows on your truck, and that’s it.”

“So, typically, your batteries won’t last as long as they used to.”

The most dangerous weather conditions for central Minnesota are expected Saturday night into Sunday morning, with wind chill values expected to dip to as low as 35 to 50 degrees below zero.

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