Does freezing batteries work?

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  • H. O.

Nov 13, 2017

    H. O. Nov 13, 2017

    “This article is not all that helpful. It is, at most, an almost worthless stop-gap process. Save yourself some time and get a new battery on eBay.” …” more

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An Overview

Deep cycle batteries can go through over a hundred cycles without getting damaged. However, the requirement of discharging it makes it likely to freeze in cold weather, hence prone to cease functioning. Discharged batteries have less sulfuric acid, therefore, having a consistency like water. Freezing occurs when the temperature drops enough to reach the battery’s freezing point at this state. Regardless, restoring the battery is still possible. There are methods to keep them warm, such as with the help of a battery blanket.

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How Can You Tell if Your Car Battery is Frozen

A visual inspection is obviously the easiest way to tell if your car battery is frozen. Of course, you’re going to want to wear safety glasses whenever dealing with a 12-volt car battery (especially if it’s a flooded type with the removable caps for checking the electrolyte).

Check the sidewalls of your battery first and see if they’re bulged out. If they are, this is a clear indication that ice has expanded within your cells and is pressing out against the walls of your battery. But also make sure that you’re properly linking the bulging walls of your battery to the cold weather. Your battery can have its walls bulge out from a long overcharge as gasses can’t escape fast enough which can happen if you don’t use a proper smart charger.

You can also disconnect your battery and slosh it around and listen for any liquid inside. This is especially true if you have a flooded lead-acid battery and you should be able to hear the electrolyte splashing around. If you don’t hear it, then it’s more than likely frozen.

If you have a flooded lead-acid battery, you can also pop the caps on top to check the battery acid inside and you can visually inspect with a flashlight to see if there’s ice.

Your Habits Cause a Car Battery to Freeze

Cold temperatures are obviously the primary reason why your car battery freezes but as we talked about before, the state of charge really has everything to do with whether or not your battery will freeze for all practical intents and purposes.

The higher the charge on your battery, the colder the temperature it can withstand. Believe it or not, driving habits are probably the number one factor with the state of charge of your battery.

Every time you start your car, especially in cold weather, more energy is drained out of your car battery and needs to be replenished by the car’s alternator. If you drive around in the winter to run errands and start your car 5 or 6 different times to go to 5 different locations and never drive your car for more than a few minutes at a time before returning home, then your car battery might be at a 90% charge (assuming you started at 100% in this example).

Do this for a few days and combine it with the parasitic draw that happens when your car isn’t even running from the clock radio and the anti-theft system and your charge is dropping even more. You can see how you could get down to a 50% state of charge really quickly. Don’t be surprised if your car battery freezes on one of those nights and gives you a bad morning to wake up to.

Precautions while freezing them

Although many battery manufacturers go against the idea of freezing batteries, many people have claimed the benefit of low self-discharge rate while freezing them.

Lack of proper precautions could cause various issues and further damage the batteries. Hence it is better to follow certain precautions while freezing your NiMH batteries.

1. Storing your batteries in the freezer can be a good idea, but storing them under extremely cold temperatures could damage the batteries.

2. Entry of moisture into the batteries could cause corrosion and damage the batteries. Hence it is always important to store the batteries in a sealed plastic bag so that they would not absorb moisture.

3. Avoid using the battery immediately after taking out from the freezer. Condensation could cause microdroplets to form on the battery. Hence it is best to bring them to room temperature before you begin to use them.

Our Personal Lithium Battery Cold Weather Experience

We have been living off-grid with lithium batteries as our primary storage medium for 4 years now and have dealt with freezing temperatures multiple times.  We make sure to keep the batteries in enclosed compartments at all times, even though the compartments were not heated. 

Some of our cold weather camping was during the Go North expedition to Alaska and the Arctic.

One of the packs I built included electrical prote

One of the packs I built included electrical protections and used a heated pad that would kick on to warm the pack. The heated pad used the packs own power or solar energy. If the pack got too cold, temperature sensors would shut it off to protect if from charging.   It was only a 40 watt heater, but it was more than enough to warm the small space to keep the battery within operating specs. 

For the Go North expedition we installed the batteries in a non-heated compartment. Bleed heat from the adjacent heated space kept the temperature above 40 degrees, even if the temps were in the teens outside.

Both systems performed well. Like the experiment, we noticed very little to no degraded capacity from the batteries over a warmer day.     

How To Keep A Motorcycle Battery From Freezing

Maintaining a motorcycle in the winter can seem a little daunting, but the little extra effort you take in properly storing it for the season will make it well worth your time later one. If you take good care of your motorcycle, it’ll take care of you.

While there are several steps you should take to properly store your motorcycle, you’ll want to especially focus on the battery to make sure it doesn’t freeze. There are several ways to prevent a motorcycle battery from freezing.

The first option you have is to simply disconnect the battery from the motorcycle and keep it stored in a temperature controlled environment. You can bring it in to your house, just make sure it is in some sort of sealed container and not near any open flames. Also make sure it is in and on something that you don’t mind getting ruined in the case some battery acid spills from it. Also keep it out of reach from kids and pets.

Keeping the battery charged will guarantee the battery won’t freeze. The second option you have is using a trickle charger. You simply hook it up to the battery and let it charge. You’ll need to monitor the charging because it’s possible to over charge the battery if it is left on for too long.

The third and best option you have is using a battery tender. This is my favorite option because it’s essentially worry free and does most of the work for you. You’ll need an outlet to plug it in, but once you have it connected to the battery it will monitor it’s charge and automatically start charging it when it senses the battery losing power. The best part is that it’ll also stop charging when it senses the battery has a full charge.

If you’re interested in knowing how to care for the rest of your motorcycle for long term or winter storage, see the helpful guide I have written by clicking here.

3 Ways to Keep an RV Battery From Freezing

The best way to keep an RV battery from freezing is to keep it fully charged.  A fully charged battery will not freeze anywhere other than in Antartica.

On a side note, I’ve found that it is actually possible to camp in Antartica but I’ve never actually heard of anyone bringing a recreational vehicle with them.

1) How to Keep Your Battery Charged

As you may know, a battery will slowly discharge itself over time.  Because of this, charging it once before storing it for the winter may not be enough to keep it fully charged.

People with longer winters need to leave their battery on a trickle charger or else periodically charge their battery.

Either of these two options will work so it really comes down to personal preference.  If you’re storing your RV in a garage with electricity it will be easy to leave your battery on a charger.

However, if your RV will be stored outside or in a building without electricity, you’ll probably have to go with periodic charging.

One other option would be to buy a solar trickle charger.  A solar trickle charger can also be called a solar battery maintainer.  These chargers come with small panels that do not provide enough energy to charge a battery but they can stop or at least slow a battery from discharging.

These chargers work great on deep cycle batteries and do not cost much to buy.  In fact, you can often buy them for less than $20.00.

The only downside is that you’ll have to park your RV in a sunny area and you’ll have to make sure that the panel does not get covered with snow.  Also, if you’re storing your RV remotely, the presence of the solar battery maintainer will let would-be thieves know that you have a battery inside of your RV.

Since you’re not around to protect the RV, the chances of both the battery and the charger being stolen will go up.

2) Keeping Your Battery Inside

For people with small battery banks, it may be easiest just to disconnect the battery and bring it inside.  This option eliminates the need to worry about your battery getting too cold and gives you the added benefit of having a backup battery at home.

In the past, I’ve actually connected my battery to an inverter and used it to charge up my electronics during a power outage.

3) Battery Insulation

As we stated earlier, insulating your battery can also help to keep it warmer in the winter.  Some options to consider are insulated battery boxes, battery wraps, thermal battery wraps.

An insulated battery box is simply a battery box with insulation added to it.  Insulating a battery box will slow down the speed at which cooler outside temperatures reach your battery.

Battery wraps are insulated pads that you wrap around a battery.

These wraps provide a small amount of insulation but are not recommended for colder temperatures.

Thermo-battery wraps are battery wraps that are connected to the battery to create heat.  These types of wraps work much better than insulated battery boxes or insulating wraps alone.

The drawback is that these wraps can drain power from the battery.  In most cases, you’d be better off leaving the battery at a higher charge rather than a higher temperature.

Thermo-battery wraps can be run from a standard AC outlet but if you have access to electricity you might be better off simply leaving your battery on a trickle charger.

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