Cold winter weather can be hard on auto batteries and charging systems, so you should check your vehicle before potential issues before you are stranded by a dead battery on a cold dark night. There are several problems that may cause your battery to fail to charge or to remain charged.
You auto battery may have just outlived its time and need to be replaced, or you could have a relatively new battery that is defective. Most batteries are sold with a prorated warranty, which decreases in value as the battery ages, so the amount you will receive toward a new battery will depend upon the age of the battery and the warranty terms.
Most auto parts stores will test your battery at no cost, on the assumption that you will buy a new battery if your battery needs to be replaced.
If your battery terminals are covered with corrosion, which appears as a white powder coating, the battery will not charge effectively. You must first remove the battery cable clamps from the terminals using a small wrench. You will need to wiggle the cables back and forth to remove them. Remove the cable from the positive (with a plus sign) terminal first, so you won't take a chance of touching the positive terminal with the loosened negative terminal cable.
Remove all corrosion from the battery terminals and inside the cable clamps with a piece of fine sandpaper. If you don't have sandpaper, use the smoother side of an emery board. Reattach the cables after cleaning.
Worn battery cables
If you can see copper wire at any point along the length of your battery cables, you should either replace the cables or wrap the exposed area with several layers of black electrical tape. Exposed cable wire can act as a grounding agent if it touches the metal parts of your vehicle, and drain your battery.
Worn alternator belt
The alternator charges your battery. Your alternator may be powered by an alternator belt, which is connected to the alternator and the crankshaft pulley that turns the belt. Alternately, it may be powered by a serpentine belt, which powers multiple vehicle components.
In wither case, the belt should be supple but firm, with no visible cracks or worn areas. If you hear a chirping noise when your vehicle is accelerating, or the inner part of the belt is shiny, it is slipping and should be tightened or replaced. A slipping belt will not turn the alternator effectively and will eventually fail completely.
Tightening or replacing an alternator belt is not too difficult, but it requires strength and agility to hold the belt tight while securing it. Replacing a serpentine belt will require a trip to an auto repair shop like H & S Tire & Auto Center for most vehicle owners.