I have recently read several interesting and helpful articles concerning how to diagnose car battery problems, all containing accurate and useful information. However, I have never seen the following problem mentioned in connection with dead batteries which, should it go unrealized, will result in many unnecessary battery purchases and service calls each year. Cold weather is the high point of the year for battery sales and service calls for a jump start. I can attest to this from many years in the auto parts business.

Spark plugs..... You know, those little things screwed into the engine cylinder head that ignite the air/fuel mixture….. until they don't. Spark plugs are taken for granted by most and are hardly ever considered until one misfires and it becomes obvious that attention must be paid to them. But, what has happened over the thousands of miles and through hundreds of gallons of gas before they became worn or fouled enough to reach the misfire stage? In many cases, enough money has been wasted on gas to to pay to replace the spark plugs several times over, especially at today's gas prices, and it will only get worse. This normal deterioration in spark plug efficiency occurs so gradually, unless another problem fouls them quickly, that most people won't even realize it until a noticeable misfire does occur.

This leads up to the question you may be asking….what the heck do spark plugs have to do with the battery, anyway? Well, let me fill you in. It is normal for cold, winter weather to put a higher demand on the battery. The colder it is, the more demand and, at the same time, the cold makes the battery less able to fulfill that demand. Add to this, worn plugs, which cause yet another increase in demand on the battery during starting and the stage is set for a no-start situation. A battery in good shape can usually handle this, but when the extra demand from worn spark plugs (and it is significant) is added to the already large requirement from the battery, many times it is more than the battery can provide. Hence, a dead battery and a service call or replacement when it may not be needed, not to mention having to fix the darn car when it's so cold. Even a borderline battery may function sufficiently in cold weather, provided the plugs are not worn excessively, but worn plugs will almost always put it over the edge and your immediate plans go out the window.

So, a word to the wise….in today's economic climate, many people find it necessary to postpone normal vehicle maintenance. However, if you drive the average number of miles each year, make it a priority to, at least, replace the spark plugs before winter. And don't forget to check the battery while you're at it, to make sure it's up to par. You may save yourself a lot of hassle and maybe a little money, too.