Your car battery is an essential part of the car’s functionality. The battery lasts between 3 and 5 years, depending on how you use the car. However, your battery can stop working before the estimated time for many reasons and one vital way to prevent this is through proper maintenance.
Proper car battery maintenance helps you squeeze as much shelf life out of your battery as possible, as you can foresee any dangers to your battery and diagnose issues early. This way, you can get optimal functionality before you dispose of it.
We will share the top tips for maintaining your car battery below.
What Your Car Battery Does
It’s essential to understand what your car battery does to maintain it well.
The car battery helps the car’s engine turn when you turn the ignition. Also, it is responsible for the electrical circuit and affects light, radio, etc. Most importantly, the car battery charges and draws power from the engine to power the rest of the car.
Why Should You Maintain Your Car Battery?
Inspecting your battery can help you save money. When you inspect it, you can detect damage and cracks faster. In doing so, you can avoid full battery leaks and save repair costs. See how to test your battery for current leakage.
Also, maintaining your car battery will help you get the best function during the winter months. During winter, your car battery has to work harder to get the engine running, which drains the car battery’s energy density.
Even in warmer climates, the battery produces high levels of heat and the fluid in the car battery may evaporate faster, which will damage the inner structure of the battery. Thus, it is crucial to have a good lead-acid battery maintenance culture to extend your battery’s shelf life.
Tips for Car Battery Maintenance
1. Keep Your Battery Warm
The simplest form of care you can give your car in the cold weather is to keep the battery warm.
You can keep your car parked in a well-insulated garage. This helps prevent your car battery from working double during the winter months. You can also prevent the scorching sun from rusting your battery too quickly. However, abstain from heated garages as they can also rust your car battery.
Another thing you can consider is insulating your car battery. You can invest in an engine or battery heater to keep your battery warm in the winter months. This will ensure that your car utilizes less power to start resulting in maintaining car battery better.
2. Minimize the Use of Electronics
You should enjoy the benefits of your car, like the radio and air conditioning, but it’s best to minimize the use of these things when the car isn’t running. If you have to leave your car for more than five to ten minutes, switch off these appliances. Using them when the engine isn’t running may cause more wear and tear.
3. Double-check the Lights
You should double-check the interior cabin lights and your headlights to ensure nothing is on when leaving your car. These seemingly small things can weaken your battery overnight. Also, remember to unplug all accessories.
4. Don’t Leave Your Car Inactive
Your car battery can typically go without use for two months; however, this is far from ideal. An inactive car means it isn’t charging, so it’s best to take your car for at least a thirty minute drive once a week if you are not a regular user.
If you leave your car unused for an extended period, check the charging and electrolyte level before you set out.
5. Check the Acid Level
It’s best to check the Acid Level once every six months. If you drive only short distances but often use the air conditioner and lights, or park your car for an extended period, you need to be wary of acid stratification.
Acid stratification occurs when your battery doesn’t receive a full charge often or has a shallow discharge. It should mostly reach an 80 percent charge for it to function well and often staying below this may mean the electrolytes will remain at the bottom and won’t get to the top of your battery. This will usually cause damage.
The biggest tell that it needs more electrolytes is if the plates are exposed or almost exposed and if the electrolytes aren’t equal in each cell.
6. Add Distilled Water
Maintaining car battery beyond the apparent solution of keeping it charged by running the engine, the only direct way to increase electrolytes is to add distilled water. Also, if your battery is already low, filling it with distilled water before charging will help reduce gas accumulation.
Add enough distilled water to cover the plates or electrodes. Adding too much water can be dangerous for the battery. But if it is still relatively new and well charged, you can add just enough distilled water to meet the bottom of the filler tube.
Please note that electrolytes strictly mean distilled water and not any other water or acid.
7. Keep the Battery Secure
Keeping it secure is an essential car battery maintenance tip and also helps to prevent damage to your car parts. For example, a loose battery can vibrate, resulting in short circuits. Besides, it can also tip over and bash against other parts of your engine in transit. This can cause it’s acid to spill all over your motor.
It’s best to ensure that it sits correctly and is secured tightly, especially if you drive on a bumpy road.
8. Clean Your Battery
Cleaning your battery on a regular basis is the most critical part of maintaining it. If there is constantly grime or dirt on its surface, the battery casing may leak, leading to a short circuit. Also, a dirty battery connection can weaken the charge.
Remove the clamps and wipe away grease, dirt, and oxidation with a toothbrush, dry wipe, or towel once a month. A baking soda and water solution will help you clean off dirt easily. Better still, you can buy an ammonia-based solution.
When you are done cleaning, you also need to use a cloth to completely wipe off the baking soda to avoid corrosion. Also, avoid the fluid getting into the battery ports during cleaning.
You should also schedule regular checks to inspect the fluid level, battery power, and charge level. Taking note of necessary information, such as the type and the battery model, can help you practice proper care.
How to Know Your Battery is Bad
While lead-acid battery maintenance is essential, there are times when it may become faulty. Recognizing the signs instantly and taking it in for repair will save you money and energy. Here are a few signs of a bad battery:
If your engine takes time to start, or it doesn’t warm up quickly enough, or as easy as it used to, you probably have a bad one.
The battery powers the electrical circuits and the headlights, dashboard lights, and interior cabin lights. So, if the lights in your car suddenly start to go off one by one or start to flicker or dim, you need to check your battery.
If your car battery is starting to rust, it is likely to produce a cranking sound when you are driving. A rusted car battery is bad for the car’s functionality and it can also be dangerous to other car parts under the hood.
If it takes time for your car to start after ignition, or if it flickers a few times before power gets to your engine, your battery is probably going bad.
In the worst case, the car will produce a poor ticking ignition sound when you turn the key but won’t start. You may need a total battery replacement to fix things in any such case.
How to Jumpstart a Dead Battery
When your battery dies, you don’t always have to replace it. Sometimes, you may have left your light or the air conditioner on overnight, killing your battery. In this case, you can jumpstart the battery to work.
Here’s how to jumpstart a dead car battery:
- Find another car with a compatible voltage to yours and park it close to yours. Then, turn off the ignition on both cars.
- Grab your jumper cable and a rag and open the hood of both cars.
- Strap a red cable to the positive terminal (POS/ +) of the car with the working battery and the other red cable to the positive terminal of the dead battery car.
- Attach a black cable to the other car’s negative terminal (NEG/ -)
- Attach the other black cable to any metal surface under the hood of your car. Ensure the surface is unpainted and has a sufficient distance from the battery.
- Start the vehicle with the working battery and let it run for 10-15 minutes. This way, your car battery will be charging.
- Try starting your car. If it starts, remove the cables in the reverse order you inserted them. If it doesn’t, charge for a few more minutes.
- Take your car for a drive so that the battery can charge more.
If your car doesn’t start after jump-starting, you may have battery failure and need to change your battery entirely. These days, you may not need another vehicle to jump-start. Instead, you can easily buy a portable car jumpstart kit or a battery charger and carry it in your car.
Maintaining your car battery is crucial to enjoying your car. With these car battery maintenance tips, you can extend your car battery life without changing it for up to six years. Still, as a rule of thumb, you should change it every five years. Just ensure you are also taking your car for regular maintenance, as this will help you quickly diagnose more significant problems.