A car battery is essential but a lot of people don’t know how to take care of one. Learn the do’s and don’ts of car batteries below to ensure your car is in working condition.
How long does a car battery last?
It’s probably the simplest part of your car. It knocks the vehicle into working mode by infusing the engine with power. It also powers all the electrical devices in your car, such as the music player, lights, chargers, and air conditioning system.
When it dies, it leaves you helpless. The car may be otherwise completely healthy, but it cannot move.
So, many inexperienced motorists wonder what they can do to extend the battery’s lifespan, and what they shouldn’t do if they don’t want it to drain suddenly.
A new battery should last up to five or even six years if treated right. The problem is, not only do you have to use it reasonably, but the weather conditions would have to be ideal. This means that in real life full of rain, snow, frost, and the hot summer sun, the battery will probably get to live for two or three years before it starts to collapse.
First, let’s see what your car battery doesn’t like, and then we’ll check out what you can do to help it.
- Don’t leave your car to sleep outside of a garage – this is a sure example of how to kill a car battery. True, sometimes it is inevitable, but it’s up to you to make sure it doesn’t happen often. Not being able to start the engine on a frosty winter morning is a common thing. But it’s not just about the cold – believe it or not, ESPECIALLY hot weather can affect the battery’s health and lifespan. So, the culprit for your battery’s winter death is probably the heat it endured during the past summer! Hot temperatures can cause the battery fluid to evaporate, thus shortening its life and functionality.
- Don’t play too much while the engine is off. It’s a great privilege of modern times that you don’t have to freeze or boil (or get bored) to death in the cabin of your comfortable vehicle while waiting for someone to show up. So, you listen to some music, and charge your phone, while the A/C or the heating systems are on. Whereas it’s perfectly alright to use this privilege, turn the engine on a little bit, so the battery gets some support.
- What can kill a battery in your car? The main common killer is your lights. Don’t forget to turn off the lights. Sounds like something our dads have taught us while explaining to us that we should economise in life? Not exactly. Leaving headlights (or any other lights) on when you get home after a long workday will most certainly kill your battery overnight. All of us are a little bit absentminded in the evenings. Just don’t let it create more problems for you in the morning.
- Don’t just wait for the battery to die. So many drivers neglect it or forget it, until one day they turn the ignition key to an unpleasant surprise. You should check out your vehicle’s electricity system at least twice a year with a mechanic – preferably in the fall (after the strenuous string of hot summer afternoons) and spring. Bear in mind that it’s not unusual for the battery to suddenly fail without any warning signs.
- When removing the battery, never disconnect the positive cable first. If you do it yourself, keep in mind that the negative comes first. You should remember this if you don’t want to cause a short circuit.
- Train your ears, eyes, and nose to notice the signs of demise. Does the engine crank slowly when starting? Are the headlights somewhat murky? Is the battery light on your dashboard on? Maybe the battery just needs recharging or cleaning. If there are no known issues with it, maybe there’s even a parasitic drain, which is hard to find without an expert, especially if you are a proud owner of a modern car. There are many other warning signs: a strange sulphur smell, which indicates that the battery is leaking, the battery’s body literally getting swollen which can happen because of extreme heat, etc.
- Protect yourself. Battery sulphuric acid is a dangerous substance that can cause severe burns if it comes in contact with your skin. That’s why you should always wear gloves and safety goggles when dealing with it. This being said, always keep the battery straight and vertical. Otherwise, the acid could spill and endanger the environment.< /li>
- Inspect the terminals clamps and clean them every few months. Corrosion is a great enemy of car parts. Luckily, cleaning it from the terminals, cables, and battery posts is a no-brainer. All you need is a spoon or two of baking soda, some distilled water, and a wire brush. After disconnecting the cables (with the engine turned off, of course), brush both positive and negative battery posts and cable ends.
- Use special grease or spray to protect the battery. These substances are designed to prevent the battery parts from corroding.
- Always keep jumper cables in your trunk. Even if you take all the precautions, chances are it will happen. That’s a situation when keeping an adequate item in your car could mean the difference between paying a handsome fee for towing the car and continuing the journey on your own. If you don’t have that agile saviour friend who will come at short notice, and help you with unhooking jumper cables, just ask a random driver to stop for a while. After you hook up the two batteries and manage to start the engine, drive without further stopping. Nevertheless, you should know that the problem isn’t solved for good, so do a thorough inspection of the battery to determine what’s wrong as soon as possible.
- If you plan to keep the car in storage for a longer period of time, disconnect the battery. Even if your car does absolutely nothing, the battery has a certain amount of self-discharge. This is utterly normal behaviour, but you should do your best to prevent an excessive drain of voltage.
How to inspect your battery
Nobody wants to spend thousands on expensive batteries and repairs. Unfortunately, however sometimes these little incidents can occur but don’t stress – there are things you can do to prevent battery failure.
Inspecting your battery is one way to prevent expensive issues. Inspecting your battery regularly will help you to notice any problems and take care of them before it becomes bigger problems down the line.
It only takes a few minutes to spot common issues. Don’t know where to start? Here are the steps to follow to inspect your battery:
1. Turn your car off. Take a look at your battery case and make sure it’s free of dust. If you do see dust or dirt, simply wipe it off with a clean towel. Do not use abrasive cleaners.
2. Check for corrosion on your battery case. If it’s oozing out an acidic brown, white, or blue (sometimes even green), it is probably a sign of corrosion and your battery needs to be replaced ASAP.
3. Check the brackets. Look for signs of corrosion. Again, leakage indicates a replacement is needed.
4. If the bracket does not hold the battery firm enough while the car is on (it vibrates), it is a sign that it is damaged.
5. Check the battery terminals. If there is corrosion here, it could be cleaned but you need to consult an expert to do this to avoid damaging the battery.
6. Your cables around your battery need to be tightened and secure. You can do this yourself or consult an expert.
7. Check your fan belt. If it cracked or lose, it may need to be replaced.
As stated, the best way to inspect your battery is to learn to watch and listen for issues. When you are driving, look for warning signs such as rattling, dimming lights, or clicking of the ignition. Of course, you might need help when changing a battery in a modern car, and here’s where you need to call an expert.
How often do you inspect your car battery? Let us know in the comment section.
Also, if you need help with that, come to our repair shops for your car battery in Hamilton! We are here for you.
Contact CRS Automotive Hamilton for more do’s and don’ts of car batteries or for car batteries in Hamilton!