Tips For Taking Care of Your Car Battery
A flat battery on a Monday morning – or even worse: a Friday afternoon… It’s the thing of car nightmares for most people. Naturally, the answer is doing what you can to avoid that situation. So, what’s that?
In this article, we go over some simple tips on how to care for your car’s battery.
Firstly, a bit of background info…
Car batteries work by ‘cranking’ the engine to get it started. This is the job of your car’s starter motor which is powered by the battery. Typically, they need more power the colder the temperature so they have their work cut out for them on cold mornings in winter.
As you drive your car, the battery is charged by the alternator which generates current from the engine. When your car engine is running, the alternator provides most of the electrical power.
Tip: If your headlights are dim or flickering, it’s a sign your alternator is struggling. If the headlights appear brighter with higher engine revs, it’s an even clearer sign that the alternator is on its way out.
Car Battery Care Tip 1: Check the Charge Indicator Regularly
Most modern car batteries have a charge indicator located on top of the battery. They are usually a small, circular ‘window’. Commonly, they display a green colour when the battery is healthy – the brighter, the better. Make sure you check the brand and model of your battery to be sure.
Alternatively, you can check the battery charge (Aka: battery health) with a voltmeter. Most car battery retailers can usually do this for you.
Car Battery Care Tip 2: Clean the Terminals
You may have seen a white / light-blueish deposit forming on your battery terminals. It is caused by hydrogen gas released from the sulfuric acid inside the battery as the gasses react to the atmosphere. Battery terminal corrosion causes reliability problems, especially when starting the car. If advisable in your owner’s manual, clean the terminals…
To clean the terminals:
1: Remove the black (negative) lead from the battery – note that it’ll disconnect power to your car but better to be safe. Remove the red (positive) lead from the battery too.
2: Scrub away all of the corrosion. A stiff brush is ideal. If it’s tough to get off, baking soda and a small amount of water can help, but make sure it doesn’t get inside the battery and let it dry 100% after cleaning.
3: Reconnect the positive terminal and then the negative terminal, making sure to tighten to connectors.
4: As an added protection, apply battery terminal grease to avoid future corrosion.
Car Battery Care Tip 3: Keep it Clean
We discussed cleaning the terminals above, but keep the rest of the battery clean too. Make sure the top and sides of the battery are clean. You’ll only need to wipe it down with a cloth. It should be free from dirt and grime and anything that driving might throw at it.
A battery can discharge slowly through grime or spills. If you give your car a spring clean every once in a while, your engine bay should be pretty healthy.
Car Battery Care Tip 4: Electrolytes
Although not so common in modern vehicles, some batteries are ‘maintainable’. This means they’ll have caps / lids on top of the battery and will need distilled water added periodically.
To check, with the engine off, simply unscrew the electrolyte caps of the battery and see the water level. You may need the ‘flashlight’ function on your phone to see properly. The battery plates inside should be covered with distilled water but the exact amount can be confusing as there are many brands and types. Contact the manufacturer if you’re not sure.
Car batteries are pretty robust things. Modern technology is allowing them to last up to (and sometimes longer than) half a decade. 5 years is far longer than old, poorly maintained batteries which last around two years. With many costing north of $300, it’s worth taking car of.
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