When we buy batteries for our cars, we want the optimal performance from them. After all, some batteries can be expensive. However, buying the best brand is not the only thing to think about when considering how a battery will perform. So before you shell out hundreds on a new battery for your car, think about this. Another important factor that influences the performance and life of your car’s battery is maintenance. Just like any other piece of equipment, maintenance is important to expand the lifespan of your car’s battery. You maintain your car, right?When was the last time you maintained your car’s battery?
Maybe you can’t think of the last time. If that’s true, then you’re in the right place. What is involved in car battery maintenance? What are some tips that you can use to improve the performance of your car’s batter? Let’s take a look at the top three tips for car battery maintenance.
Tip One: Prevent Corrosion
The cables that connect your battery to your car (called terminal connectors) are made of metals that are easy to degrade. And when they degrade or corrode, your battery is rendered almost useless. Corrosion can cause a perfectly good battery to go dead. With this in mind, you’ll want to ensure that you do all you can to prevent these connectors, and even the top of the batter itself, from corroding. But, how do you actually do it? The steps to cleaning your battery terminals connectors and preventing corrosion are:
- Create the cleaning solution by mixing a tablespoon of baking soda with a cup of water.
- Clean the top of the battery with a nonmetallic brush (they are available online on Amazon, and at your local Walmart.)
- After cleaning, flush with cool (not cold) water. Don’t use too much, only enough to get the solution off the battery.
- Then you can disconnect the cables, taking care to start with the negative one first to prevent any electrical mishaps. Be careful not to stress the battery cable clamp bolts when trying to disconnect the cables — only twist them, never pull.
- When the cables are disconnected, clean off any corrosion around the battery terminals with the cleaning solution you created in step number one. Do this gently with a soft rag.
With these five steps, you can take preventative measures to ensure that your batteries don’t lose their spark prematurely. Conversely, if you think this is a bit too technical for you, you can take your car to the mechanic and let him know that you want him to do this. He will be able to handle it professionally. They will check the voltage levels as well – fully charged automotive batteries should measure at 12.6 volts or above.
Tip Two: Unplug Electronics and Accessories When The Car Is Off
Your car battery doesn’t only power the mechanisms that make your car’s engine start, it also powers all the electronics in your car, the lights and even the radio. Therefore, if you want to ensure that your battery lasts as long as is possible, you’ll need to take a few precautions, like:
- Ensure that you turn all the lights off in your car when you’re not using them as well as when you turn the car off. Most cars will automatically turn off the lights after the car is off, but some do not. If your car doesn’t, always double check that the indoor lights are off.
- Leaving park lights on is another culprit, or turning on your park lights in the daytime. This unnecessary usage of the lights also drains your battery, so be sure to check your dashboard for any signal that the lights are on before you get out of your car.
- Never leave any electronics like chargers and accessories plugged in your car, even when it is off. These accessories could be draining your battery unknowingly.
With these precautions, you’ll get the best performance out of your battery.
Tip Three: Ensure That The Battery Is Charging Properly
Everybody’s worst nightmare? Your car being unable to start in a secluded location where you don’t feel safe. Nobody likes having to bring jumper cables with them everywhere. However, if your battery isn’t charging properly, that will most often be your solution when your car won’t start. But, how do you know that your car battery isn’t charging properly?
- If you turn on your headlights and they don’t come on with their normal brightness but get brighter when you rev the engine, your battery isn’t charging properly.
- Sometimes carefully looking at the battery will reveal an issue. If it looks worn out or corroded (in the event that you missed step one), there is the chance that it isn’t charging properly.
Now that we’ve considered these three tips to maintaining your car battery, let’s take a look at some ways that you may be unknowingly diminishing the strength of your battery. Some ways you may be doing it are:
- You may be taking frequent short trips and no longer drives. Believe it or not, car batteries are designed to charge while driving. The longer you drive, the more your battery charges. To improve your battery life, take your car out for longer distances.
- Since batteries are designed to charge while driving, leaving your car unused during the winter can be one of the biggest dangers to developing a weak battery. In order to avoid this, try to at least start your car during the winter.
- Adding accessories to your car that drain your battery life. For example, upgrading your headlights, or adding exterior lights to your car can diminish the strength of your battery.
With all this in mind, it’s easy to overlook one thing: each battery has an expiration date or an estimated lifespan. This is determined by the date you purchased the battery. Some batteries last only 60 months, while others can last as long as 84 months. Look for the decal on the battery that tells you it’s expected lifespan. If the battery is near the end of its lifespan, go ahead and buy a new one.
Dana Meyer Auto Care specializes in the electrical system of your car. Our diagnostic work is comprehensive. So, when the battery is close to its end or you suspect a short or circuit issue may be the problem, make an appointment with us. For a guide to electrical diagnostic principles and tools, read this article from WheelZine.com.