It might not surprise you to hear that the number one cause of vehicle breakdowns is a dead battery. If you want to avoid the inconvenience of unexpected breakdowns, then one of the best things that you can do is to take care of your battery. This post hopes to outline some top tips that will help you get the most out of your car battery so that you don’t end up stranded and waiting for a jump start.
Inspect Your Battery Regularly
The type of battery fitted to your car will determine how often it should be checked. Batteries with removable caps are referred to as “Low-maintenance” batteries, and this type should be checked every month or two for signs of acid or corrosion build-up around the terminals, and for adequate electrolyte levels. Maintaining correct electrolyte levels is important – too little and battery performance and life are diminished, too much and excessive corrosion of terminals and brackets may result. If in doubt, ask your local mechanic, auto electrician or R&J Batteries store to check and top up for you. If corrosion build up on terminals is evident, wash away with hot water and rinse thoroughly then dry, and finally apply a lubricant spray such as WD40, CRC, etc., or even a specialist battery terminal spray for maximum protection.
Maintenance-free car batteries are becoming increasingly common, and these are easily identified by their flush, sealed top. Sealed Maintenance-free batteries often have a built-in hydrometer or state-of-charge indicator. Simply check the colour of the indicator to determine the battery’s level of charge. Green indicates a healthy state of charge; black, clear or red all indicate possible problems which should be further investigated by a battery specialist. Due to the sealed design of maintenance-free batteries, the terminals usually stay clean and dry. Any signs of acid leakage or excessive heat in a maintenance-free battery may indicate a major charging system fault (overcharging) which should be addressed urgently to prevent further damage.
Limit Use of Car Accessories Until Driving
Try to avoid using car accessories such as the stereo, air conditioning or lights until you have started your car’s engine. Once the engine is running, the alternator generates power for all electrical components and accessories, with the battery just acting as a reserve power supply. When the engine is switched off the alternator shuts down and all electrical accessories then drain power from the battery.
To obtain maximum life from your car battery it should be kept at or near full charge, and ideally used only for engine starting duties.
Maintain Your Battery When Not in Regular Use
Almost all modern cars have some degree of power drain on the battery when not in use, and the level or severity of power drain can vary significantly depending on vehicle make and model.
Many of the modern, computerised electrical components of your car require constant power to maintain system memory and optimum functionality, and over time these systems will completely drain your car battery if left unattended. Otherwise, healthy car batteries can be drained in as little as ten days in some models with high power drain, and up to two months+ in models with low-level current drain.
Regular vehicle usage and the occasional long-distance trip should ensure your battery retains sufficient levels of charge to continually start your car’s engine whenever required until it eventually wears out.
For classic, collectable and other cars which see limited use, or even if you’re heading off on an extended vacation and leaving the car behind, then steps should be taken to prevent your car’s battery from becoming discharged. Battery “Maintenance Chargers” are readily available from most battery specialists including R&J Batteries, and these small chargers can be left on to monitor your battery’s charge level and top up as required, without overcharging. Solar-powered chargers can be used in areas where mains power is unavailable, provided they have access to sunlight.
Choose the Correct Size and Type of Battery
For some people, car batteries tend to be a “grudge” purchase. Naturally most would rather spend their money on more exciting things, so the tendency sometimes is to look for the cheapest battery for your vehicle.
In the past this wasn’t so much of an issue, as many older vehicles had very basic electrical systems, so as long as the battery started your car that was all that mattered. With newer cars, however, the battery is often an integral part of a complex electrical system and must be matched in both capacity and chemistry type to ensure continued reliability. Using anything other than the correct battery type and capacity can result in premature battery failure, or even electrical system malfunction, which can be expensive to diagnose and repair, making the cheaper battery a very costly item in the long run.
For guaranteed peace-of-mind consult the experienced battery experts at R&J Batteries to ensure your vehicle’s battery is replaced with one that meets or exceeds manufacturer’s OE specifications.