All drivers will agree that an unexpected flat battery can cause a major headache to someone. Though factors like harsh weather conditions, harsh and bad roads, and the way you use the car can affect your car battery’s lifespan, it is possible to prevent your battery from going flat prematurely. On average, car batteries last between three to five years. If you want to avoid needing to change your battery after just one or two years, here are six ways to help extend your car battery lifespan.
Regularly test your battery voltage
Proactively testing your battery could potentially save you from battery failure while out on the roads. Qualified mechanics will be able to perform a battery test for you, but there’s also a handy at-home device available if you need to complete a test between car services. The simplest way to test your battery’s voltage is by using a voltmeter. When purchasing one, digital voltmeters are the easiest to use. For the most accurate reading, complete the voltage test at least twelve hours after your car has been turned off.
Start by connecting the positive voltmeter led to the positive terminal on your battery and repeating with the negative lead. You’ll then receive a voltage reading. A fully charged battery will usually display a reading between 12.4 and 12.8 volts. If your voltage reading falls outside of these numbers, it’s likely your battery requires a professional inspection from a professional mechanic.
Don’t leave your car unused for long periods
If your car is inactive for days at a time (or if it’s only taken on short trips), the battery won’t have sufficient time to recharge.
Your car will perform at its best when it’s used regularly, so, if possible, take it out for a 30-minute drive at least once a week to warm up the engine and circulate your car’s fluids.
If it will be left unused for a matter of weeks, it’s likely your car battery will need attention when you next use your car. The best thing to do is ensure it is fully charged, and check that the electrolyte levels are correct (if it has removable caps). If in doubt, contact RAC or an automotive workshop for further advice.
Clean your battery regularly
Grime, dirt, or dampness on a car battery can cause leakage across the battery casing to cause a short circuit, which could, in turn, flatten your battery. This surface-level grime can be easily removed with a sponge and a dry cloth. Do this at least once a month to avoid build-up.
Unfortunately, corrosion on battery terminals and battery lead clamps are common. Corroded-on terminals and lead clamps can hinder the flow of electricity through the battery, so grime or build-up must be cleared to ensure your battery’s longevity and efficiency. Ask your mechanic to clean the terminals during servicing, if needed.
When your car’s engine isn’t running, don’t use electronic accessories
Keeping your headlights, and/or interior lights on, or turning the ignition on to run the infotainment system without starting the engine, can drain the battery. This is because your car’s alternator is shut down when the engine is switched off, so electronic accessories instead drain power from your car’s battery.
To avoid this, get into the habit of checking that everything (most importantly, your lights) is switched off every time you exit your car.
Also, don’t forget to lock your car when you leave it. This isn’t just for security purposes – your car’s computer system may still be running if you leave your car open, and this could be draining your battery without you even knowing it.
Get your car serviced regularly
To prevent the chance of an unexpected breakdown, it’s best to have your car battery professionally tested. At your next car service, ask the mechanic to check that your battery is in good condition and is charging correctly.
Car batteries are an essential part of an automobile. From getting your car started to charging your phone on the go, batteries provide the zap your vehicle needs to keep rolling. That’s why it’s so important to know when to start considering a car battery change, as well as what you can do to extend its lifespan.
Check the acid level
You should check the acid level of your battery around every six months. Be on the lookout for acid stratification, which happens when batteries dwell at a charge below 80 percent, never receive a full charge or have shallow discharges. If you have a stratified battery, electrolytes will concentrate at the bottom and leave the top starved. Your battery is particularly at risk if your car is primarily driven short distances with power-robbing accessories in use.
Add water carefully
If you notice that electrolyte levels are low (the plates will be exposed), top them up with distilled water. Be careful when doing this and only fill the cells to cover the plates. A funnel or sports bottle is often best for adding water as they allow you to control the flow. Once you’ve topped up the water levels, use a battery charger to recharge the battery.
Clean the battery
Dirt and debris can be bad news for your battery if it gets into the cells. It can also cause corrosion on nearby metal, so it’s important to clean the top of the battery and around the terminals. Ammonia-based window cleaners are often recommended but a combination of baking soda and water will help to get rid of any ‘crust’ when applied via a wire brush. Baking soda and water are particularly useful for cleaning corrosion. However, as a rule of thumb, you want to think of the brush as damp, as opposed to wet. You also need to make sure you fully wipe the battery down so no baking soda residue is left, as this can cause corrosion. It’s important that when cleaning the battery, no fluid is let in through the battery ports.
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