Car battery maintenance

Car Battery Maintenance: All you should know

Car battery maintenance is all about preventive measures. Sometimes, you won’t know something is wrong until you go to start your car and the engine doesn’t turn over. How do you explain being late at your office, not attending that family function or even missing a date? Your stress levels start going through the roof. 

Car batteries will typically last anywhere between three to five years, but that doesn’t mean it will perform to its stated efficiency in that time frame. The performance of your car battery is determined by other factors including your driving habits and weather conditions.

Here are some car battery maintenance tips. And while you’re at it, you could also read all about the different types of car batteries.

Now, the first thing that you need to do with car batteries is have them regularly checked after they’ve been in use for two years.

But if you have not been able to devote time to your car battery maintenance, you can pick up on the clues that your car battery is broadcasting before it dies on you, leaving you stranded.

How to Know if Your Car Battery is Going Bad

battery light
Battery light indicator

“I wish I had fixed it sooner.” When the battery gives up, that’s what we think, right?

But how can you know you battery is going to die on you or if you should get it replaced?

Well, here are a few car battery maintenance tips that can tell you when to change your battery or seek a mechanic’s advice:

  • If your car needs multiple attempts to get it started i.e., the engine turns over but won’t fire.
  • Something smells like rotten eggs. This means the battery is damaged and leaking gas. Car battery maintenance is now essential because sulphuric acid could be leaking and causing potential damage to other engine parts.
  • Your battery warning light is flashing. In older cars which did not have battery indicators, the ‘check engine light’ could be flashing.
  • Your battery looks misshapen, swollen or bloated. This could be due to a chemical reaction, especially in extremes of heat or cold.Car battery maintenance is indicated.
  • You’ve resorted to jumpstarting your car multiple times over the past month. Even a fresh battery could potentially die on you if you’ve shocked it often.

Quick Fix to Car Starting Troubles

car starting
Turning over car ignition

Tell me, how do I know car battery maintenance is indicated when the vehicle will not start? Here is a quick primer.

First, listen very carefully. Do you hear a clicking/ clacking noise or not?  

A note of caution here. You must take care that you don’t turn over the car’s engine too many times. Attempting to start it at least three times with a maximum three second crank is quite enough.

Second, look at the car dashboard lights. Are those lighting up, or are they dim and flickering?

We’ll give you a few quick fixes right here:

  • If you hear a clicking / clacking noise and the car dash lights are not on, then your battery is dead. You need to either have it replaced or recharged fully. While doing so, you could ask a mechanic to take a look and determine why your car battery is dead in the first place. It could be that you left something electrical, like the lights or the AC fan, on in the car that ran down the battery. Maybe you haven’t driven your car for a long time which also causes car batteries to drain. Or there may be a fault with one of your battery components.
  • If there is no noise and your dashboard lights are off, you could consider popping the hood and taking a look at the battery terminals. Loose points of contact, rusted terminals or dirty ones may not be allowing a proper connection. Car battery maintenance is needed. Clean, dry and refasten firmly applying a dab of thick automotive grease or petroleum jelly before attempting to restart your car.
  • If your lights are dim or flickering, the problem could either be a loose connection or your alternator is at fault. Try cleaning the terminals as described above, if that doesn’t help you, you need a mechanic to fix your alternator. A faulty alternator could also be the reason your battery warning sign is lit up on the dashboard.

There are other reasons that will not allow your car to start but we are only concerned with the problems associated with poor car battery maintenance.

How to Choose a Replacement Car Battery

car battery replacement
Car Battery Replacement

Read your car owners manual. It will tell you the car battery type recommended by the car manufacturer. Or you could look at the label printed on the side of your car battery.

Please bear the following factors in mind when replacing it during your routine car battery maintenance. Always check the label for car battery size before purchase; the replacement battery must fit snugly into the bay provided. Size, width and height could vary across different sizes. In general, the more common battery group sizes are 24, 24F, 25, 34, 35, 51, 51R, 52, 58, 58R, 59, and 65.

Helpful Hint: Some vehicles can handle a larger battery than was originally installed. A physically larger battery usually has more power and reserve time than a smaller battery.

A few things to keep in mind while choosing a replacement car battery:

  • The power output of the battery should be to the specifications recommended by the car manufacturer for that model. If you’re installing a battery with more capacity, the alternator should not be stressed while charging.
  • Check out the warranty offered. The better the warranty, the better quality of battery you are purchasing. Go for the battery manufacturer who offers an immediate replacement guarantee as compared to the ones that offer to repair it first.
  • Always go for a reputed brand manufacturer that offers good customer care and doorstep replacement services. You want a hassle-free experience to keep a lid on your car battery maintenance issues.
  • Buy maintenance free car battery types as opposed to NMF ones.

Maintaining the Health of Your Batteries: Conclusion

Corroded Battery Terminals

Make it a point to check the positive and negative terminals as a regular feature of your car battery maintenance regime where it is attached to the wiring. Greenish white gunk is a sign of corrosion. You need to clean it off. There is usually no danger as this does tend to happen with different types of car batteries when they grow older.

But if there is corrosion and you have a new battery, or it reappears shortly after cleaning, then you have a car battery maintenance problem that needs to be fixed.

Typically all types of car batteries carry a charge of 12 Volts but this again may differ depending on the make and model of your ride. Drive down to a garage or pick yourself up a volt tester to figure out the charge of the battery in order to give yourself a head start on any car battery maintenance problem that might arise.

Never forget that the battery is the pulse of your vehicle so constant monitoring and car battery maintenance of the same is essential both for your peace of mind as well as your vehicle’s continued health.

FAQs on How to Maintain Your Car Battery

Do car batteries need maintenance?

Only unsealed lead acid batteries need maintenance.These batteries can be easily recognised by the presence of venting caps on the battery. These caps are opened and the battery topped up with distilled water.This is done because the electrolytes inside the batteries evaporate over time. The newer versions might need to be topped up just once during their lifetime.

How long should you run a car to keep the battery charged?

It’s best to take your car out for a run for at least half an hour once in a fortnight to keep your battery charged. Or you could go for a long drive of around an hour. Short runs don’t help the battery to recover charge. This is because once your battery helps the car start, it is the engine which recharges the battery.

Is it good to keep the car battery fully charged?

Yes, it is. Always try to have your battery fully charged. This ensures that your vehicle will have no starting problems.

What is the normal life of a car battery?

The life of a normal battery is around 3-5 years. Extreme cold or hot weather, your driving habits among other factors could affect your battery positively or negatively (pardon the intentional pun).

When should I add water to my car battery?

First and foremost, NEVER add water to your car battery. Only use distilled water. Open the filling caps on top of the battery, Shine a torch to check electrolyte levels. Only replace it with distilled water if levels are uneven or low in any of the cells. Please use a funnel while doing so and do not overfill.

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