Your car’s battery is one of those indispensable components that you just can’t do without. There’s perhaps nothing so disheartening as discovering a dead or dying car battery as you’re hurrying to get the car started for the school run or your morning commute. The typical car battery is designed to last between 2 and 5 years in good health. What you need is some good advice on reaching that upper age limit, as well as tips to avoid the nightmare scenarios described above.
In today’s blog, we’re offering you 7 useful and simple tips for increasing your car’s battery life. Let’s start at the top.
1. Regular Voltage Testing
Voltage testing is something that you can have done by a professional, but also do yourself with a handy home voltmeter kit. A DIY kit means you can keep tabs on your car battery in between your regular annual service.
All you have to do is connect the positive voltmeter lead to the positive terminal on your battery, and then the negative lead to the negative terminal. Immediately you should notice a reading on the screen. If the number reads something between 12.4 and 12.8 volts, then it means your battery is fully charged. If it’s below that threshold, then you might want to consider getting it checked by a professional.
To get the most accurate results, conduct the test about 12 hours after your car has been turned off.
2. Avoiding Long Periods of Inactivity
There is a natural drain on your car battery even when you are not using it. If you’ve ever wondered how the battery stays charged without you plugging it in, you should know that it’s your active engine that is recharging it. This is why long periods of not using the car can lead to a dead or dying battery. This is known by some as the “vampire effect.”
The simple remedy is to always guarantee a 30-minute drive at least once a week for the car. This gives sufficient time for recharging and also helps to circulate the car’s fluids and otherwise keep everything in good order. This advice is important especially for those who have an “occasional” car that they only drive out on certain special days or weekends.
3. Regular Battery Cleaning
Keeping all parts of the battery clean is the best way to prevent leaks, as well as corrosion (more below). Disconnect the battery of the terminal cables before doing any cleaning. For the battery terminals, use an old toothbrush or similar wire brush for the cleaning. Dip it in a solution of bicarbonate of soda with water and gently scrub around the terminals. Make sure to rinse and dry them after scrubbing.
For the surface of the battery, you can simply use a sponge or cloth to wipe away any traces of grime or dirt that will naturally build up there. You won’t have to do any of these very often. Perhaps twice a year should suffice.
4. Cut Down on Short Journeys
Taking regular short journeys of less than a mile in your car means that your battery is not gaining sufficient time to actively charge. We mentioned further above the dangers of the vampire effect on the battery. Very short journeys aren’t helping since the battery isn’t charging up properly, creating a net overall loss in power over time.
For shorter journeys, consider walking or using a bicycle. That brings its own benefits in any event. If short journeys are unavoidable for whatever reason, just be sure to definitely include at least one journey each week of at least 30 minutes to allow proper charging.
5. Keep Tight Fastenings
A car battery should be securely fastened in place so that it doesn’t vibrate. You should therefore make a point to check the fastenings that keep your battery steady and ensure they are nice and tight. If there is any looseness, then the battery is very likely to vibrate, which can easily cause damage and even short circuiting.
There is a balance that is required when fixing the battery in place. Just as leaving the fastening too loose can cause damaging and battery-life-shortening vibrations, over-tightening them can also cause problems. When you go to tighten the nuts that hold everything in place, turn them until you feel resistance, but then stop. That’s the balance you want to strike.
6. Control Corrosion Around Battery Terminals
As it happens, corrosion around the battery terminals and lead clamps is a frequently seen phenomenon. This damage blocks the proper flow of power through the battery. Keeping this corrosion in check means first making a regular visual inspection of the battery to look for any signs of it.
Most often, this problem is caused by improper cleaning, so following tip 3 about regular cleaning will also make a contribution to controlling the corrosion around your battery terminals.
7. Don’t Use In-Car Electrics While Engine is Off
Finally, if you are sitting in your car with the engine off, you should keep use of electronics down to an absolute minimum. Turning on the radio, dome light and other electronics put added strain on the battery, and when the engine isn’t running it means that there’s no “input” to charge the battery back up again.
Furthermore, when you use the car’s electronics with the engine off, there’s always a risk that you’ll forget to turn one of them off, which then means the battery is running down further and further, possibly for many hours. It’ll only be later when you finally discover that…oh dear.
Conclusion: Invest in a Battery Charger and Regular Maintenance
Two other things you can do to help support your car battery life are first to invest in a good-quality battery charger. A charger will help at times when the power has depleted by allowing you to restore enough power to start up your engine.
This helps you avoid the need to get another car involved to achieve a jump start. Finally, overall battery health is best attained through continuous and proper maintenance of your entire vehicle. Keep everything in check, and the individual components seem to look after each other.