If your car is being left idle for a period of time or is rarely used, it is worth knowing some key tips and tricks for keeping your battery in good condition. In this article, we will run through some of these tips on how to care for your car battery at home and keep it running smoothly.
What Can Be Done At Home To Maintain Your Car Battery?
On average, car batteries last between two and five years. To ensure you are extending the life of your battery and helping it to function as it should, it’s a good idea to do all you can to care for your car battery and keep it well maintained.
Here are some key checks to make in order to keep your battery performing at its best, and to avoid any risky journeys or costly malfunctions:
1. Test Your Battery Frequently
The first thing you should do if you know that your car is going to be idle for a period of time is make sure you regularly check things over.
It’s a good idea to start it up once or twice a week and let it run for at least 15 minutes. You should monitor the temperature of the car and make sure it rises up enough to hit the middle – it means you’ve warmed the engine up enough and should help avoid any sudden cutting out or even a completely flat battery. Another piece of advice is to test your battery’s output voltage level with a car battery tester to keep track of how well you’re maintaining it and if you’re due for a new one.
When you do your regular checks, it is also important to make sure that the battery is tightly fastened in place. A battery that’s not securely fastened could vibrate, potentially resulting in internal damage and short circuits. If you drive on bumpy, country roads often, this is worth checking to make sure the battery is securely in its bracket.
2. Turn Off Electronic Functions
Accidentally keeping your headlights and car door lights on when you exit your car can drain your car battery significantly. Therefore, remembering to switch them off can make all the difference and is easy enough for anyone to do.
In line with this, it is also important that you turn off electronic functions like the radio or air conditioner when your engine isn’t running.
3. Limit Short Journeys
Quick car rides prevent your car’s battery from fully charging. So, if you can, driving your car frequently and for extended periods will help the health of your battery. If you don’t use your car often, you should consider buying a portable car battery charger to ensure you can jump-start your battery without another vehicle in case you’re ever stranded.
Something else that may be worth using is a trickle charger. This can be plugged into your home electricity supply and attached to your car’s battery, it ‘trickles’ energy into the car, ensuring your battery stays topped up.
4. Do Not Overcharge
If you charge your battery manually, do not overcharge it as this can cause serious damage. When you do charge your battery, check on it every half an hour to see how it's progressing.
On top of this, it is recommended that you replace your car battery every four years. It is therefore important that you don't try to extend the life of your battery for longer than you should to avoid additional and unnecessary damage.
5. Clean Away Corrosion
Much like other parts of a car, a battery can suffer from corrosion. Battery terminals corrode over time but keeping them clean from buildup is a great way to extend the life of your car battery and to keep a good connection between vehicle and battery.
If there is any buildup on your battery terminals, ammonia-based window cleaners are often recommended to clean them, but you can also scrub the terminals with a toothbrush dipped in a baking soda and water mixture. Then, using a spray bottle with cold water, rinse the mixture off and follow up with a thorough drying with a clean cloth. You also need to make sure you fully wipe the battery down so no baking soda residue is left, as this can cause corrosion itself.
6. Check The Acid And Electrolyte Levels
You should check the acid level of your battery around every six months. This is so you can be on the lookout for acid stratification, which happens when batteries dwell at a charge below 80%, never receive a full charge or have shallow discharges.
Also, if you notice that electrolyte levels are low (the plates will be exposed), top them up with distilled water very carefully. Be careful when doing this and only fill the cells to cover the plates. Once you've topped up the water levels, use a battery charger to recharge the battery.
7. Consult A Professional
If you are ever unsure about anything to do with your battery or any other part of your car, it is best to consult a professional.
Often, to make sure you get the best help and advice out there, contacting an expert is advisable. Much like you would go to a mechanic for car maintenance, an insurance broker can provide you with all the insurance information you need. Be Wiser works with a panel of leading insurers to help you find the right car insurance quote for you.