Proper Battery Care Will Expand The Life Of Your Battery
A few simple battery maintenance practices that you can do will increase your battery’s reliability and allow it to do its job longer. When you follow these battery maintenance tips, you will also gain confidence knowing, from personal experience, that your battery is working correctly.
Battery Care Your Mechanic Should Do
First, let’s take a glance at what you can’t see. It is easiest to get your mechanic to check your battery for charge level and ability to hold a charge when you do your season end service, particularly going into winter. This involves special tools that your mechanic will have.
I also like having my mechanic look over my car because he sees it from a different perspective. Not only does he get to look at it from underneath while it is on the hoist, but he also sees it with an experienced eye.
A good mechanic will spot potential problems, which he will explain to you. You can then determine whether the repair will be made now or later. Safety should be the primary consideration as to whether the repair is done immediately.
He can also explain battery maintenance issues about which you may have questions.
Battery Maintenance You Can Do Yourself
Here are some ideas that you be able to do yourself.
Be aware of any noises or whines coming from the alternator area as that indicates imminent failure and a tow. This is particularly crucial if you have had recent starting problems. Talk to your mechanic about checking your alternator.
Make it a routine to shut off all accessories before shutting off the engine. It will reduce the load on the battery when starting the engine.
You can check the level of the fluid inside the battery. Wipe off the battery around the cap covers you will find on the top of the battery. You don’t want any dirt going inside the battery. Then carefully pop off the caps, usually two, with a slot screwdriver.
Inside the individual holes, you will see the wall go down a certain distance then stop. Sometimes there is a ridge out from the wall. This indicates the level that the fluid should be at. If it is low, add distilled water.
If it is low enough to see the top of the cells, it would be an excellent time to get your mechanic checked the battery with his testers.
Also, take note of the levels are the same in each cell.
I once had a battery that lost a lot of liquid in just one cell, and I needed far too many boosts.
That battery got replaced under warranty as there was a defect that my mechanic was able to identify.
Here’s some more battery maintenance you can do yourself. If your battery posts are covered with corrosion, you can clean them yourself. You’ll find detailed instructions for cleaning battery corrosion here.
Good battery maintenance also means treating your battery correctly. One area where even I have at times been careless is during battery boosting. The number one issue to keep in mind is to handle the cables carefully and to keep them away from moving motor parts, like fans!
If you find yourself surprised with a dead battery, check to see if you left the lights on or an accessory, e.g., a charger, plugged in, or something like that. If you find something like that, a boost should be all you need.
For clarity in the instructions below, I will call the car giving the boost car A. The car receiving the boost will be car B.
- When getting or giving a boost, have the vehicles close but not touching, shut off car A while you attach the cables.
- Attach the red booster cable from the positive battery post of car A to the positive battery post of car B.
- Attach the black booster cable to the negative battery post of car A. Attach the other end of the cable to the unpainted metal on car B. You do not attach it right to the negative post on car B’s battery because of the possibility of an explosion. A battery generates gases when being charged. It is safest to make a mistake on the side of caution here. You can usually find some metal around the hood latch, the frame across the front of the car, or the end of the negative battery cable where it attaches to the frame. Rub the booster cable’s clamp on the metal a bit to clean off the grease and dirt, or use a knife or scraper, if necessary.
- With the cables secure, start car A. Test the connection by turning on the headlights on car B. If the link is faulty, try cleaning off the metal more or try another spot. Once you have a good connection and have charged the battery on car B for a few minutes, try starting car B. If it starts, leave the cables attached for a few extra minutes of charging.
- Remove the cables in the reverse directive: remove the black booster cable from car B first, then from car A. Then remove the red cable from car B and then car A.
- Before putting the cables away, I like to shut off car B and restart it. This confirms that the discharge was a temporary incident and the battery in car B is probably OK.
- If the booster cables need to be reattached to start car B, then it should be driven directly to the garage to get the alternator, the battery, and the electronics checked to find the problem.
Hopefully, these battery maintenance tips have given you a better understanding of your battery. Now you also can spot potential problems and handle them before they become real problems.