6 Essential Car Battery Maintenance Tips
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Your car battery is one of the most important elements of your engine. Without a functioning battery, you will find yourself stranded at home, work, or even on the side of a busy highway. Luckily, there are several ways you can take care of your battery to maximize its lifespan, and to get an idea of when you will need a new one.
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If you can, park your car in a garage. This will help prevent the battery from getting too cold over the winter, which can drain it more quickly. As an added bonus, parking indoors can also protect your paint job and makes it much easier to get going on frosty mornings since you can skip the ice scraper.
Alternatively, you can purchase an insulation blanket to put around your battery on cold days when your car is parked for a longer period of time, such as overnight. You can find one at your local auto parts store. Another option is an engine or battery heater, also available at an auto parts store.
You can test your battery output voltage using a car battery tester to see how it’s performing and get a better idea of when it needs to be replaced. You can get one for relatively cheap at any store that sells automotive parts. Try to test it every month or so to make sure it’s in good working order. The average car battery lasts around two to five years, so it’s a good idea to test it when it reaches that timeframe as it may need replacing soon.
Corrosion and dirt on or around your battery terminals can prevent it from working properly. If you notice they are dirty, clean the battery terminals with either an ammonia-based window cleaner, a combination of baking soda and water with a wire brush, or special battery cleaner. Once you have cleaned off the debris, make sure you remove all traces of cleaner to prevent corrosion.
Don’t leave the lights on
Your battery can drain quickly if you leaving your headlights, interior lights, or any other electronics when your car is switched off. When exiting your car, make sure all your lights are turned off or you’ll risk coming back to a dead battery. (I speak from experience since my kids have accidentally left a light on or a door open overnight and my car battery was dead in the morning.)
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Sometimes, you might notice that the battery plated are exposed. This means that the electrolyte levels in the battery are too low. You can add distilled water to the battery to help it work better; just make sure you use a funnel and only cover the plates. Once you’ve added the water, recharge your battery using a battery charger found at an auto parts store.
Secure the battery
If your battery is loose, it can collide with other parts of your engine and potentially spill battery acid on them. Battery acid is corrosive, so getting it on your engine parts can cause permanent damage. Check to make sure your battery is securely fastened in place; if it’s loose, either secure it yourself or take it to a mechanic if you’re not confident at car DIY.
Catherine Hiles (she/her) is a native Brit living and working in Dayton, Ohio. Cat has written about a variety of subjects, including finance, cars, and parenting. She is a frequent contributor to Dayton Mom Collective and The Penny Hoarder.
Cat lives with her husband, their two kids, and their energetic pitbull mix. She counts running, lifting weights, walking, and reading among her hobbies. See more articles by Cat.