As you may already know, the car battery is an important part of your car. I had to change my battery last year and worked on figuring out if the battery needed to be maintained or replaced. After working on several techniques to maintain it, I found that some of the battery cells were not working properly.
To maintain your battery you need to check it at least twice a year so you can make sure it is performing at optimal levels. Here’s a list of 10 ways to check your battery:
- Check and clean the terminals if needed
- Check the battery for leaks
- Fill the fluid levels on some batteries
- Check the secureness of terminal and cable connections
- Check the battery voltage output daily if needed with phone chager that shows car voltage display
- Check your alternator with voltmeter if battery isn’t charging well
- Check the hold-down cross bar is secure
- Charge your battery if needed to prevent crystalization in the cells
- Fix your radiator if your engine is overheating (Heat hurts batteries)
- Check the date on the battery and replace if not working well and old (most only last 3-5 years)
Replacement of car batteries is very expensive, especially because there are ways on how to make the most out of them for years. In this post, we will be talking about everything you need to know on how to perform proper car battery maintenance, along with some tips. Doing this task correctly is guaranteed to add more years to your car battery. Read on if you want to know more.
What Steps To Take To Maintain Your Battery
(CAUTION – If you’re disconnecting the terminals on your car battery, disconnect the black/negative first, then the red/positive second. If you reconnecting your car battery connect the red/positive first, then the black/negative second.)
There are a few things you can do to ensure your battery lasts as long as it can. Most of these are simple and will only take a few minutes. Some can be done in several ways. Here’s the I would take when maintaining my battery.
1. Check The Terminals
Battery terminals almost always have some corrosion given enough time. Cleaning them to ensure a good connection to the battery. Clean them (see article) and use dielectric grease or WD40 on them to help prevent future corrosion.
2. Check The Battery For Leaks
A battery is prone to crack when under extreme conditions like an accident or overheating. Check for fine lines and openings in the battery case. If you see lots of corrosion on or under the battery tray or the battery terminal, check for leaks.
Replace a battery immediately if cracked. Leaking gases could explode.
3. Fill The Fluid Levels On Some Batteries
Some batteries are liquid-filled and have battery cell covers. I usually notice them as two panels on top of the battery or as plugs over the six cells of the battery. Fill only if needed. (see video above)
If you see water levels are below the top of the metal sheets fill the cell so it covers the sheets.
4. Check Cable Terminal Connections
A cable terminal usually has a bolt that must be tightened onto the battery terminal. Ensure to tighten the bolt so that when you try to move the cable terminal it won’t budge. Try not to over-tighten.
If you can move the cable terminal a bit, it’s likely not tight enough or you may have the wrong terminal size for the battery.
5. Check The Battery Voltage
This is one of the easiest and best ways to check your car battery is with a car phone charger that plugs into the cigarette lighter.
When you turn the car key to accessory position it should show 12.6 volts (a fully charged battery)
When you start the car it should usually show about 14.2-14.7 volts. It can also show in the 13-volt range for cars that have lots of accessories that need more energy.
6. Check Your Alternator is Charging The Battery Correctly
You can use a voltmeter to check if your alternator is working properly. (see video above) There are a couple of tests you can try to more accurately determine alternator performance.
Some of these are to check for bad wiring and others for correct charging.
7. Check The Hold-Down Cross Bar
If you have a truck like me, you know how bumpy it can get going down the road. Eventually, the battery crossbar may loosen allow the battery to move, and cause issues. Check and replace the crossbar if it is damaged or missing parts.
8. Charge Your battery To Prevent Crystalization In The Cells
If your battery is below 12 volts for more than a couple of days the cells could start to crysralize. If they do, it could cause the cell to stop functioning.
Batteries will naturally remove crystals when they are charged to the correct voltage of 12.6 on a routine basis.
Try to fix whatever problem is causing the low charge voltage (alternator, wiring, low water, bad connections, etc.)
Charge the battery if possible while waiting for the problems to get fixed.
9. Fix Your Radiator
A hot engine can ruin a battery. Check for radiator leaks or blockage. Check your fans to see if they are working properly. Make sure the engine isn’t overheating or getting overly hot regularly.
10. Check The Date On The battery
Every battery has a set lifespan. Most batteries will only last 3-5 years. One way to see if your battery is at the end of its life is to look at the date on the label on the top or side of the battery.
If it’s nearing its lifespan then it might be time to get a new battery.
*Be aware that for some cars when disconnecting the battery, your radio and ECU (or car’s computer) may lose information. You may need to reprogram radio stations and drive a couple of days more or less for the car’s computer to help your car run efficiently again.
How Do Car Batteries Work?
How car batteries work is that they store energy in chemical form and are released as electricity when you need it. This chemical energy is used by your vehicle’s ignition system to power the engine, lights, and other car accessories. Interestingly, once the alternator fails, your car can run using the battery but only for a short period of time.
Generally, the alternators do keep your battery recharged if your engine is running. In addition, if you are also using electrical appliances with the engine off, your car’s battery will slowly run out of juice. In addition, due to the chemical content of car batteries, you need to take serious precautions when handling it, including wearing safety goggles and a face shield.
How to Perform Battery Maintenance
Taking proper care and maintenance of your vehicle’s battery not only will prolong its lifespan but it will also ensure that your car will run as smoothly as possible. You don’t need to be a licensed professional to do this task. All you need is this guide to help you. Doing this job correctly will ensure that you can save up to $$$ cost entailed with a malfunctioning car battery.
1. Water Level
The first thing to take note of is that you need to make sure that the water level is adequate, especially if your car battery is an older type. It is quite simple to determine which one you have. On unsealed batteries, you can find small vent caps situated on top, which you can also unscrew easily. If you notice that the water level is not at the bottom of the cup, you need to replenish it.
However, in areas wherein the tap water has a high mineral content, you need to use distilled water. This is your go-to water, especially if you are unsure if the water is soft or hard. To add, heat will evaporate the water a lot quicker, so you need to check the water level regularly during the summer. If the water level is too low, the heat will only destroy your vehicle’s battery cells.
The next thing that you must do is to check the terminals, one is marked negative (-) and the other one is marked positive (+). You need to disconnect the (-) terminal first before removing the battery and cleaning the connections. If you disconnect the (+) first, it might cause a spark and ignition, especially if you are using a tool made of metal.
If the terminals appear to have deposits on them, you need to clean them using a wire brush soaked in water and baking soda solution. In case you don’t know, these deposits block the electricity’s flow. Just make sure that you avoid splashing the solution onto the paint surfaces of your car. Lastly, check the cable ends. If it appears to be loose, you need to tighten it.
Another thing to make sure of is that the brackets that hold your car’s battery in its position are tight. Having loose brackets might cause it to vibrate when you turn the engine on; thus, it will shorten the battery’s lifespan. It is also recommended that you check the battery tray to see if there is corrosion. After all, the effectiveness of the tray will go undermined if there’s corrosion.
If you see that there is minor corrosion, you just need to brush it off and coat it with acid-resistant paint. However, you need to replace the tray if it has been weakened due to corrosion. The overall condition of the brackets and the tray certainly will prevent further vibrations that are guaranteed to damage your vehicle’s battery.
The best equipment for recharging your car’s battery is the trickle charger, which should be left on for a maximum of 10 hours. If your battery is the unsealed type, you need to first remove the vent caps and place a damp cloth on the openings. Next, you need to attach the alligator clips from the charger onto your car’s battery.
The red clip must be attached to the (+) terminal while the green or black alligator clip must be attached to the (-) terminal. A different method is required if your battery is sealed, which has a charge indicator window found on top of it. It needs charging if you see that the window is dark or green while you need to replace it at once if you that the window is yellow or clear.
Tips on Battery Maintenance
Your car’s battery has an average life of about 4 years. So, if you want to extend its life, you need to take proper care of it. Here are some tips that you might want to follow:
- Using distilled water to fill the battery will reduce the accumulation of gas.
- Placing a damp rag over the caps before you recharge your battery is necessary, as it can prevent a fire from getting into the battery in case there is shorting in the (+) and (-) terminals.
- Avoid keeping inflammable liquid or gas near the car battery.
- Never place metal objects over the battery to avoid shorting.
- As mentioned above, it is very important that you disconnect the (-) terminal first.
- Connect the charger to the AC socket once you have connected it to the battery terminals. Doing so will prevent spark in the terminals.
The average life of a car battery is around 4 years. However, if you want to make the most out of your battery, it is necessary that you follow these simple and easy battery maintenance tips. As discussed, you need to check the water level, the bracket and tray condition, the terminals every 2 months and recharge it when needed.