Your car battery is critical to keeping your vehicle running. It sends power to the starter to turn over the engine and receives generated electricity from the alternator to maintain power. If you’re able to extend the life of your car battery, you may avoid an untimely failure.
Most car batteries’ lifetimes range from three to five years. But reaching those limits is not a guarantee, as multiple factors can reduce that time significantly. Here are five ways to help keep your car’s battery running for the long haul.
1. Clean the Battery
Like other car parts, the battery needs maintenance. Periodically, check the battery and connections, ensuring that the connections are secure and free of dirt and grime.
Batteries routinely create a powdery substance where the cables meet the terminals. To clean this, disconnect the cables from the terminals. Then, mix two tablespoons of baking soda with an equal amount of water in a container. Blend the solution to form a paste, then use a toothbrush to apply the paste to each terminal. Use a wire brush to remove the residue and wipe the terminals dry with a clean towel before reconnecting them. There are also special corrosion cleaner sprays, terminal protection sprays, and battery terminal cleaning tools that can help make this process easier.
2. Drive Regularly and Avoid Short Trips
If you park your car for days on end or make short trips exclusively, your car battery won’t have sufficient time to recharge. Take extended trips on a regular basis to help the battery gain a full charge. If you know you vehicle will have extended periods of infrequent use, you can also consider an AGM or Absorbed Glass Mat design that is better equipped to withstand parasitic loads.
3. Be Mindful of Extreme Temperatures
Nothing takes a toll on a car battery more than extreme temperatures. If you live where summer temperatures are consistently hot, as in the southeast US, the battery will experience accelerated aging and may shorten life.
Cold weather is also hard on your battery, as your vehicle will demand more power than in warm weather. It’s important to remember to test your battery in any season and not just wait to test it in the cold.
4. Keep All Accessories Off While Starting
What drains battery life are the accessories you use, including audio, communication and navigation systems, climate control, heated and cooled seats, a heated steering wheel and lights. When starting a car, particularly in cold weather, ensure all accessories are off. If you can control your car remotely, ensure the accessories are off before starting it.
5. Test Your Battery or Have it Tested
One way to greatly reduce the chances of becoming stranded with a dead battery is to test it. Do this with a multimeter by connecting it when the car is off. Connect the red (positive) lead to your battery’s positive terminal, then the black (negative) lead to the negative terminal. Turn the meter to the DC volt setting and read the results.
If your battery reads at least 12.4 volts, then it’s sufficiently charged and should continue to hold a charge. If the reading is below that, the battery may be able to accept a recharge. If not, replace the battery at once. While a multimeter may give you a quick indication of your battery condition it is not as reliable as the equipment at a profession garage or service center. If you are concerned at all with the reliability of your battery or it is over 3 years old, it is best to take it to a professional to have it tested.
With proper care, you should be able to maximize the battery’s lifespan. With regular checks, you can thwart an untimely breakdown before it happens.
Check out all the electrical system products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 16,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to extend the life of your car battery, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Matthew C. Keegan.