Your car battery is the heart of your automobile. Without a solid battery, you won’t be able to crank the starter motor or fire a spark. All your accessories and lights run off your car battery. Yet, most owners take their car battery for granted and do nothing to maintain it until their vehicle won’t even turn over the engine. In those cases, the cells are usually far too damaged to hold a proper charge. In addition, a weak battery can force the alternator to run constantly and wear out the brushes.
Considering that so much depends on the life of your battery and that batteries are becoming more expensive each year, it makes sense to take a few simple steps to extend the life of your battery. Let’s discuss ways to save your battery’s life, below.
#1: Heat Kills Batteries
Although most car batteries die in the winter time or after a long cold winter, this is often because they were severely weakened over a hot summer season. Even though the batteries sold today are mostly maintenance-free batteries that never require you to adjust the water levels, the water in these maintenance-free batteries still evaporates in extreme heat. When this happens, it is harder for the electrochemical reactions to take place. The result is a battery full of lead sulfate crystals and damaged cells that don’t hold a charge anymore. For this reason, it is good to keep your vehicle out of direct sunlight, whenever possible, especially when idling.
#2: Use Dielectric Grease
If you want to reduce the chances of corrosion on the terminals and ensure a solid connection, you should coat the terminals and leads to your battery with dielectric grease. The dielectric grease maintains the continuity of the current and repels the moisture that corrodes the terminals. This will reduce the heat build-up at the terminals by reducing the resistance. Resistance in electrical cables transforms the electrical energy into heat energy and quickly saps the power out of a battery.
#3: Eliminate Battery Vibrations
Always ensure that your battery is secured in the battery compartment. There is usually a clamp that holds over the top to secure the battery into place and reduce vibrations. The vibrations can shorten the life of your battery and even crack the housing if they are jarring enough. Your battery may also have foam inserts that help to eliminate the side-to-side sloshing around that can rupture cells.
#4: Regularly Check the Charge of Your Battery
Your battery should register at about 12.8 volts when the car is off. When the car is then switched on and revved to about 30,000 RPMs at idle, the alternator should kick in and top the battery up to over 13 volts with a number that is constantly changing. You can use a multimeter on DC setting to determine the health of your battery. This is important because it can prevent your alternator from wearing out the brushes and a no-start situation.
#5: Avoid Stop-and-Go Trips
Short trips can kill a battery. This is especially the case if you never push the engine to higher RPMs. The higher RPMs allow the alternator to fully recharge the battery. So, even if you have to weed through traffic jams during your morning commute to work, a short distance away, you should still take your car out on a nice long ride at night to charge up the battery.