Have you ever been in situation where you’re in a hurry? You go inside your car and just when you turn on a key, your engine just won’t quite start because of a dead battery. To avoid this expensive service you need to consider taking care of your battery. Like in everyday life, if you’re taking care of something it will be healthier and last a lot longer. Car batteries are not exceptions from this statement.
If you’re not sure of what exactly you need to do to maintain your battery well, I did a complete guide what you should do. Here you can read about my precious car battery maintenance tips and tricks.
In case you’re wondering how to make your car battery last longer this is my 17 best car battery maintenance tips that will actually work and extend your car battery life.
1. Clean dirty and corroded cable clamps
One of the most overlooked things when it comes to a car batteries are dirty and corroded cable clamps. If you not pay much of an attention you might end up with a battery that would not start your car engine. And don’t be surprised there because that can happen, especially if you’re not done anything to prevent this. This can be easily fix. Use proper wrench key for you battery clamp bolt and unscrew it all the way. If cable clamps are stuck to the battery terminals you can wiggle a little and they will become loose. Use wire brush to clean corroded cable clams. When they are cleaned, put them back to the battery terminals and tight it all the way securely.
2. Clean dirty and corroded battery terminals
As well as for a cable clamps there is also true for a battery terminals. They can also be dirty and get corroded. Because cable clamps are directly tied to the battery terminals, they must be cleaned as well. Repeat process from above. Unbolt the cable clamps from a battery terminals. Use wire brush and/or sanding paper for best results. When you get shiny surface of a battery terminals, put cable clamps back to a terminals and bolt them as tightly as you can, to be secured in place. It’s a good idea to check for a corrosion every once in a while, because it’s better to prevent than cure, right?
3. Coat the battery terminals with grease made for high temperatures
If you don’t have grease made for high temperatures it’s a best practice to check your battery clamps and terminals from time to time, just to make sure they are not some rust buildup. But, if you have this kind of grease it’s a good idea to put it to a battery terminals. This will prevent rust and corrosion to occur on metal surface of the battery terminals. In general if you want to protect any metal surface you must coat it with some kind of grease to prevent rust and corrosion. This is also true for battery terminals, especially when you want to store it somewhere outside a vehicle.
4. Keep Your Battery Clean of Dirt and Corrosion
Just a quick eye check will give you an idea if your battery need to be cleaned. If your battery starts to leak acid it will form corroded rust buildup, which might connect two of the battery terminals. This will short circuit a battery terminals and will damage it, and also may damage vehicle electronics as well. So if you see this kind of acid corrosion buildup, do not hesitate and clean it away. The best way to clean this corrosion is to use cotton swabs, combination of lemon juice and vinegar, and baking soda. Make one half of a lemon juice and one half of a vinegar, mix them together. Dip cotton swab to this solution and carefully clean this buildup. This mixture will dissolve acid from a battery. After you cleaned all, use mixture of water and baking soda. And just give it a good wipe of an entire battery. This solution will neutralize acid from battery.
5. Reinstall the clamp and cables
Sometimes cable clamps will loosen up from whatever reason. It may not been very good tighten before, or it may loosen up from a vibrations that vehicle produces. It is a very good idea to check the tightening of this cable clamps to the battery terminals from time to time. One of the best advices that I can give you is to always know your car and always bring a set of tools with you in the car, because you’ll never know what can happen. From just a basic tool set you can tighten those loose bolts by yourself.
6. Secure the Battery in Place
When you replace your battery you may forgot to secure it in place. This is done either with a strong strap which is already around the battery place or, if your car has it the hold-down bar. Either way you must not forget to secure it in place. If you don’t secure it into its place, battery will wiggle around from the vibration that your vehicle produces just enough to get your cable clamps loose from the battery terminals. You might say that you already drive your car with battery which is not secured into the place and that clamps are still onto the terminals. That’s may be true, but over time it will eventually get loosen up.
7. Check the level of the electrolyte inside your battery
Open a hood and disconnect clamp from negative battery terminal. Carefully open the covers of the battery cells. There’s six in total. There should be mixture of acid and water to the bottom of the fill hole. If not, you must add water. But be aware not to add a tap water inside. Just use distilled water. This water is pure H2O without anything. Regular tap water contain minerals which are not good for the internals of the car battery. After you refill it, put the cover caps on, and reconnect *negative terminal. If it’s needed, use 12V charger to charge up your battery first, before starting your car. Once more, for car battery maintenance distilled water is water of your choice.
8. Check the condition and charge of the battery
After you refilled battery cells with a distilled water, set battery aside for a couple of hours and allow water to mix well with an electrolytes. After a couple of hours take a hydrometer and draw the mixture from each cell individually and record results. After each cell, squirt mixture back in corresponding cell. Ideal temperature conditions for this testing are at 80 degrees F. For every 10 degrees above 80 add 0.04 and for every 10 degrees below 80 subtract 0.04. If some of the readings from a single cell deviates by 0.05 or more you may replace a battery. If you get readings of 1.265 or higher, you get a fully charged battery. If readings show 1.200 and below recharge a battery.
9. Park your car in a Garage
Extreme temperatures, whether cold or hot will affect your battery in negative way. For example, if it’s extreme cold outside, your battery will lose charge quick, and you may end up in the morning with a car that will not start an engine. Maintaining a reasonable temperature by park your vehicle in a garage will positively affect battery to hold it’s charge and will prolong healthy life for a long time. And if you have heating system installed into your garage it’s even better, that way you will maintain very nice temperatures for your battery to stay strong.
10. Verify a battery insulator, if your car has one
Extreme heat can also damage and shorten battery life. It’s always a good idea to check your battery insulator. If it’s damaged please consider replacing it. If your car doesn’t have one you can make one by yourself and prolong battery life. Due to exposed heat your battery will evaporate acid and eventually will dry out an electrolytes inside of cells, which will turn your battery in useless piece of lead in a box. That’s why your battery need insulation, to prevent overheating. Choosing an insulator for your car battery can be intimidating, so be prepared to do a research.
11. Recharge your car battery with Solar charger
This days modern cars use a computers to operate almost all functions inside your vehicle. That’s why it’s not a good idea to leave your car sitting in a guarage for a couple of days. If you do that your battery will drain and will become flat. So for this reason one of the best ways to prevent flat battery from not running your car, is to use a solar charger. It will maintain charge even if you don’t use your car couple of days, maybe weeks. It all depends on how much sun you get there, and of course, you must check your windshield not to get dirty. For example, you’re going to a plane, and you will leaving your car on to the parking spot of an airport for a couple of days, till you get back. This solar charger will really come handy. Or if you know that you will not use your car for a couple of days, it’s best to hook up one of this car battery solar chargers to prevent discharge.
12. Disconnect battery from terminals when not used
If you don’t have car battery solar charger, and you know that your car will not be driven for a couple of days or weeks it’s best to disconnect cable clamp from battery negative terminal to prevent inevitable discharge. If it’s winter and it’s cold outside, you can also disconnect your battery from both the terminals and store battery somewhere inside where it’s not cold, because just from cold weather your battery will discharge also. Before you disconnect your battery make sure it’s fully charged. If not, use regular car battery charger to charge it up and then store it somewhere I described before. If you plan to store a battery somewhere it’s best to grease terminals with some grease made for high temperatures to prevent metal terminals oxidation and corrosion. I already wrote about it above in the number 3. From this list post. So, please check it out. This is my best car battery care advice, when not in use.
13. Keep the battery in cooler places, heat damages batteries
One of the greatest battery enemy in general is heat. Exposed battery to constant heat will shorten health and life of a battery. Example of exposing battery to a constant heat will be just parked car to a direct sunlight, and even worse if your car doesn’t have battery insulator. This will dry your battery electrolytes, and your battery will become flat. The best tip is to park somewhere in the shade whenever it’s possible,to prevent direct sunlight. Go back and read number 10. from this list post, I wrote there about car battery insulation. Bare in mind, when I said cooler place I didn’t mean on freezer. If you do that you will also damage your battery. It will discharge completely. So, find some place where temperature is actually tolerable for humans to live inside, and store your battery there. That way it will not lose its charge, and will hold it for a long time.
14. Always unplug accessories and turn off lights when your car is turned off
There is no doubt, if you leave your car headlights on while car engine is off, your battery will become flat after just one night, and nobody wants that, right? The best way to prevent this from happening is to go into a routine. When you park your car and before turning key in off position it is a best to first turn off all the accessories. Headlights, radio, a/c unit and whatever you have in your car runs out of the battery. So, routine is a king, if you’re considering to not to forget to turn off some of the battery powered electronics first. This is also true when you starting your car. Make sure that you already turned off everything first, before starting a vehicle. If not, for example, you forget to turn off an a/c unit and radio, when you first turn key in second position your accessories will turn on and when you turn key to start an engine, your starter motor will struggle a little, and we don’t want that to happen.
15. Don’t Use Electronics When your car is Idle
When your car is idle don’t use any electronic accessories. The problem here is when your car is idle, it is in lower rpm range, so alternator won’t provide as much power as electronic system needs, and your battery will discharge faster. And when you press gas pedal and keep moving, your rpm goes higher so car alternator can provide enough power to a car electronics. If you know that you will stop just for a couple short minutes it’s ok not to turn off your electronics, because when you go your alternator will charge up battery quickly. But if you know that when you stop, but won’t turn engine off and it will last for lets say 15 – 20 min it is best to turn off all the electronics inside your vehicle.
16. Occasionally test your battery to make sure it is correctly charged
From time to time it is the best to check your battery if it is correctly charged. This will allow you to charge your battery if it needs to be charged, to maintain its peak performance. You can do that with any multimeter. Reason for this is when you run your car less then it just stays parked in one spot, your battery will be less charged and will hold less voltage, so your battery will not be at peak performance. Not only that, doing so will also prolong healthy battery that will last a long time. If not sooner, you can do this checks every six months to make sure that your battery is at optimal performance peak.
17. Start up and drive periodically
If you’re in situation where you own a car but do not using it as much, it’s better to start up and drive periodically because it will prevent battery discharge and eventually a flat battery. So, go for a short trips every 3 – 4 days for an half an hour and your battery will hold its charge much better. When you drive your car, alternator will recharge battery. Bare in mind that if you took a couple of short drives, you will leave your battery below required specs. If you know your drive style, make sure that you own a car battery charger just for this reason. You will need to recharge your battery every couple of days to prevent discharge, and you will maintain battery charge levels with car battery maintenance charger.