Believe it or not, the average age of cars on the road is 11.4 years. If you’re like most car owners, keeping your ride in good shape is always a priority and the older it gets, the harder this can seem.
While you know to follow your manufacturer’s recommendations for ongoing maintenance, those tasks aren’t the only things you need to take care of.
One of the most overlooked maintenance tasks drivers forget about is caring for the battery. So where do you start?
Here are a few simple car battery maintenance tips to help you keep your battery working properly every day.
1. Get Rid of Corrosion
Most car batteries have a good amount of battery acid inside the housing. As the battery powers your car, that acid releases hydrogen gas, which then collects on the surface of the battery and terminals. This buildup gets referred to as battery corrosion.
That corrosion can interfere with your battery’s ability to provide your car with enough power. Worse, it can slowly eat away at the battery and the other components beneath the hood.
Pop the hood and check the battery terminals. If you notice crusty buildup on the terminals or along the top of the battery, clean it off.
Use 1 cup of near-boiling water and add 1 tablespoon of baking soda to the liquid. Dip a small scrub brush (a toothbrush works just fine) in the liquid and use it to scrub away the corrosion.
2. Make Sure It Has Enough Water
When you compare car batteries, you’ll quickly see that there are two main types: maintenance-free sealed batteries and flooded batteries. The sealed batteries have a completely solid case with no opening to the battery plates inside.
Flooded batteries have small hatches you can open to monitor the electrolyte levels inside the housing. If you have a flooded battery, you need to make sure the plates are completely covered.
Open the hatch and check the plates; you may need a flashlight to see inside. If the levels look low, use distilled water to cover the plates. Take care not to overflow the fluid.
3. Check the Voltage Regularly
As batteries get old and damaged, they’re not capable of producing the same amount of power. This is a great way to tell if it’s time to replace your batteries or if you can keep them for another year or two.
Use a voltage meter to check the power levels produced by your battery. If it’s low, you may need to replace it.
Leaving a dying battery in place increases your risk of needing a jump and could leave you stranded on the side of the road when you least expect it.
4. Avoid Leaving Your Car out in Extreme Weather
Extremely cold and hot weather can impact your battery and shorten its lifespan. Whenever possible, try to find a temperate place to park.
If you have a garage, move your car inside when the temperatures change. If not, try to park under a tree during warm weather and insulate your battery during those cold snaps.
Keeping your battery at a more constant temperature will help keep the components in good condition and should help you keep it working longer.
5. Do a Visual Inspection Once a Month
It’s always a good idea to get under the hood and check on your engine every month or so. This helps you monitor the components for damage, spot signs of rodents, and keep the fluids topped off for optimal performance.
Use those monthly inspections as a chance to look at your battery.
Make sure the cables and housing are still in good shape. If you notice debris or corrosion collecting on the surface, clean it off. If anything looks damaged or cracked, recycle the old battery and install a new one.
6. Consider Using a Trickle Charger
Batteries need to charge regularly. Otherwise, they start to lose their ability to maintain a charge and can impact the way your car handles.
If you drive your car daily, this should never be a problem. The simple act of driving is enough to top off your battery’s charge. But if you leave it sitting for a few months at a time, the battery will start to lose power.
Once it gets depleted, its charge capacity decreases. The more it happens, the more the capacity goes down.
Using a trickle charger is a great way to keep the battery topped off when you’re not using the car for extended periods of time.
7. Make Sure the Battery Is Secure
Over time, the fittings around the battery tray can get loose. When this happens, the battery can move around under the hood. If the movements are big enough, you could end up damaging other engine components.
The best thing you can do to prevent that damage is to check the battery every month during your visual inspections. Gently push on the top part of the battery and see if it wiggles.
If it does, you’ll want to remove the battery and inspect the battery tray. Chances are, there’s something in the tray that’s making the battery wiggle around. Clean it out, reinstall the battery, and check it again.
If that’s not enough to fix the wiggle, you may need to replace the battery tray altogether. Remember, replacing both the battery and the battery tray will be cheaper than replacing a part damaged by battery acid that spilled out when the car hit a bump.
Try These Car Battery Maintenance Tips Today
You love your car and you rely on it to get you where you need to go every day. These car battery maintenance tips will help you keep your car running smoothly no matter where you take it.
Just remember that battery maintenance is only one thing you need to take care of. Your car needs regular tune-ups, oil changes, tire rotations, and other services to stay on the road. Check out our latest posts for more helpful car maintenance tips today.