It certainly is frustrating to be stuck on the road with a flat battery. As a driver or a car owner, you probably already know that a car battery typically lasts anywhere between 3-5 years. But what if your car battery gives up within a year or two? You don’t want to be charging your battery now and then, or worse — replacing it sooner than expected. While certain factors such as weather conditions, vehicle type, and driving habits affect your battery’s longevity, there are also ways to make your car battery life last longer.
Consider these 7 tips to help you get the very best out of your car battery.
1. Refrain from driving short trips often
How do you charge a battery? Well, the easiest way to recharge a car battery is to use it regularly. Your car battery loses some power every time you start your car but is then recharged by the engine as you drive. The longer you drive, the more your battery is recharged. So if you’re only driving a short distance, it will be difficult for the battery to regain the amount of power lost. Repeating this process daily leads to a steady reduction of battery voltage until it can no longer start your car.
Extend your car battery’s life by driving your car frequently and for longer periods to help maintain adequate voltage.
2. Make sure your car battery is tightly fastened
A running engine creates vibrations, and vibrations can reduce your car battery’s life. That’s why you must always use an approved battery clamp to ensure it is properly secured at all times. Excessive vibrations could damage the battery’s internal components, which could create a short circuit and reduce battery life, especially when your battery is not securely fastened.
However, avoid over-tightening the battery clamp nuts because you might damage the battery. Instead, try to tighten the nuts until you start to feel resistance, and then continue for an additional half turn only.
3. Avoid using power when the engine is off
Any electrically powered accessories in your car such as headlights, cabin lights, or stereo can drain the power out of your car battery, especially when the engine is not running. Before exiting your vehicle, always make sure you turn off all the accessories and double-check that no lights are on as you walk away.
4. Clean your car battery regularly
Inspect the top of your car battery at least once a month to ensure it is clean, dry, and free of dirt. A dirty battery can create a mild short circuit, which will eventually flatten your battery. Corrosion of battery terminals can also happen over time. Keeping it clean and preventing chemical buildup is a great way to extend the life of your car battery.
You can remove corrosion by scrubbing it using an old toothbrush dipped in a mixture of baking soda and water. Then rinse the mixture off using a spray bottle with cold water, followed by thorough drying with a clean cloth.
5. Keep your car battery under neutral temperatures
There’s a common misconception that cold weather flattens car batteries, but this isn’t entirely true. Car batteries do have a heavier workload in starting cars during winter, but the reason so many fail during this season is mostly due to the damage they sustained during the extreme heat of summer.
Extreme heat can increase the rate of water evaporation — even in sealed top batteries. When winter comes, the low temperatures drain the remaining cranking power when trying to start cold engines with thick oil.
So make sure you can reduce the temperature subjected to the battery like parking your vehicle in the shade where possible or keeping your vehicle inside your garage when not in use. These are both great ways to keep your car batteries from exposure to extreme temperatures.
6. Check your car battery’s voltage regularly
Keep an eye on your car battery’s health by checking the voltage with a voltmeter once a month. The longevity of a lead-acid battery shortens dramatically the longer it is left discharged. You’ll know if a lead-acid battery is healthy and fully charged if it has a voltage of around 12.7 volts or higher.
It’s important to remember that a lead-acid battery with 12.4 volts is considered half charged, and completely flat/dead at 12.0 volts. So it’s recommended to charge your battery as soon as possible if the voltage drops below 12.5 volts.
7. Avoid leaving your car unused for long periods
As mentioned earlier, car batteries automatically recharge the moment you use them. Car batteries need to be kept fully charged to avoid damage. Regardless of brand, all car batteries naturally lose charge over time as they tend to self-discharge, especially when not in use.
Car batteries can self-discharge at different rates depending on the temperature. For example, at room temperature, car batteries self-discharge at a rate of around 1% per day, 0.25% per day at 10°C, and 1.5% per day at 30°C. Keep in mind that parasitic loads from the vehicle will increase the rate of discharge, so if your car will be unused for any longer than a week, disconnecting your battery might be a good idea to save power.
You should not forget to include your car batteries in your routine maintenance. Car batteries don’t last forever, but if you want to maximize their use, consider the 7 tips we’ve discussed earlier. A properly maintained battery will give you 4 to 5 years of optimum performance. Beyond 5 years, however, you should start getting new batteries as this is when they can become unreliable.
Do you need a battery replacement service? Neighborhood Roadside Assistance is always ready to install your car battery at any time and anywhere in New Jersey.