a car battery

4 Essential Car Battery Care Tips

February 18th was National Battery Day, but unlike certain other holidays, no gifts were exchanged. Instead, consider it a reminder to give yourself the gift of checking your car battery to ensure its continued working condition. By following these four car battery care tips, you can avoid getting stranded with a dying battery.
batteries on a shelf

Battery Care Essentials

The car battery manages your vehicle’s electrical system, ensuring that electricity is provided to turn the ignition, activate the lights, power the audio and navigation systems and handle other power-dependent duties. Simply put, when the battery fails, you’re not going anywhere. Here are four steps to make sure that never happens to you:

1. Locate the battery.

Most car batteries are located underneath the hood, although some cars have the battery stashed in a compartment located in the trunk or under a seat. If you’re not sure where to look, your owner’s manual will direct you.

2. Start with basic maintenance.

Inspect your battery on a seasonal basis to ensure it is clean and ready to go. Corrosion is typically found on the top of the battery and around the battery cable clamps. There are special cleaning sprays you can use to help clean corrosion. If you don’t have a cleaning spray, you can apply a solution of baking soda and water directly to the corrosion and scrub it with a nonmetallic brush, then flush with clean, cool water. To thoroughly clean the attaching cables, detach them and clean the clamps and battery posts.

3. Test the battery.

Now that the battery is free of corrosion, all is well — right? Not necessarily. Car batteries have a limited lifespan, which needs to be checked during maintenance. You can use a voltmeter to measure the battery’s state of charge. A reading of 12.6 volts or above means your battery is fully charged. Readings from 12.64 down to 11.99 volts mean that your battery’s charge is decreasing to low levels. Your battery is dead at 11.8 volts and must be replaced if the battery tests bad and will not recharge.

4. Replace a dead battery.

If the car battery is tests bad , then you will need to replace it. Read and fully understand your vehicle’s owner’s manual for proper replacement instructions. Make sure to follow all safety instructions including  putting on rubber gloves and wearing safety glasses. Within a typical installation, remove the battery hold-down clamp. Then, disconnect the battery, starting with the negative post first. Once disconnected, carefully lift the battery off the tray and place it to the side to recycle later. If the battery tray is corroded, replace it. Finally, reverse the process when installing a new battery. There is one additional step to consider: Once you fasten the cable clamps to the post, spray some battery terminal protector spray on the connection to help prevent corrosion.

Car Battery Care and Extreme Heat

Some car owners may feel perplexed when a car battery wears out faster than anticipated. In this case, the culprit is usually extreme heat, which can take a greater toll on a car’s battery than cold temperatures. Persistent hot temperatures combined with even hotter temperatures under the hood can take a toll and cause accelerated aging within your battery.  It is always important to test your battery in any climate or season.

For more information on car battery care, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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Matthew C. Keegan

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