When it comes to your car's battery, it should never be a case of 'out of sight, out of mind'. Like many other parts of a vehicle, it needs a degree of care and attention in order to function as it should.
Here are a few tips to help keep your car battery in tip top condition.
1. Change every four years
It's recommended that each car battery is replaced after four years and to ensure your vehicle runs properly it's important that you don't forget to do this. There's nothing worse than losing power mid-journey, so don't try to extend the life of your battery for longer than you should.
2. Check the acid level
You should check the acid level of your battery around every six months. Be on the lookout for acid stratification, which happens when batteries dwell at a charge below 80 per cent, never receive a full charge or have shallow discharges. If you have a stratified battery, electrolytes will concentrate at the bottom and leave the top starved. Your battery is particularly at risk if your car is primarily driven short distances with power-robbing accessories in use.
3. Add water carefully
If you notice that electrolyte levels are low (the plates will be exposed), top them up with distilled water. Be careful when doing this and only fill the cells to cover the plates. A funnel or sports bottle is often best for adding water as they allow you to control the flow. Once you've topped up the water levels, use a battery charger to recharge the battery.
4. Conduct a battery load test
Every month you'll want to conduct a battery load test, which can be done by a mechanic. This is to ensure that the device can charge properly, even in freezing temperatures.
5. Clean the battery
Dirt and debris can be bad news for your battery if it gets into the cells. It can also cause corrosion on nearby metal, so it's important to clean the top of the battery and around the terminals. Ammonia-based window cleaners are often recommended but a combination of baking soda and water will help to get rid of any 'crust' when applied via a wire brush. Baking soda and water is particularly useful for cleaning corrosion. However, as a rule of thumb you want to think of the brush as damp, as opposed to wet. You also need to make sure you fully wipe the battery down so no baking soda residue is left, as this can cause corrosion. It's important that when cleaning the battery, no fluid is let in through the battery ports.
6. Keep cables tied
It's important that your cables don't move, so be sure to keep them tied tightly. This will help to keep everything properly secure.
7. Don't leave your car for too long
If you leave your car too long without driving it, your battery will drain down. It's recommended that you drive your vehicle at least every three days.
8. Keep the battery warm
The cold weather is bad news for your battery so it's important to try to keep it warm during winter. An engine or battery heater is often advised to help cars stay up and running in the cold. They not only make it easier to start the battery but help to minimise power consumed.
9. Don't over-charge
If you charge your battery manually, it's important not to over-charge it as this can lead to damage. Check on the battery every half an hour to see how it's progressing.