Here’s a scenario none of us want:
Stuck in an empty parking lot with a dead battery, wondering what to do. To make matters worse, it’ll be a dark, stormy night, and the parking lot lights go out.
But enough of the doom-mongering.
Knowing how to care for your car’s battery can prevent unexpected breakdowns — and we’ll show you how. This way, you can avoid that heart-sinking ‘click-click’ the next time you turn the ignition key.
1. Driving Distance Matters
When it comes to how far you should drive:
DON’T just make short trips
Driving short distances (like 5-10 minute trips) can quicken the demise of your car battery. Frequent short trips won’t give your battery a chance to fully recharge, and leaving it undercharged isn’t advisable, as cranking your engine takes a lot of power.
DO drive longer distances
Make some longer drives to get your battery up to optimum capacity. At least 30 minutes of driving will be helpful, and it’s an excellent excuse to take a scenic cruise.
2. Driving Frequency Impacts Battery Life Too
We mentioned driving distance, but driving frequency matters too:
DO drive your vehicle regularly
Regular driving gives your alternator frequent opportunities to recharge the battery and keep it healthy.
DON’T leave your car parked for extended periods
Long periods of inactivity can lead to battery discharge. Take your vehicle for a drive if it has been sitting still for a while. If you don’t plan to use your car for an extended time, disconnect the battery or use a battery maintainer to keep it charged — which leads to our next point…
DON’T frequently jump-start your vehicle
If you rarely use your car, you may have to jump-start it to get the engine cranking. However, frequent jump-starts can put a strain on your battery. Instead, address the root cause or consider replacing an unreliable battery.
3. Where You Park Can Protect or Harm Your Battery
Taking extra care of where you park can help extend your battery life.
DON’T leave your car exposed to the elements
High temperatures (especially during summer) can speed up battery deterioration. Whenever possible, park your vehicle in a cool, shaded area to reduce heat stress on the battery, and use a sunshade for the windshield to minimize heat absorption.
Even in winter, parking in an enclosed area helps prevent battery exposure to extreme temperature fluctuations, which can impact its performance. Speaking of the cold…
DO insulate your battery in extreme cold conditions
If you have no choice but to park in open, frigid weather, consider insulating your battery with a battery blanket. This helps the battery stay at an optimal temperature for reliable performance.
4. Accessories Can Drain Your Battery
Ever had your car battery die on you because you forgot to turn off the headlights?
Here are a couple of reminders:
DO limit accessory use when your engine is off
When your engine isn’t running, your battery powers the car’s electricals. Accessories like lights, radios, or air conditioning can quickly drain it. Limit their use when the engine isn’t running. Also, remember to switch off electricals like interior lights, which can create a parasitic drain on your battery while you’re away.
DON’T overload your electrical system
Even when your engine is running, using too many electrical accessories simultaneously, like heated seats, defrosters, and high-power sound systems, can overload your electrical system — including your battery and alternator.
5. Vibrations Aren’t Your Battery’s Friend
Shaking and jiggling aren’t good for your car battery.
With that in mind:
DO check that your battery is seated snugly
Excessive vibration can break down battery internals, so make sure your battery fits securely in its holder. Gently give it a slight shake. If there’s any looseness, fasten it, but be careful not to over-tighten it. Avoid putting excessive pressure on the battery case, as you don’t want to cause any damage.
DON’T expose your car to excessive vibration
Even when your battery is snug in its mount, try to avoid driving on very rough roads for long periods. The external jostling and jouncing can affect your battery — even more so if your vehicle doesn’t have a suspension system built for such use.
6. Check Your Battery’s Form and Fluids
Starting an engine takes a lot of battery power. Make a point to give it a physical lookover so it stays in good shape:
DO check battery fluid levels and inspect for physical damage
If you have a non-sealed lead-acid battery, check the fluid levels regularly and add distilled water to keep the plates submerged. Check your battery for cracks, leaks, or if it’s deformed or bloated. If any of these signs appear, you should get a new battery.
DON’T leave your battery terminal to corrosion
Clean and inspect your battery terminals regularly to remove corrosion and ensure a solid electrical connection. Also, keep the top of your battery clean, as a mild short circuit across any grime or dampness can eventually discharge your battery.