A battery can last four to five years with proper care, but today’s vehicle computer systems create a small but constant drain on batteries, even when the vehicle is parked or in long sitting periods. Therefore, checking the battery should be included as part of the routine vehicle maintenance.
The Car Care Council advises vehicle owners have their cars’ batteries tested periodically. Whether the driver or the auto technician tests the battery, a hand held battery tester only takes a minute or two to check the battery’s performance. Batteries typically do not go bad overnight and frequently checking the batteries performance will indicate if a battery isn’t putting out the amount of amperage that it should. Testing the battery should be performed every time a vehicle is brought in for service, approximately every 7,500 miles.
Here are a few tips on taking care of the battery; they may help to increase the battery’s life:
1. Protect from Temperature Extremes: Extreme temperatures are one of the biggest factors in determining the average life of the battery. In regions with extremely cold temperatures, consider using a thermal blanket or electric battery blanket which serves as a battery heater.
2. Maintenance: Keep corrosion under control by using baking soda and distilled water (tap water reduces the battery’s potential.) Use an old toothbrush to remove corrosion and build-up from the battery posts and cables. Make sure cables are tightly fastened so that they do not move.
3. Constant Charge Levels: We recommend testing the battery frequently to ensure it holds a constant 12.5 to 13 volts. Performing a load test will ensure the voltage does not drop below 10.5 volts.
4. Turn-Off Electric Devices in the Car: All devices should be turned off when the vehicle is not in use, since some electrical devices may remain on and can discharge the battery by the morning.
5. Consider Disconnecting the Battery or Connecting it to a Trickle Charger if not Using the Vehicle: If the car is not going to be used for a sometime, disconnect the battery from the car and remove it from the car altogether. Or, use a trickle charger that is made to keep a battery at a constant level of charge when not in use for long periods. This ensures that the battery will not get discharged when the vehicle is not used. Also, allowing a normal car battery to fully-discharge repeatedly may reduce the battery’s life span.
Many battery cases have a decal stating its expected life, typically 60 or 84 months. If it’s near the end of its expected service life, replace it. Battery maintenance will ensure there will never be a situation when the car will not start.
A final few hints battery replacement may be needed:
1. The starter takes a while to crank the car and the key has to be held in the start position before the engine starts.
2. In some vehicles, a battery annunciator light on the dashboard will illuminate when the battery is beginning to fail.
3. The headlights are dim at idle but brighten when the engine is revved.