When the things we take completely for granted fail, it can catch us by surprise in the worst way possible. One of those items is your vehicle’s battery. If it fails, no matter how much gas is in your tank, you likely are not going to make it very far. Fortunately, there are a number of measures you can take to make sure it keeps the power flowing. From basic every-day steps to a few long-term approaches, here are a few easy ways to keep your battery fresh.
To begin with, simply make sure that your battery terminals are in good condition. This can be done as easily as opening the hood a few times a month and closely looking at the battery. Classic signs of corrosion are fairly obvious: acid residue on the terminals (see photo), unusual leaks or other alarming marks, etc. If something seems even slightly out of the usual, the best bet is to get the battery inspected as soon as possible. What may appear to be a minor occurrence can become serious extremely quickly. A little precaution can be a far better decision than waiting and guessing.
Another critical strategy is to avoid overstraining the battery itself. Remember to start the vehicle’s engine before using accessories. Firing your car up beforehand allows the alternator to begin producing electricity rather than draining the battery’s reserves. This can help to avoid not only running the battery down but also emptying it completely. While running on a low battery may not inherently damage the unit, it risks a number of issues should it fail to charge enough to compensate for power being pulled during normal vehicle operation.
Just like the rest of your car’s components, excessive vibrations and harsh conditions can prove damaging over time. If your battery is not securely held down consequences can range from physical damage to short-circuiting. If avoiding punishing roads is not a possibility, investing in a high-quality battery hold bar is a must. Generally they are cheap, easy to install for anyone and are a surprisingly effective solution. In addition, regularly check to make sure the battery is held in as securely as possible. If ever in doubt, snug is always better than possibly too loose.
Along with harsh vibrations, brutal temperatures in either direction can cause fairly serious issues if precautions are not taken. Both extreme heat and cold can cause failure along with a host of other problems. The easiest and most practical way to avoid complications from temperature is to invest in a battery insulation kit. If you car did not come with one from the factory, you can purchase kits made for almost all makes and models.
If you’re planning to go out of town or on vacation for an extended period of time, you should invest in a battery tender/charger or simply unplug the negative cable from the battery. Sure, the latter is a bit more of a hassle because you’re most likely going to have to reset your clock when you return from your trip, but it’s better than coming back home to a dead battery.
As with many integral systems, the best approach is to have them regularly inspected. However, by applying these few simple steps, you can ensure that your battery is operating in its top condition.
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Watch me clean the battery terminals in this episode of Motorz, starting at about 10 minutes into the episode: