How To Get The Most Out Of Your Car Battery

The battery forms the heart of any car, but it doesn't last forever. Here are a couple of handy tips to stretch that lifespan to the max.
Jason Snyman
2018-08-08

There is so much of our car that we take for granted. One of these things is the ability to get in, start the engine, turn on the music and drive away. The ability to do this is all thanks to the battery – that small electrical heart of every car on the road.

The battery delivers the voltage to start and run your car, as well as powering the lights, radio, dashboard, computer and many other mechanisms. 

It's easy to forget that it takes a bit of maintenance to keep that battery ticking away. Many motorists have experienced the dread of a flat battery – a car that just won't start – and many more undoubtedly will at one point or another. Because they're just not built to last forever – batteries typically have a lifespan of about three or four years. But, with the right maintenance, you can definitely prolong its life, avoid the inevitable and get the most for your money. 

Let's take a look at a couple of things you can check, and the importance of battery maintenance.
 

Getting The Most Out Of Your Battery

Like so many other parts of your car, there are a ton of things that can go wrong. For instance, a common problem which many people experience is when the battery hasn't been properly secured in the battery tray and it moves around a lot – or falls over. This could result in the battery banging into the engine and causing a whole bunch of other expensive problems. 

Sometimes, you might find that your battery only needs a good recharge. Driving the vehicle regularly should keep it charged, if only for a couple of minutes a week. But, if that doesn't work out, there are a large number of reliable battery chargers out there which will allow you to do this from home. These days, you even get solar-powered rechargers, so it's easier on the electricity bill.

In most cases, your car will tell you when there's something wrong with the battery. One of the most obvious symptoms is the appearance of the Check Engine light on your dashboard. Another is an obvious lack of energy when starting the engine, or if it takes a little longer than usual to start. Some motorists have also reported a potent rotten-egg smell coming from their bonnet – and this is often a sign of a leaking battery. A leaking battery releases strong-smelling sulphur, and it causes a fair amount of corrosion around the cable connections. 

As mentioned above, you'll never avoid having to replace the battery completely. The best you can hope for is that by maintaining it and paying a little more attention, you could at least avoid becoming stranded.  

Service your battery as often as you would service your engine, and follow our handy tips below.
 

Here's A Couple Of Tips

  • Pay attention to your battery's health and physically inspect it at least once every two weeks. Look for leaks, cracks, terminal corrosion and swelling. 
  • A swollen or bloated battery case is never, ever a good sign. It's time to get rid of it and get a new one. 
  • Keep the battery lid and terminals clean. Dirt, grease, oxidation, corrosion and other residue makes it harder to get a good charge out of it. If you do clean it – remember to remove the clamps first. 
  • Check your battery water. After a little while, gases build up inside the battery, and you can reduce the amount of that gas by topping up that empty space with distilled water. This helps to stretch the battery life. 
  • Some have said that you could use boiled kettle water to refill your battery. We recommend only using distilled battery water from reliable auto shops. Ensure that the container is sealed when you receive it, and don't keep too much on hand at a time. Over time, it ages and will become contaminated with chlorides.
  • This may be tricky, but if you can keep your battery at a near constant temperature, that would go a long way toward good battery health. Extremely high or frozen temperatures shorten the battery life, and one of the best ways to combat this is to store your car in an insulated garage. A heated garage, on the other hand, will cause your car to rust.
  • Avoid overcharging. Too much heat will accelerate corrosion inside the battery. Overcharging is commonly caused by a faulty voltage regulator in the car's alternator. 
  • When in doubt, use a professional to service your battery. The pros will test the electrolyte levels, clean it and top it up with the right battery water.