Get to Know Your Car Battery
Keeping your Battery in Good Condition
A car battery powers all the electrical equipment in your vehicle, from the radio and phone charging facilities to more important elements such as the lights and screen wipers. Therefore it goes without saying that your car battery is every bit as important for your vehicle as the engine and fuel supply. Car batteries have come along way over time, and are designed to be hard wearing and typically last between 4 to 5 years. Once up and running, batteries are then powered by alternators until the engine is switched off again - making them different to household batteries such as those in your TV remote.
Where to find your car battery
Depending on the type of car you own, the battery’s exact location will be different, however it is almost always found within the vehicle’s engine. Don't worry if you can't find it, you're not alone as 30% of all UK drivers wouldn't be able to do the "show me, tell me" section of a driving test once they pass! By looking after your battery and ensuring that you are charging it correctly over time will increase it's life and reduce needing it changed sooner than you once thought.
There are various things you can do to prolong your car battery’s lifespan and be sure it is working efficiently.
Keep it clean
Keeping it clean should prevent corrosion and maintaining clean terminals will ensure your car battery holds its charge. Check for signs of dirt and debris, especially around the connector terminals, as corrosion will stop the battery from working properly.
Turn off the electrics
Avoid overusing electronic equipment in your car when it’s not running as this will drain the battery a lot quicker.
As discussed in our winter driving blog, making shorter journeys means the car battery doesn't fully charge, as there isn't much time for the car battery to switch from using its own battery power, to being alternator powered.
Replacing & Refilling
No matter how much care you put into the maintenance of your car battery it will need to be replaced eventually. If you’re feeling adventurous you can look at replacing your car battery yourself. It's often a case of turning everything off, unplugging the cables and any screws holding it in place before installing the new battery; however if you’re unsure it may be best to head straight to a garage to ensure it's done safely and properly.
It's also important to note that if your car struggles to start, don’t jump straight into changing the battery. Sometimes a new battery isn't the answer, and a jump start from another vehicle or refilling the electrolyte fluid will get the car running again. Be careful refilling the electrolyte fluid - it can be trickier than replacing the battery itself, so again, a trip to the garage may be a little more straightforward and reliable if this is the case.
Dealing with battery issues
Battery faults are the most common cause of breakdowns, and although in theory they can die at any time during the year, winter is especially bad as the cold weather affects its performance. Extreme cold and wet weather can make it difficult for it to provide the all important 'spark', but the alternator can also be at fault often when the battery is fine. When the alternator is failing it can seem like you need to replace the battery, however the problem may not always lie with the battery but actually how it is not being charged by the alternator. However, the majority of circumstances which result in car battery problems are down to bad driving habits or vehicles that aren’t being driven regularly enough.
If you do experience trouble, there are a couple of preventative measures:
- Only buying your new car battery from a reputable seller
- Driving your car at least once a week to keep the battery active – this is especially important during winter months
If you think your battery has died but not broken then jump starting it is a handy solution. Do so by connecting jump leads between two cars’ batteries, positive to positive and negative to negative, and start the working cars engine. This should give the low battery the boost it needs to reignite and begin charging – remember to wait a few moments after the jump start, leaving the car running in a stationary position before driving off.
Hopefully these tips will help ensure your car’s battery runs smoothly and you can deal with any problems that may crop up and how best to handle them.
Images courtesy of iStock