Car Battery Maintenance: 7 Tips to Keep it Running Longer

Mechanic engineer fixing car battery in garage (selective focus)

A car battery, if taken care of properly, can last for years. However, it’s also fragile to the point that leaving the lights on in your car can drain it overnight.

If you don’t take good care of your car battery, you might find yourself stuck at the most inconvenient time and place possible. If you’re in the middle of nowhere, you’re lucky if you find someone to jump-start your battery.

Make sure this doesn’t happen to you by doing some basic and preventive car battery maintenance.

Read on for seven ways to keep your car battery in tip-top shape!

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1. Check the Battery’s Water Level

First, check if you have an AGM battery or a non-maintenance-free wet-cell battery. If you have the latter, you must perform this check every two to three months.

If it requires water, it should have fill caps. If yours doesn’t have any, then it means it doesn’t need refilling.

If it does have fill caps, unscrew them and inspect the fluid level. It should barely touch the bottom of the refill hole.

When low on water, refill it with distilled water only. Use a funnel to make it easier to control the intake of water. Be careful not to overfill; fill only until the water level reaches the bottom of the battery’s refill hole.

If you have an AGM (Absorbed Glass Matt) battery, you don’t have to do this step!

2. Inspect Your Battery Now and Then

Perform a general inspection of your battery at regular intervals. Check the terminal connections; are they clean and well protected? Are they snug and secure?

If the terminals aren’t clean, get a wire brush and dip it into a paste mixture of baking soda and distilled water. Remove the connectors and then scrub the terminal with the paste mixture. Do this every six to eight months to ensure there’s no build-up of corrosion.

If you notice any rust or leakage during inspections, it’s a sign that your battery’s not working as well as it should. Have it checked by a mechanic to confirm your suspicions and diagnose the issue.

In some cases, you’ll have to start shopping for a new car battery soon. 

3. Avoid Heat When Parking

As much as possible, park your car in a cool place, especially if you’re planning to not use it for an extended period. Heat causes battery fluid to evaporate and it accelerates the battery failure.

This explains why the average battery life may be shorter in the warmer regions. This also explains the 1.8 million service calls related to the car battery in the summer of 2018.

Yes, that means heated garages can also take a toll on your battery.

If you live somewhere warm, make sure to have your car battery load checked by a professional every two years. Car owners in colder climates only need to have this done every four years.

4. Check Your Cell Voltage

Bring your car to a mechanic or an auto parts store for regular battery testing. They’ll check the voltage and the charge. Most will offer this service for free and you can even do this yourself provided you have a car battery tester.

Your battery should have a full charge, though. The tester might show “bad battery” even if it’s fine because it’s undercharged. A battery with a full charge will have 12.5 to 12.6 volts.

A good time to do this is every time you take your car for maintenance or when it’s time for an oil change. 

5. Use a Car Battery Maintainer

Speaking of charges, you should also consider this when you’re storing your car for the season. Aside from the usual routine, such as emptying the gas and sealing the exhaust, you should also create a plan to keep your car battery charged throughout the season.

At the least, charge it every six weeks to keep it healthy and ready for when you have to use it. Don’t overcharge it; it will shorten the lifespan of a car battery.

If you don’t want to bother with that, use an automatic car battery maintenance device.

You can leave your car battery with the maintainer the whole season. It monitors the voltage of the battery and adjusts its charge on automatic to make sure it’s not undercharged or overcharged.

6. Don’t Leave the Lights On

Leaving the lights on is one of the most common causes of a dead battery. Whether it’s headlamps, interior lights, or the trunk lights, leaving something on can leave you with a drained battery in the morning.

Make a habit of checking the doors of your car and trunk to see if they’ve closed all the way. A door that’s ajar can keep the lights on as long as it remains open. Always look back at your car before you head indoors. 

Make sure to unplug any accessories as well, which may contribute to the shortening of your car battery life. Electronic devices, like phones, draw power from the battery even if the engine is off.

7. Check Your Battery’s Insulation

If you experience high and low temperatures that are extreme yearly, you likely need an insulator for your battery. It protects the car batteries from hot and cold temperatures, preserving its lifespan.

If your car battery has insulation, check it often to see if it’s still in place and without damage. Damaged insulation won’t be able to protect your car battery in an effective manner.

If your car battery doesn’t have one, ask your local mechanic to install it for you!

Perform Car Battery Maintenance Often

The key to having a car battery that lasts is to check it often and perform immediate fixes as needed.

Don’t limit your focus on the battery! Take good care of the whole car as well.

A combination of total car care and car battery maintenance will lead to longer battery life overall. If you need more tips, check out our article on how to care for deep cycle batteries.

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