One of the worst sounds you hear when you turn on your vehicle's ignition is nothing. A dead battery means no jolt of electricity to perform a startup, which can leave you stranded in your garage, the mall parking lot or the middle of nowhere.
Because of their 3- to 5-year life span, dead batteries occur most frequently in vehicles that are 6 to 10 years old. All batteries will eventually fail, but they sometimes fail before they should. To keep your car's battery in peak performance, take a look at a few common myths and how you can avoid a situation that leaves you stranded.
1. Maintenance-Free Batteries Never Need to Be Maintained
A battery that claims to be maintenance-free means that it is sealed and there is no way you can access the water/acid level in the battery. It has nothing to do with the charging rate or frequency, and it doesn't mean you can just leave it alone and drive. If the water in the battery boils dry, you must replace the entire thing instead of adding more water yourself.
Maintaining a Maintenance-Free Battery
To prevent a maintenance-free battery from self-discharging, regularly check the terminals and the alternator charge rate. Clean any corrosion on the terminals and battery exterior. Once a maintenance-free battery has completely discharged, recharge it with a multistage battery charger.
Maintaining a Non-Sealed Battery
Once a month check your battery and tighten loose clamps and terminals. Clean off visible corrosion from terminals and posts with a soft cloth or brush dipped in vinegar, followed by a wipe down of water and baking soda. You can install felt battery terminal washers to prevent future corrosion.
In hot climates or hot temperatures, water in the electrolyte evaporates and is lost. If this happens, you can refill a battery after it has cooled down with distilled water up to the level indicated by the manufacturer. Avoid tap water or reverse osmosis water because it contains calcium and magnesium.
2. My Car Battery Is Fine Parked for Two Weeks or Longer
A battery that is idle for two weeks may or may not be dead and depends on factors such as weather and the original battery condition. Hot weather and battery usage while parked can discharge a battery quickly.
If you are parking your car for two weeks or longer, here are a few things you can do to avoid returning to a dead battery:
- Have a friend drive your car for 10 to 15 minutes every two weeks to recharge the battery
- Invest in a battery with a larger reserve capacity
- Connect a maintenance charger to your car battery while it sits
- Replace an older battery first if you live in a hot climate
By taking action before leaving your car, you can help ensure that the battery will not discharge in your absence.
3. If the Battery Light Comes On, You Must Buy a New Battery
If your battery indicator light illuminates on your dashboard, it does not mean your battery is faulty and should be replaced. Instead, it means your car is running entirely on battery power and there is a problem with your car's charging system. Continuing to drive will eventually result in a breakdown.
To make sure the charging system is to blame, observe the alternator light as you increase the engine speed. A dimming light indicates that the problem exists in the charging system, while a brighter light means the battery is the problem. The most common cause of charging system failures is the alternator belt, so check to make sure the alternator belt is not loose, broken or worn.
At EDGE Motorworks, we can perform a diagnostic on your vehicle to reveal any issues related to a failing battery.