While factors like extreme weather conditions and the way you use your car can affect the life of your car battery, it’s entirely possible to prevent your battery from failing prematurely.
On average, car batteries have a lifespan of three to five years. If you want to avoid having to replace it after just a year or two, here are five simple ways to help prolong its life.
1. Regularly check battery voltage
Proactively checking your car battery can help you avoid battery breakdown or damage while on the road. It’s perfectly possible for mechanics to do a battery test for you, but you can also complete the check between car maintenance services.
The simplest way to check the voltage of a battery is to use a voltmeter (multimeter). If you buy one, digital multimeter are the easiest to use. For the most accurate results, complete the voltage test at least twelve hours after your car is turned off.
Turn the voltmeter (V, Volt) knob on the meter, then connect the positive voltmeter lead to the positive terminal of your battery and repeat with the negative lead to the negative terminal. Then proceed to read the value. With a good, fully charged battery will typically display a reading of 12.4 to 12.8 volts. If your voltage readings are outside these numbers, your battery may need to be checked by a more professional mechanic.
2. Don’t leave your car unused for a long time
If your car is not used continuously for days (or if only used for short trips), the battery will not have enough time to recharge.
Your car will perform at its best with regular use. So if possible, take your car outside and drive it for 30 minutes at least once a week to warm up the engine and circulate the fluids in your car.
If it hasn’t been used for several weeks, it’s likely that your car battery will need care the next time you use your car. The best thing to do is to make sure it is fully charged and check if the electrolyte level is sufficient (if it has a removable cap).
3. Clean the battery regularly
Dirt or moisture on a car battery can leak through the housing, causing a short circuit, which in turn can damage your battery. Dirt at this surface level can be easily removed with a sponge and a dry cloth. Do this at least once a month to avoid buildup.
Corrosion on battery terminals and lead clamps is common. Corroded lead pins and terminals can impede the flow of electricity through the battery, so it is important to clear away dirt or build-up to ensure battery life and efficiency. Ask the mechanic to clean the battery electrodes during service, if necessary.
4. Do not use electrical appliances while the engine is not running
Turning on the headlights, interior lights, or turning on the infotainment system without starting the engine, can drain the battery. This is because the alternator doesn’t work to provide power when the engine is off, so electronic accessories will instead draw power from your car’s battery.
To avoid this, get in the habit of checking that everything (most importantly the lights) is off every time you get out of the car. Also, don’t forget to lock the car when you leave the car.
5. Perform regular car maintenance
To avoid unexpected damage, it’s best to have your car battery checked by a professional. At your next car service, have a mechanic check that your battery is in good condition and is charging correctly.