Auto Batteries – Battery Care

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 18,347
    John Nielsen with AAA’s Approved Auto Repair explains how to maintain your car’s battery.

    John Nielsen: Hi! I'm John Nielsen with AAA's Approved Auto Repair. We don't often think about our battery until it leaves us stranded somewhere, but with a little bit of forethought, a little bit of maintenance we might be able to prevent some of those unpleasant surprises.

    The first thing we should consider is how to maintain our battery, and let's just start with a beginning. We're going to want to make sure that our battery terminals are clean. Now the right way to do this is to actually remove the battery terminal from the battery and use a Battery Post Cleaner to cleanup any of the lead surfaces and make sure that they are bright and shiny, and there is no corrosion and they don't look dull. Because it's those dull surfaces they buildup resistance to keep our battery from working in peak efficiency. When you clean them, you want to make sure you clean both the battery and the battery cable.

    Now once those are clean, we want to look at the battery and clean up any corrosion that maybe on there, and to do that we can use a battery cleaner, and really what we're doing is, is neutralizing the acid buildup on the battery. So a cleaner will work, but even a can of cola can actually remove some of the corrosive deposits on the battery.

    Now we want to make sure that the battery cables are tight, and to do that, grab down, give them a wiggle. If the cable is moving it's a sign that things aren't tight and your liable to end up where the car that won't start. So this really isn't too complicated, most of us can do this ourselves, simply tighten-up the cable where it joins the battery. If you're uncomfortable with this take, it to a repair shop, they can quickly do the service for you.

    But once the battery terminals are clean and tight we want to make sure that they're protective and to do that we'll use an actual protectant that's made for the battery, and what this does is prevents the oxygen from getting around the battery terminals and starting to corrode or age the battery terminals and keeps things lasting longer. So we've got a clean battery, we've got clean terminals and good connections.

    The next thing is to make sure that our battery is properly installed and just reach down and grab the battery itself and give it a quick shake. If the battery moves around when you grab a hold of it, that's a sign that something is wrong that the hold down itself is not in good shape. And this is important because you can just imagine accelerating or breaking and having that battery move around you wouldn't take a whole lot to actually start to short something out and cause a problem for you. If you take a look at it you should be able to see where the hold down is, and be able to tighten it up. Again, if there is any doubt, a professional repair shop can do this quickly for you.

    So with a clean battery, a tight battery, the next thing is to make sure that we maintain it, and to do that many batteries actually require you to add water, so take a look at your battery. If it says maintenance-free, there really is no place to add water and you don't need to worry about this part. But a number of batteries actually require the addition of water to keep them in peak operating condition.

    So on batteries that you can maintain you want to remove the caps with a flat-blade screwdriver and top off the battery with water. Now when you top it off it's important to use distilled water as opposed to tap water because adding some of the minerals that we find in tap water can reduce the life of the battery just by itself. So if you have a battery that you can maintain and top-off the water it's important to check it at least once a month, and it's doubly important to do that in the hot months, which is typically when we'll see the greatest evaporation in the battery.

    So by paying attention to your battery on occasion and actually spending a couple of minutes to make sure everything is in good shape we can a long way towards preventing some of those unpleasant surprises.