There is never a good time for the battery in your car to die.
Car batteries are designed to last up to 5 years, but extreme heat or cold can shorten the life of a battery. High temperatures can cause battery fluid to evaporate.
And that can cause the internal battery grids to corrode. Heat also speeds up the formation of corrosion on the battery terminals and cables.
Very cold temperatures are also bad for your battery. As temperatures dip below freezing, your car’s battery loses between 1/3 to 1/2 of its strength. A fully charged battery will freeze at minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit. A fully discharged battery can freeze at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. A frozen battery will probably need to be replaced.
By taking a few easy preventative actions, you can keep your battery strong and extend its life, which will save you money and maybe keep you from being stranded.
Warning: Always wear eye protection, long sleeves and gloves when you are working on your car’s battery. Battery acid can cause injury.
Clean the Cables
Corrosion is that chunky white, green or blue stuff all over the battery posts and cables. Corrosion is a bad thing and should be removed.
Corrosion can be caused by the sulfuric compound inside your car’s battery emitting hydrogen gas. That hydrogen gas can be trapped in your car’s engine compartment and corrode the terminals. As corrosion builds up, it will block the flow of electricity until your car won’t start.
- Remove both cables, negative first by loosening the cable clamp nuts. Wiggle the cable until it slides off of the post.
- If you own a battery terminal brush, or have a neighbor who does, place it over the terminal and make several turns to clean off any corrosion. If you don’t have a battery terminal brush, you can use a wire brush.
- Clean the battery cable end and clamp bolts
- Reinstall the battery cables onto the battery posts and tighten the cable clamp nuts.
If corrosion builds up again quickly, you might have a crack in the battery’s casing. You should have that checked out by a mechanic.
Symptoms of a Failing Battery
- Check engine light might appear when your car’s battery is running low.
- Headlights are dim. That could be because they are not getting enough power to be fully bright.
- Clicking sound when you turn the key.
- Slow cranking sound when starting the car. Sometimes it starts. Eventually it won’t.
- Low Battery Fluid Level. The fluid in your battery is electrolyte. You should regularly check the electrolyte fluid level of your car’s battery. Some batteries have caps over the vent wells. Carefully remove the caps. Looking down into the vent well, you may see a split ring. The battery fluid should be up to that ring. If the battery in your car does not have split rings, then add distilled water to about 1/2 inch from the top of the vent well tube. Fill enough to cover the battery grids.
Do not overfill. Battery fluid can expand in the heat and push battery acid out of the top of the battery.
Use distilled water only. Never add Gatorade, salt, salt water, baking soda or sea water to your battery fluid. Any of these will damage your battery.
No matter how well you take care of your car’s battery, eventually it will need to be replaced. Before you buy a new one, you might save a lot of money and future disappointment by doing a little research. But, don’t wait until your battery needs replacing, or you may end up paying too much or buying a battery that is not as good because, without any battery, you’re stuck.