Car batteries generally go for a long time without ever needing any attention, sometimes several years. Sometimes they can be fickle though, and that's when knowing how to properly maintain a battery can make a big difference. A faulty battery can prevent your car from starting, so to avoid this keep an eye on your battery’s condition with regular tests and cleaning.
If your car has a hard time starting, or if it cranks very slowly, your battery might be low. In order to make sure your battery has appropriate voltage, go buy a multimeter and measure the voltage of your battery. It should be around 12 volts. If it’s low, charge it for a while and see if it’s improved. If the battery charges, but the car has a hard time starting later on, the battery might be running out in which case your problem could reside with the alternator which is supposed to charge the battery as you drive the car. If the battery doesn’t charge, you’ll need a new one.
Terminals wrap around the posts on the top of the battery, and the terminals are attached to the car’s electrical harness. Battery acid corrosion can build up on the terminals and disrupt the connection, so clean them periodically (negative terminal first) with a plastic brush if they tend to get dirty. Also make sure the terminals are tight around the posts, as a loose terminal can disrupt the connection as well. Sometimes car starting problems can come down to the terminals not being properly maintained, so that should be the first thing you check.
It’s usually best practice to run your car for at least 15 minutes any time you start it. Short trips can be detrimental because the battery doesn’t have time to charge and in the future it won’t be able to charge properly, which will affect how long the battery will last. If you need to charge your battery, use a slow charging method, as not all batteries are built for fast charging, and could cause permanent damage.
Bear in mind that weather affects the battery as well. Cold weather makes it more difficult for a battery to start, so it’s best to store your car in a warmer environment if you’re not going to be using it for a while. Under this circumstance it’s also best to disconnect the negative terminal, as leaving it hooked up for a long time without usage will drain the battery.
A car battery is generally supposed to last from four to six years, but improper operation and maintenance can shorten that lifespan. Some battery manufacturers guarantee a long life, and if there’s a problem within the first year or within a certain amount of miles they will replace it or give you your money back. As batteries can be faulty from the factory, be sure to get a battery with a decent warranty.
Cars operate properly under very specific conditions, and if you want to keep it running the best it can, keep an eye on basic things like the battery and charging system. A dead battery preventing your car from starting is such a massive inconvenience, and keeping on top of battery maintenance will help make sure that doesn’t happen.
Not your typical used car salesman. Our team is here to provide honest and transparent advice about car buying and selling.