You’re in luck — car battery maintenance is one of the easier types of DIY work you’ll encounter with an automobile. While some modern battery designs are called maintenance-free, this really only means they don’t have to be filled with water like the maintenance accessible designs used in the past. You still have to keep up with the proper storage, cleanliness and inspection cycle on a maintenance-free design as you would with any other battery, so it helps to know what to watch out for.
Check out these four quick and easy car battery maintenance tips:
1. Keep Terminals Clean
Corrosion on battery terminals can be caused by many things, for example, exposure to salt in the air from the ocean or spray from winter roads, gases that are naturally vented by certain types of batteries and hard use or repeated jump-starting. If you see corrosion on your battery terminals, use a wire brush to clean it off completely, thus preserving a strong connection between your cables and the battery.
2. Keep an Eye on Voltage
A battery that’s having trouble keeping a charge, or isn’t charging as strong as it used to, is a sign that it could be on its way out. It could also be an indication that there’s a problem with your alternator that you need to deal with before it damages your battery. Keep an eye on your car’s voltage needle and note any unusual behavior. If your vehicle doesn’t come with this gauge, use a multi-meter every month or two to check the charging voltage right at the terminals.
3. Watch for Warning Signs
Batteries can become damaged in any number of ways. If you see any leaks, cracks or deformation of the battery case, it’s time to replace it. Give the terminals a good cleaning. Look for damaged, loose or corroded terminals. A damaged battery, in a worst case scenario, can build up or leak hydrogen gas (a by-product of the chemical reaction inside) that if exposed to a spark when charging, jump-starting or even turning the key in your ignition, can explode and cause injury.
4. Store Batteries Properly
Proper car battery maintenance also means storing a battery properly if it’s outside of the vehicle. The best environment is room temperature in a well-ventilated room. You want to make sure that there’s no chance any gases expelled by the battery can build up in an enclosed space. You may also want to leave the battery on a trickle charge — using a “smart” charger. If it’s going to be stored for a long period in colder temperatures, its best to keep it fully charged
Follow these battery maintenance tips and you may be able to avoid seeing those jumper cables.