Too often, we underestimate the importance of our car or truck batteries. We hop into our vehicles, turn the key, and off we go. But all it takes is one unexpected incident of a flat battery to make us reconsider our approach to battery maintenance.
We tend to be more diligent in caring for our mobile phones and laptops than our auto batteries. Yet, just like other batteries, they have a finite lifespan. Eventually, they won’t be able to hold a charge. The average lifespan of a lead-acid battery is approximately 42 months, but it depends on various factors, including climate, trip lengths, and the efficiency of your vehicle’s charging system.
So, what can you do to extend your battery’s life? Here are some intelligent tips to help you maximize the longevity of your car or truck battery.
Short Trips Decrease Battery Voltage
Each time you start your vehicle, your battery gets a workout. During your trip, the engine replenishes it. However, if your drives are short, your battery won’t have sufficient time to recover the power lost. With daily short trips, the battery voltage will gradually decline until it can’t start your car anymore.
Frequent and longer drives will help maintain your battery. If you don’t use your vehicle often, consider investing in a battery charger to maintain the proper voltage.
Secure Your Battery Properly
Vibrations can diminish your car battery’s life. It’s crucial to always use an approved battery clamp to secure it properly. Inadequate fastening could lead to excessive vibration, potentially damaging the battery’s internal components, causing short circuits, and reducing the battery’s lifespan.
Avoid overtightening the battery clamp nuts; tighten them until you feel resistance and then turn them an additional half turn.
A Clean Battery Is a Healthy Battery
Maintain the top of your battery in a clean, dry, and dirt-free condition. A dirty battery can discharge electricity through the grime on its surface, creating a mild short circuit that can eventually ruin the battery.
Battery terminals tend to corrode over time, so keeping them free of buildup is a smart way to extend your battery’s life. Use an old toothbrush dipped in a baking soda and water solution to scrub the terminals. Rinse the mixture off with cold water from a spray bottle and dry thoroughly.
Minimize Heat Exposure
Extreme heat can be detrimental to batteries as it accelerates water evaporation from the cells, even in sealed-top batteries. When colder weather arrives, a battery weakened by heat struggles to start a cold engine with thick oil.
To shield your battery from heat, try parking in the shade when feasible and garage your vehicle when not in use. Alternatively, you can insulate your battery from engine bay heat with a battery sleeve, available from various manufacturers or auto parts retailers. These sleeves are typically made of hard plastic or acid-resistant cloth and conform to your battery’s size and shape.
Monthly Voltage Checks
Partially or fully discharging a lead-acid battery will drastically reduce its lifespan. Maintain a healthier battery by checking its voltage with a voltmeter each month. A fully charged lead-acid battery should register around 12.7 volts or more.
If the voltage drops below 12.5 volts, recharge the battery promptly. Keep in mind that a lead-acid car battery is considered half-charged at 12.4 volts and completely flat or dead at 12.0 volts.