Flat batteries are the leading cause of vehicle breakdowns and are an inevitable part of motoring. However, while batteries don’t last forever, RAA’s motoring experts have put together some simple tips to prolong the life of this essential component.
Keep it clean
It’s important to make sure the battery terminals – the connections on your car that attach to your battery – remain clean and dry at all times.
A build-up of moisture and dirt can cause corrosion, which increases resistance and reduces the battery’s ability to conduct energy. Corrosion appears as a white, ashy or grimy deposit around one or both of the battery posts.
Applying petroleum jelly can help prevent any future build up; but you’ll have to make sure the area is clean.
Make sure you get expert advice on how to clean the terminals before trying it at home.
Maintain fluid levels
While most new batteries are now maintenance free, older car batteries may require some upkeep.
Most car batteries contain fluids that are rich in electrolytes, which help give them their charge. Over time, general wear and evaporation can cause these fluid levels to decrease, resulting in a less efficient battery.
It’s good to check the fluid levels regularly. Depending on your battery, there will be more than one port where the fluids are housed. Ensure the levels in each of the ports are the same, as fluctuations could indicate you have a leak or a problem with your alternator.
Markings around the ports – just above the plates – will indicate the ideal fluid levels, so if you do need a top up, use these as a reference. When filling up, only use distilled or demineralised water, as the calcium in regular tap water can cause corrosion and the build-up of calcium sulphate.
When it comes to car batteries, there’s a simple rule to remember: use it or lose it!
Your car’s battery actually recharges when it’s being used, so leaving it inactive for long periods of time could result in a flat battery. Even if you don’t need to use your car regularly, take it for a drive every now and then to make sure the battery stays in good working order.
What’s more, don’t use car accessories – like lights or the radio – when the car’s not running so as not to drain the battery unnecessarily.
Remember, personal battery chargers are available for purchase if you do have a vehicle you don’t use frequently. RAA’s Road Service team stock these simple and easy-to-use devices at a discounted price for members.
Making sure your battery is properly secured in the battery compartment is vital. If it’s loose, vibrations – as well as knocks and bumps – can damage the battery plates and could even cause damage to your car.
What’s more, an unsecured battery could short circuit, causing all sorts of problems. If you need to replace your battery, make sure the one you buy is the right fit and model for your car. If you’re buying through RAA, our patrols can let you know the best options.
The time will come when you do have to replace your battery, but if you choose to do it yourself, ensure you follow the instructions outlined in your vehicle’s owners’ manual.
Disconnecting your battery incorrectly can cause the computer and radio memories to be lost forever, and could even affect other electronics, depending on your car. Something as simple as keeping your keys in the ignition while connecting or disconnecting your battery could also be a problem, so be sure to check the manufacturer’s specifications.
When in doubt
If you think your battery is flat, or if it is time for a replacement, RAA Road Service Members can phone for roadside assistance on 13 11 11. Our patrols are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – every day of the year – for free battery delivery and installation. What’s more, if you’ve got RAA Plus or Premium Road Service cover, you’ll get a discount on the purchase price of your battery.
Alternatively, you can visit an RAA Battery Service Centre to pick one up.
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