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ROAD & TRAVEL Car Care: Car Battery Maintenance

Car Battery Maintenance - Essential Upkeep

Replacing a car battery can be a hassle — especially when a current battery dies, leaving you stranded and in dire need of a jump-start. It's for this reason, that we want you to know how to keep your car battery in top-notch condition.

"Unfortunately, the automotive battery is one of many highly abused, seldom maintained, but very important parts on the modern automobile,” said Juan Crespo, ASE Master Technician for CarMax, one of the largest retailers of used cars. "Usually no attention is paid to the battery unless it is suspected of causing a problem. The most common problem encountered with batteries is low voltage or low charge.”

Take note of these Do's and Don'ts to help your auto battery maintain its peak performance and avoid a low charged battery:

Do's

  • Whenever working around batteries, make sure to wear proper eye, hand and clothing protection.

  • Check the terminals where the battery cables connect to be sure they are tight and free of corrosion. If corrosion is present, get a qualified technician to clean the terminals.

  • Make sure the battery is firmly secured to its mounting bracket. An unsecured battery that shifts around can become damaged, and possibly cause short circuits.

  • In batteries other than those that are "maintenance free,” periodically check the fluid level. If the fluid is low, add only distilled water to top it off. If no fluid is detectable, you may want to replace the battery rather than fill it, as batteries in this condition will usually fail very soon.

  • Always remember to keep your battery case clean. Dirt conducts electricity, which can discharge the battery. Battery cases can be cleaned with a solution of baking soda dissolved in warm water. Wet the case and agitate with a nylon bristle brush. Rinse well with plain water.

  • Batteries come in many different sizes. When replacing a car battery, make sure you choose the right size for your car. When it comes to car batteries, bigger is not always better.

Don'ts

  • If you suspect that a battery is frozen, do not charge it, as it may explode! One visual sign that a battery has frozen is that the sides are bowed out. This condition is not repairable, and ithe battery will need to be replaced by a professional as soon as possible.

  • If you need to charge your battery yourself, switch the charger to a low-charge setting. Most chargers have this feature but if not, have a professional charge the battery.

  • Don't charge a dead battery with a car's alternator. An alternator is not designed to function as a charger, and it may be damaged or have a shortened life as a result.

(Source: CarMax)

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