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How to Care For Your Car Battery

Car battery being testedThe battery in your car is essential to starting up your car, acting as a surge protector, and keeping accessories such as your radio, powered while in use during the ride. That’s why it’s important to make sure your battery stays in top shape. Keeping your battery powered and preventing a dead battery begins with maintenance and simple battery care and maintenance begin with you! Follow our expert tips on how to extend the life of your battery.

The average lifespan of a car battery in the Southwest is about two to three years. While winter temperatures affect the battery, high temperatures in the summer can really drain the life out of your battery. However, there are things you can do throughout the year to keep your battery powered up and ready to go. Here’s how to avoid an unexpected dead battery:


  • Avoid frequent short trips – Your battery continues to recharge as the vehicle moves down the road and short trips impede the battery’s ability to recharge. By continuing to drive only short distances, over time, the voltage of the battery is depleted to the point that it is no longer able to help start the car. You can maintain your vehicle’s battery charge by driving it often and for longer durations. If this is unavoidable, consider purchasing a battery charger/tender to help conserve voltage.


  • Minimize Power Usage When Engine is Off – Turn off headlights, interior lights, and avoid using other accessories when the engine is not running. Before you walk away from your car, ensure all lights are turned off. Most modern vehicles have lights that turn off automatically but be sure yours does before you assume so, or you might come back to a car that won’t start!


  • Drive Your Car – Lead-acid batteries naturally lose charge over time. This is normal and is referred to as self-discharge. The charge reduces at the rate of about one percent per day, at room temperature, and one and a half percent for temperatures over eighty-five degrees Fahrenheit. A drain in your electrical system, a short or Parasitic draw, often caused by a short circuit or electrical dependent device left on such as the trunk, glove compartment light, switch, or other such as defective computer modules, increase the rate of discharge. If you plan to let your vehicle sit for more than a week, connect it to a tender charger to keep the battery charged.


  • Minimize Exposure to Heat – Extreme heat is especially hard on batteries because it increases the evaporation of water from the cells including sealed top batteries. Many vehicles use lead-acid batteries and some evaporation is normal, however, too much heat increases the rate of evaporation. Reduce exposure to heat by parking in the shade or a garage whenever possible. The engine also produces an incredible amount of heat, insulate the battery to help keep it from absorbing heat from the engine.


  • Keep Battery Tightened – Too much movement and vibrations can damage internal components leading to short circuits and killing the battery. Make sure your battery is held down with the proper clamps. If the battery isn’t clamped down and you hit a big bump, had to slam on the brakes, or in the event of an accident, you risk the battery shorting out on the surrounding metal and starting a fire. Avoid overtightening the clamps as well, as you risk damaging the battery itself.


  • Keep Your Battery Clean – Ensure the top of the battery is clean, dry, and free of debris or grime. A dirty battery can discharge across the filth on the casing, causing a short circuit leading to a loss of charge. Battery terminals also corrode over time. Clean them by first disconnecting cables and clean the inside of the connectors and the outside of the terminals with a steel brush.


  • Have Your Battery Tested Frequently – When a lead-acid battery is left partially or fully discharged, the lifespan is significantly shortened. A fully charged battery should register around 12.7 volts or more on a multimeter. If the voltage is below 12.5, it should be recharged as soon as possible. Your battery is only half charged at 12.4 and at 12 volts, one quarter charged. At 11.9 volts, the battery is completely dead. Vehicles today require a higher voltage to operate all electronics and the starter will struggle to start when the battery gets low on a charge.


Did you know Sun Auto Service includes a battery test and visual inspection of your battery with every oil change?  We also offer no-charge testing at your request between oil changes! Our friendly technicians test the amps and voltage readings of your battery and will clean the cables and terminals. While there’s no clear-cut time on how often to replace a car battery, if a battery replacement is needed for your car, we can help with that, too! We provide top-quality batteries that are built to stand up to the demands of the severe climate here in the Southwest. You’ll love that our batteries come with an incredible 5-year replacement warranty. For details or to schedule your next battery maintenance service, click here.