Car batteries are responsible for starting your car and powering the electrical system. Once your vehicle is running, the alternator takes over and charges the battery. This is a cycle that happens over and over again—your battery starts the car and powers equipment, and your alternator recharges it. Over time, the battery will eventually wear down—but its life can be extended with a little maintenance.
How Can a Weak Battery Lead to Car Problems?
A weak or dead battery can leave you stranded, but it can also be dangerous. Corroded terminals and leaking batteries can not only damage your car but also pose a fire risk. Your car might also stall or fail unexpectedly.
Another issue with weak batteries is that they won’t produce enough power for the electrical system to work properly. This can lead to power windows that won’t open, dim headlights, and overall difficulty in operating your car’s electrical components. A weak battery can cause the alternator to work harder in an attempt to keep the battery charged, which may put excessive wear and tear on the component and cause it to fail.
Common Battery Issues
Beyond age, there are several common issues that can affect your battery’s performance, lifespan, and charge.
- Sulfation: Sulfation is a natural process that occurs in lead-acid batteries (the most common type of car battery). When a battery’s lead plates become coated with lead sulfate crystals, it can affect its ability to accept and hold a charge and perform well; sulfation can also shorten a battery’s lifespan.
- Temperature: Extreme temperatures can affect car batteries in a few ways. Cold temperatures, for example, can cause the battery’s electrolytes to thicken, which makes it harder for the battery to hold a charge. On the other hand, hot temperatures can cause the electrolytes to evaporate and the battery to degrade faster.
- Parasitic load: When you turn off your engine, a small electrical current continues to run through your car’s electrical system. This is known as a parasitic load and can drain your battery over time or cause it to lose its charge. To prevent parasitic load, make sure to turn off and unplug any electrical devices when they’re not in use.
How to Maintain Your Car Battery
When it comes to batteries, preventive maintenance is essential. If you ignore your battery, you may not realize something’s wrong with it until you go to start your car and your engine doesn’t turn over. One of the first things you can do to prevent battery issues is to have your battery tested regularly. Visit our shop or pick up a volt tester to test your battery at home. A healthy battery should have around 12 volts.
Keeping your battery charged will also help keep your battery healthy and prolong its life. This can be done in several ways:
- Drive your car regularly; if you don’t drive a lot, try to take it on a short drive at least once a week.
- Use a battery maintainer to keep your battery charged when your car’s not in use.
- Use a solar battery charger on the dashboard when you park your car.
- Limit the number of electrical devices you use when your car isn’t running. This includes things like plug in accessories, the radio, and headlights.
- Park in a shaded area on hot days to help keep the battery cool and prevent it from overheating.
- Keep your alternator maintained.
- Avoid storing your car for long periods. If you know you won’t be using your vehicle for a while, disconnect the battery or use a maintainer to keep it charged.
Here are several other things you can do to maintain your battery:
- Keep the battery, tray, and terminals clean. Remove the clamps and wipe away dirt, grease, or corrosion.
- Make sure the battery is secured and seated correctly in the tray.
- Avoid allowing the battery to become completely drained and requiring a complete recharge.
Keep in mind that although battery maintenance is safe to perform at home, it’s always a good idea to take precautions to prevent injury. Always wear protective eyewear and gloves when cleaning the battery, tray and terminals, and keep metal tools and jewelry away from the battery. If you don’t feel comfortable performing battery maintenance on your own, we’re always happy to help!
Professional Battery Testing, Service, and Replacement
Although car batteries aren’t meant to last forever, keeping your battery well-maintained is one of the best ways to extend its life and reliability. Taking a three-pronged approach in terms of checking the charge, treating your battery with care, and regular maintenance will all help prevent breakdowns, excessive alternator wear, and other issues.
If your battery needs to be tested, serviced, or replaced, contact the experts at Accurate Automotive Attention! ASE-certified and AAA-approved, you can rely on us to keep your car starting strong. Contact us today at (928) 783-8808 for our Central Yuma location or (928) 342-1912 for The Foothills location.