Are You Taking Care of Your Car’s Battery?

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By Dennis Whitestone

Lets Talk Cars--PhotoOf all the components under the hood of any vehicle one of the most important is the battery. Without it being in good working order all else is for naught. And, more and more battery power is becoming the life blood of nearly everything these days.

There are four important things to know for an automotive battery to function properly:

  1. The battery itself has to be of good quality, the proper size, and have no defects.
  2. The charging system needs to be operating properly and be in good working order.
  3. There should be no parasitic draw on the power that would drain energy while the vehicle is not operating.
  4. Battery terminal connections need to be secure and void of corrosion or any other foreign matter. 

If these four elements exist there should be no issues with the battery in any vehicle.

A good battery is built to last approximately five to six years. If it is the proper size for the vehicle in which it is installed and has the proper amperage capability for that vehicle it should have no trouble meeting that life span.

However, due to other factors it can go bad sooner. And, it can die without warning. If it does not have the proper amperage for the vehicle it is serving it can not only shorten the life of the battery but also cause other electrical issues throughout the vehicle’s entire system.

There are times when a vehicle, parked for several days experiences a dead battery when the driver attempts to start it. This usually results from one of two factors: The battery is defective; or there is a parasitic draw somewhere in the electrical system that is robbing power from the battery while the vehicle is turned off.

In either event such an occurrence mandates the need for an electrical system diagnosis. This includes testing the battery itself, checking the overall charging system, and checking for any parasitic drawdown of power. Included in this process is a thorough check of the battery’s terminal connections and cables.

With the growing number of electric-powered or hybrid vehicles on the roads these simple rules about batteries are essentially the same. The only difference is that their batteries are larger and many times more powerful. Batteries in hybrid vehicles are typically designed to last an estimate 10 years or 100,000 miles.

The other factor that impacts the functioning of automotive batteries is weather. In mild weather even a marginal battery can hold up and continue to function.

However, in extreme heat or cold, especially under the latter conditions, automotive batteries need to be in excellent condition and not subjected to any of the aforementioned stresses. If that is not the case, the vehicle can lose power even when it is being driven.

If such an occurrence takes place try to get out of the driving lanes as soon as safety permits. This is particularly true if driving at night. Without the power system it is doubtful the vehicle has any lighting to warn other drivers of its presence.

Once in a relatively safe area, the first things to check are the battery cable connections and charging system to make sure the latter is functioning properly.

Usually, the first reaction of most drivers when faced with a dead battery is to seek a jump start from another vehicle. However, it is extremely important that this be done properly to avoid a potential catastrophe.

How you should jump your car if you must

Always connect the jumper cables to the dead battery first, then to the power donor vehicle. Also, connect the negative cable, usually black in color, to the donor vehicle’s battery last. And, double check that the positive cable, usually red, is attached to the positive terminals and the negative cable to the negative terminals before attempting to start the disabled vehicle. Incorrect attachment can lead to an explosion.

With the spring and summer driving seasons now upon us it is imperative that all precautions be taken to ensure a safe and, hopefully, uneventful road trip. The time to make sure that everything about your vehicle is working properly is before rather than during the excursion.

If you have questions about your vehicle or vehicles in general please send that request to Zebra with your name and phone number and it will be forwarded to Dennis Whitestone at Automotive Service Garage & Olde Towne Auto Body & Paint in Alexandria.