Auto Service Tip: Buying a New Battery

Be a Battery Boffin – What's True and False When It Comes to Your Car's Power Source

If you're looking at batteries for your car or have recently replaced one, then you will likely want to know how you can extend its life in the future. There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to this trusted energy source. How much do you know about the humble car battery?

Batteries are rechargeable, but they do wear out

Unfortunately, this is not the case as batteries will wear out over time. Remember that they are filled with acid and this causes components to gradually decay. They will last longer if they're well maintained, however.

Watch out for tap water

If you remember that tap water has many different impurities, then you will always replace with either demineralised or distilled water only. The minerals in the tap water will cause imperfections to build up on the plates within the battery, inefficiencies and eventual failure. Remember to keep an eye on the water at all times, because if you let it run out the warranty will be invalid.

Batteries aren't really maintenance-free

Just because a battery is termed maintenance-free doesn't mean that you can avoid servicing the unit altogether. You need to look at the outside of the casing from time to time and remove any corrosion build up, especially in and around the terminals. You should also check the alternator discharge rate periodically.

Quick drives won't fix everything

Whenever your battery discharges completely (such as if you leave the lights on by mistake) you need to connect it to a multistage battery charger. You have to ensure that the voltage is set at an appropriate level so that the unit is charged properly and the electrolyte mixes with the battery acid. Going for a very short trip will not do the job properly. Furthermore, this type of approach will generally shorten the life of the battery anyway.

Don't disconnect the battery

Some people seem to think that disconnecting the battery from the rest of the car will somehow preserve the power and avoid coming home to a car that won't start. The modern-day car, however, relies on a steady if small trickle of power from the battery in order to maintain the on-board computer and certain other essential systems. If you do disconnect the battery, some of these systems may not reboot when you reconnect, which will likely prompt a call to your local mechanic.

The warning light should be heeded immediately

The battery is keeping things alive and the car is running just on the power provided by this unit alone. Usually it means that there is a problem with the broader charging system, such as the alternator. Remember that the battery will only provide you with a very limited amount of range once this light comes on, so get to your mechanic as soon as possible.