It makes financial sense to look after your car battery throughout the year. However, if it is going to let you down, chances are it’ll do this in the deepest and darkest days in winter. But if you help your battery make it through each winter, it may well last you for at least another year.
This isn’t rocket science but here are some foxy tips to help you nurse your battery through another winter season, to save unnecessary money and so it doesn’t let you down when you need it most.
1. Start the car engine without electrical systems that drain it
Always start the engine before switching on heated rear screen, de-mister, lights or anything else. That way, the alternator gets to share the work of running these circuits. Once the screens are clear, remember to switch everything off so the alternator can get on with replacing the energy lost whilst starting the engine.
2. Make fewer short runs in cold weather
In really cold weather limit the number of short trips you make to preserve battery charge. Do two or more in one run making it longer and more likely to charge the battery en route. Try and do at least one twenty minute trip each day to top up the charge you’ll need for the next day.
3. Modern versus traditional batteries
Some modern batteries are sold as ‘maintenance free’ but, if yours is a ‘traditional’ battery, look in each cell to check the water level. Check in the handbook – this may involve removing six plugs, maybe a rectangular clip-on cover and some batteries even have a see-through case with the water level marked on it. Use only distilled water (from your local garage or save some when defrosting the fridge). The water level should just cover the lead plates that you can see in each cell. After topping up, go for a drive to boost the charge.
4. Use a battery charger
If you have a battery charger or conditioner, use it if the weather turns particularly cold.
5. Recognise the ‘go slow’ battery signs
If one morning the starter motor sounds a bit sluggish, get your battery checked. Don’t wait for it to fail completely tomorrow.
6. Keep your battery clean
Wipe down the top of the battery if it looks damp or dirty. Clean around the terminals. Use an old floorcloth or similar and discard when done. Once clean, smear something like Vaseline on the terminals to prevent them from corrosion.
7. Take care when topping up a battery
When cleaning or topping up a ‘traditional’ car battery be careful. The water is there to dilute sulphuric acid. A splash will eat a hole in your clothes or burn your skin if not thoroughly rinsed off immediately.
8. Don’t drain your battery – it doesn’t like this
Never leave your battery in a discharged condition – the longer you leave it, the more difficult it will be to bring it back to life. If you have to leave your car with sidelights on, don’t forget that you have and switch them off as soon as you can. Always be sure the interior light and radio are switched off before leaving the car for the night.
9. If it’s flat, you mightn’t need a new one
If you have a flat battery, check if it’ll take a charge first before spending money on a replacement. We hear sad stories about motorists (male and female) either buying or being sold expensive new batteries every winter; you don’t need to if you know to look after the one you have.
10. NB: Make a note of any radio code
Inevitably no battery will last forever but if you ever have to disconnect your car battery for whatever reason, REMEMBER to make a note of your radio code first!