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Car battery care and life expectancy

voltmeter battery testing 2

Discovering you have a dead battery upon turning the key in the ignition is one of the most inconvenient, yet common, occurrences for motorists.

The life expectancy for your car battery is typically between four to six years. Several factors determine how long your battery will last, for example weather conditions, vehicle type and driving habits.

There are, however, several key pointers you can utilise to help increase the life expectancy of your car battery.

Why is my battery flat?

  • Make sure to check all of the electrical connections and ensure the battery is kept clean and dry. If corrosion has built up over time, baking soda in a water solution and an old toothbrush is ideal to clean the battery terminals. Just make sure to remove the negative terminal first. When reapplying the terminals, connect the positive terminal first.
  • Frequent, short car trips contribute to an earlier lifespan for car batteries. It takes roughly eight hours of continuous driving for the alternator to fully charge the battery. If the battery infrequently receives a full charge, strong crystalline deposits can form on the negative plates and consequently prevents the battery from charging properly – this is called sulphation. If short car trips are a part of your daily routine, avoid using electric auxiliary controls unnecessarily – this will prolong the lifespan of the battery and also save on fuel.
  • Cold weather makes it more difficult for an already weakened battery to hold its charge. Storing your car in a garage during spells of cold weather should keep the battery warmer and, therefore, easier to charge.
  • If your car isn’t in use for long periods of time, removing the negative battery connection during periods of non-use assists in the longevity of your battery. Just make sure to reconnect the terminal before attempting to start the car.
  • The electrolyte (acid/water) solution levels may be low. If your battery is not maintenance-free, you may need to adjust the solution levels. If the levels are low, be sure to use the necessary safety precautions when you are handling battery acid. Only use distilled water, or you will damage the battery.

Charging your battery

  • The type of charger you own is important in the safety of charging your vehicle. Make sure you choose a charger specific to the needs of your car from an MTA member.
  • When charging your car, it is not only safer, but better for your battery to opt for the slow charging method. A fast charge increases the potential of overcharging your battery and can create permanent damage.

Replacement and recycling

  • Your local auto garage or recycling centre will take your car battery, usually for a small fee. It is illegal to dispose of your car battery along with household waste due to its toxic nature.
  • If the battery is still in reasonable condition, it may be reconditioned for use, or its components will be extracted and melted down for use in the future.

Keeping your car battery fully charged means your battery will have a longer lifespan and use energy more efficiently.

Waiting until you break down before replacing your car battery is avoidable. As batteries can pose several dangers, it is advised you seek professional help from a battery specialist before attempting any repairs yourself.