Taking Care of Your Car's Battery
By Matthew Keegan
Every car comes with one, but some motorists act as if this particular component is completely maintenance free. What am I talking about? Your car’s battery. Technological advances have made “maintenance free” batteries standard equipment on virtually every vehicle produced today. However, the term “maintenance free” is a misnomer, one that can leave you stranded if you do not perform proper and regular maintenance. Battery maintenance isn’t difficult to do, so let’s take a look at what you can do to keep your car running.
Before discussing battery maintenance, please make sure that your battery is, in fact, the sealed type. If it isn’t, then the “maintenance free” label certainly does not apply and you will need to add water on a regular basis. Unsealed batteries are easy to spot as they have small vent caps on top of the battery which can be twisted open. You will need to periodically add distilled water to maintain water levels; more so in the summer months as water tends to evaporate quicker. Do not let your battery run low or run out of water as the battery’s cells can be ruined.
If your battery is of the sealed variety, then the “maintenance free” label is still only partially true since the term only extends to you not needing to add water to the cells as you would with an unsealed battery.
With any type of car battery - sealed or unsealed - you must do the following to help keep it working properly:
1. Clean the cables. Disconnect the cables from the battery and clean them with a wire brush that has been doused in a home made mixture [the mixture combines one tablespoon of baking soda with one cup of water]. Use this same mixture to clean off the top of the battery; use a small and clean paint brush to apply the solution where needed.
2. Lubricate the posts. A small dab of petroleum jelly on each post will help keep your cables clean and free of corrosion longer. In addition, the jelly will make it easier for you to slip the cables back onto the battery.
3. Check connections. Besides the connection between the cable and the posts, make sure that the battery hold down bar is securely in place. Not all cars have or need a battery hold down bar, but if yours has come so equipped, you will need to put it back in its proper place.
That’s it! Car battery maintenance is an easy task and one that should be performed on an annual basis. If you keep your battery properly maintained, you will extend its life and greatly reduce the chance that your battery will fail you at an inopportune time. Yes, the “maintenance free” label is incorrect, so please don’t be lulled into forgetting to do something that should never be overlooked.
Copyright 2005 -- Matt Keegan is a contributing writer for the
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