Car Battery Care Frequently Overlooked

Two-thirds of U.S. drivers say they’ve never proactively had their car battery inspected

BOISE – (November 7, 2017) – On a cold winter’s day, the last thing drivers want to deal with is a dead battery. Yet two-thirds of U.S. drivers – 65 percent – report that they don’t take steps to prevent it from happening.

“There are early warning signs of a weak battery,” says AAA Idaho spokesman Matthew Conde. “If the starter motor cranks the engine very slowly, the headlamps are dim, or the battery/charging warning light is illuminated, it’s important to immediately address a potential battery issue.”

From July 2016 to July 2017, AAA Oregon/Idaho provided jump start or battery replacement services to 150,941 members. More than 10.3 million battery service calls were completed nationwide, further highlighting the importance of preventative maintenance.

If a car battery is more than three years old, AAA advises motorists to complete an annual inspection to make sure everything is in good working condition. A trained technician can help if drivers aren’t comfortable doing the work themselves.

Here are some recommendations to keep your car battery in tip-top shape:

  • Take precautions before you get started. To avoid injury, consult and follow any warnings listed on the battery and in the owner’s manual. Batteries contain highly corrosive sulfuric acid. Wear eye protection, gloves and protective clothing when servicing a battery. If exposed to sulfuric acid, seek immediate medical care.

Never smoke near a battery – charging batteries produce combustible hydrogen gas. Also, never leave a metal tool on or near the battery that could accidentally complete a circuit from the positive terminal to ground, resulting in sparks, burns or vehicle electrical system damage.

  • Clean/inspect the case. Keep the outer battery case clean. Dirt and oil buildup can drain the battery. Wipe clean with a paper towel soaked in a mild detergent solution, and properly dispose of used water.
  • Inspect/clean the terminals. Corroded battery terminals reduce the battery’s effectiveness. Clean them thoroughly with a wire brush, along with any corrosion on the hold-down hardware. If necessary, gently disconnect the cables to fully access the terminal posts. Never pry the cables free.
  • Replace as needed. Every battery’s useful life varies by vehicle, use, weather conditions, and other factors. When you need to replace it, consult the manufacturer. You may be eligible for a pro-rated price on a new battery if the old one is still under warranty.

 

Sneaky battery drains

“A car battery can be depleted in a number of ways that go unnoticed,” Conde said. These include:

  1. Key fobs and smart keys stored too close to the vehicle
  2. Extended time settings for “auto-off” headlights
  3. Oil and dirt contamination on the battery
  4. Accessories left plugged into always-on power outlets

According to AAA’s 2015 survey, 26 million Americans do not know how to jump start a car. Always check your owner’s manual for vehicle-specific instructions and precautions before attempting a jump-start.

“AAA will continue to assist motorists in need, but it’s wise to get your vehicle’s battery and electrical system tested before trouble strikes,” Conde said. “A reputable repair shop, like those inspected and approved by AAA, can provide further advice and expertise.”

For a list of AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities in Idaho, go to aaa.com/repair.

“Idaho and our surrounding states have large, rural areas, so maintaining a reliable battery is absolutely essential for holiday travel, winter recreation, and even everyday living,” Conde said.