How to get the most out of your car battery

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 2 years ago

3 min read

  • Advice
  • tips
Mechanic inspecting car battery

WhoCanFixMyCar offers eight maintenance tips to keep your car battery fully charged and functioning for longer

It’s easy to neglect your car battery, especially given that it’s hidden away, but by keeping it in good condition you can increase its lifespan considerably, meaning you’re less likely to face the dreaded sound of your engine failing to start. 

So, how exactly do you maintain a car battery? Here are our top tips…

Stop, look, listen

Every so often, it’s important to give your battery some much-needed attention. 

Before you set off in your car, take a minute to lift the bonnet and perform a visual inspection. There’s no need to remove the battery - simply have a look to see if you can spot any signs of damage or dirt. 

You should also make sure there are no obvious blockages in the open vent or pipe and that the terminals are all tightly connected. 

Often, it’s possible to tell when your battery is worse for wear by listening to the sound your car makes when you first start the engine. If it seems like it’s struggling to start, that’s a clear sign your battery needs some TLC. 

Replace every four years

Unfortunately, car batteries don’t last forever. In fact, it’s recommended that they should be changed every four years. By sticking to this schedule you can rest assured that your battery is likely in good health for the duration of its use. 

Clean your battery

Even if you stick to the four year replacement rule, dirt and debris will inevitably build up over this period and begin to corrode metal components such as the battery terminals. 

To prevent damage, we’d recommend cleaning your battery every couple of months. You can either make your own cleaning solution using baking soda and water or you can buy a pre-made one. A wire brush is the best tool for removing dirt and corrosion. 

Avoid too many short journeys

If you regularly use your car for five minute trips to the local shop, this puts a lot of strain on your car battery as it doesn’t give it enough time to properly recharge. As a result, you will eventually end up with a flat battery.

It’s okay to continue making short trips as long as you include a longer drive - preferably at least forty minutes - roughly once a week. 

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Check your battery’s water level

This is a check you should carry out after every six months or every time your car needs an oil change

When you inspect your battery, the plates should be fully covered - if they’re exposed it means the fluid level is too low. 

Always use distilled water to top up the fluid; tap water contains minerals that can be harmful to your battery’s lifespan and performance. 

Check your battery’s acid level

It’s a good idea to check your battery’s acid level at the same time you check its water level - both need to be done roughly every six months. 

When car batteries are constantly undercharged at a percentage less than 80, this is called acid stratification. It means that electrolytes will concentrate at the bottom and leave the upper half of the battery starved, causing serious damage. 

Invest in a battery charger

Chargers offer an inexpensive way to make sure your car battery never lets you down. 

Battery chargers can differ in terms of their function:

  • Maintenance chargers - this is known as ‘trickle charging’ and is designed to send a small amount of electricity to your battery to keep it healthy during extended periods when it isn’t being used.

  • Engine start - essentially, this is just like jump starting your car. It takes a lot of energy and requires a heavy duty charger.

  • Conventional charging - this type of recharger takes between 6-24 hours to fully recharge a flat battery.

Consider battery storage

Leaving your battery in a vehicle that isn’t going to be used for over a month isn’t a good idea. Chances are, when you try to use the car again it simply won’t start because the battery will be drained.

Instead, you should consider putting your battery in storage. Once it has been removed from the vehicle, it will need fully charging roughly once every three months. 

For more battery-related advice, check out the guides below!