Batteries are so simple and reliable that drivers tend to forget they even exist until it’s too late. By paying attention to your car’s battery and conducting a few regular tests and observations, you’ll reduce your risk of being stranded. Batteries are relatively cheap when compared to the amount of work they do on a regular basis.
A dead battery is the most obvious sign of a battery problem. However, since the battery is part of a larger system connected to other parts of the car, a dead battery may indicate a deeper issue than simply no power. A working battery may provide less electricity than it should if something else is wrong in the electrical system, such as a weak alternator.
Electronic testers are available at most auto parts stores and are a good way to test a battery. If you or an automotive technician hook the battery tester to your car, it will take a snapshot of the battery’s condition and indicate whether it needs to be replaced.
Different types and price points of battery testers are available. A few clip to the battery or its terminals to provide a reading, while others plug into your car’s cigarette lighter. If you are popping the hood of your car to connect a battery tester, wear gloves and goggles to protect your hands and face from battery acid or corrosion.
Every time you change your oil, you should perform this check.
Another clue to whether the battery is on its way out can be found in the battery itself. The first thing to look for is the age of the battery. If the battery is more than three or four years old, expect problems. Also, consider your driving habits. Short trips and long periods of inactivity can drain a battery’s capacity. Third, examine the battery itself. Stains or corrosion indicate a leak.
Remove your battery’s case or insulating sleeve every once in a while to see what’s underneath. Check for buildup around the terminals as well. Use baking soda and water to remove the buildup – just remember to wear gloves and safety glasses. Electrolytic solution contains sulfuric acid, which is not gentle on the skin. Finally, smell the battery, paying attention to rotten egg odors (sulfur) or the smell of the battery overheating.