Monday, 17 March 2014

Looking after your car battery

Summer is still lingering, but colder months are just around the corner.

Before we get there it's a good time to start thinking about our cars and take some precautions now to avoid the winter blues later on.

The component that tends to come under the most stress in winter, and usually fails first, is the battery that powers our car.

We might think it's the engine that powers the car, but it won't be going anywhere if the battery is flat. And we all know that there are few things worse than being stuck with a car that won't start on a cold morning when you're already late for work.

A first step to avoid the worry is to know how to check the battery. If you’re not sure where it’s located have a look at the owner’s manual. In most car’s it’s quite prominent in the engine bay under the bonnet, but on occasion it can be found in the boot of the car.

If your car is old, then it’s most likely that the battery will be old too. If that’s the case, i.e. three years or more, then it’s worth having it checked by your mechanic to ensure it's going to be capable of doing its job in the colder months ahead.

Once you’re familiar with where the battery is located, have a look at the state it’s in.  It's quite common to find the build-up of corrosion on the terminals (terminals are hard to miss once you’re looking at the battery); it's a white crystalline substance that can affect the battery's performance.

Pouring boiling water over the terminals is enough to clean the corrosion off the outside of the terminals, but to clean them properly it's necessary to disconnect them. To disconnect the terminals loosen the terminal clamps, negative first and positive last, and then wash the corrosion away from the battery terminals and the clamps with boiling water.

Dry the terminals and clamps and reconnect the leads, positive first and negative last. To help stall the build-up of corrosion apply a smear of Vaseline or other petroleum jelly over the outside of the terminal.
Do not apply the jelly to the terminal before you connect the leads as that could affect the conductivity and lower the battery's performance.

If you’re not confident in doing any of this then bring your car in to Cooper Automotive and we’ll make sure you’ll be safe on the road this winter.

Handy hints:

If you are going to disconnect the terminals on the battery make sure you have your radio's security code as you'll need that when you reconnect the battery again. If you don't have it, get it from you dealer or manufacturer before you go any further. Without it you won't be able to use your radio!

It’s also worth noting that your engine may run rough, idle poorly or the engine may cut out at idle after the battery has been disconnected. This occurs in some cars because the car’s computer has lost its memory while the battery was disconnected. Once you have driven the car for a while the computer will re-learn and will idle normally again.