A battery check today can keep the tow truck away, says the Car Care Council, as it advises vehicle owners to have their battery tested and replaced if necessary this fall to avoid being stranded this winter.
Sooner or later all batteries have to be replaced, and excessive heat and overcharging are the two main reasons for shortened battery life. Heat causes battery fluid to evaporate, thus damaging the internal structure of the battery. A malfunctioning component in the charging system, usually the voltage regulator, allows too high of a charging rate, leading to slow death for a battery. Colder temperatures increase the thickness of the engine oil, making the engine harder to turn over and the battery work harder, leading to harder starting.
To get the most life out of a battery, the Car Care Council suggests the following:
- Be sure the electrical system is charging at the correct rate; overcharging can damage a battery as quickly as undercharging.
- If your battery is the type that needs to be topped off, check it regularly, especially in hot weather. Add distilled water when necessary.
- Always replace a battery with one that’s rated at least as high as the one originally specified.
- Keep the top of the battery clean. Dirt becomes a conductor, which drains battery power. Further, as corrosion accumulates on battery terminals it becomes an insulator, inhibiting current flow.