We take it for granted that our car will start every morning when we switch it on, forgetting that a lot of maintenance needs to go into keeping a car running. The last thing anyone wants is to be stuck on a cold winter night because the car battery has died. And yet that’s something that is entirely avoidable.
“Feeling disappointed while sitting stranded in a driveway, city parking lot or even a remote holiday destination can be avoided if a car battery is given a little TLC, through regular maintenance and testing,” says Joe du Plooy, Group Marketing Executive at Tiger Wheel & Tyre.
Follow these 10 useful tips and avoid being left feeling… er… powerless.
- Drive your vehicle regularly
Driving your vehicle regularly keeps the battery well charged. If you know your car will be standing for a few weeks, arrange for someone to start it for you once or twice a week. If the car is left running for a few minutes a week, it will maintain battery charge. If there is no-one around to help, it’s best to disconnect your battery before going away.
- Service according to the manufacturer’s schedule
If your engine isn’t working as it should, the battery will work harder and its life will be reduced.
- Check the charging rate
Under- and over-charging the battery will reduce its life. “Most reputable battery dealers will conduct these quick checks for you,” says Du Plooy.
- Avoid leaving car lights and accessories on for long periods without the engine running
Leaving accessories running while a car is stationary will discharge the battery. Although this can be rectified by recharging the battery, constantly doing this may shorten its life.
- Keep the battery case clean
Dirt and dampness can damage a battery case, causing it to lose charge. To avoid this, ensure that the case and terminals are checked and cleaned during car services. If you notice corrosion or acid on battery terminals, clean it off with water and cover the terminal connection with grease to avoid it recurring.
- Keep the battery properly secured in the engine bay
Check that your battery is secure at all times. Vibrations can shake it loose and cause damage to the battery plates. Vibrations can also loosen terminals bringing journeys to an abrupt halt.
- Never try to jump-start a flat battery
Modern cars are packed with electronic wizardry – just waiting to be blown into oblivion by a careless connection. That’s because jump-starting a flat battery can send excessive current into the system and damage the electronics. If you can’t avoid a jump-start, at least ensure that your headlights are switched on before you make the attempt. This will help avoid electrical surges. Refer to your vehicle’s manual for recommendations on how to jump-tart your car, because it can differ from vehicle to vehicle.
- Park inside a garage in winter
Parking inside a garage where it’s warmer, protects the battery from extreme cold, which shortens its lifespan.
- Cut down on short trips
Frequent trips of less than 20 minutes don’t give your battery enough time to charge. In doing so, they help drain it faster.
- Replace your car battery every 3 to 4 years.
“The most common question we get from motorists is, how often should I replace my car battery? On average a battery can last up to three years, but it all depends on your driving conditions, habits and the weather, says du Plooy. “Take the time to do regular checks. This will not only prolong a car’s battery life, but also help avoid disappointments.”
But, of course, you can’t stave off the inevitable. Your battery WILL die one day, possibly leaving you stranded, but definitely leaving you with a substantial bill to replace it. Fortunately, there are alternatives available for financing this vital element of your vehicle to avoid having to dip into your pocket. Rewards programmes like come into their own, helping consumers to stretch their budgets. Standard Bank’s UCount Rewards scheme allows members to redeem their rewards points to pay for their purchase on a car battery at Tiger Wheel & Tyre, says Fayelizabeth Foster, the bank’s Head of Loyalty and Rewards.