1. Don’t leave the car unused for long periods
As you might have noticed in some of the points above, it is vital that lead-acid car batteries are kept fully charged at all times to prevent damage. Regardless of the brand, all lead-acid batteries will naturally lose charge over time – something which is referred to as ‘self-discharge’.
A flooded lead-acid battery will self discharge at a rate of around 1% per day at room temperature, 0.25% per day at 10°C (50°F) and 1.5% per day at 30°C (86°F). It is important to remember that parasitic loads from the vehicle will increase the rate of discharge, so if your vehicle is going to be sitting unused for any longer than a week it would be advisable to connect a trickle charger to keep the battery in tip-top condition.
2. Keep your battery tightly fastened
Vibration can reduce the life of your car battery, so it is vital that you always use an approved battery clamp to ensure it is properly held down at all times. If not securely fastened, excessive vibration could damage your battery’s internal components – creating short circuits and reducing battery life.
But don’t make the mistake of over-tightening the battery clamp nuts to the limit of your strength – because you might damage the battery! Instead, simply tighten the nuts until you feel the resistance start, and then continue for only an additional half turn.
3. Minimize power used while engine is off
Car batteries are happiest when they are kept close to 100% charge – so keeping your headlights or interior lights on while the engine isn’t running is a big no-no. Before exiting the vehicle, always ensure that all accessories are turned off and double check that the lights are off as you walk away.
4. Keep your battery clean
Ensure the top of your battery is clean, dry, and free of dirt and grime. A dirty battery can discharge across the grime on top of the casing – creating a mild short circuit which will eventually flatten the battery.
The battery terminals will also corrode over time, and keeping them clean from buildup is a great way to extend the life of your car battery. Scrub the terminals with an old toothbrush dipped in a baking soda and water mixture. Then, using a spray bottle with cold water, rinse the mixture off and follow up with a thorough drying with a clean cloth.
5. Check your battery’s voltage once a month
A lead-acid battery’s life will shorten dramatically the longer it is left partially or fully discharged, so checking the voltage with a voltmeter once a month is a great way to keep an eye on your battery’s health. A healthy, fully charged lead-acid battery should have a voltage of around 12.7 volts or above.
Should the voltage drop below 12.5 volts, we’d recommend recharging the battery as soon as possible. It is also important to remember that a lead-acid car battery is considered to be half charged at 12.4 volts, and completely flat / dead at 12.0 volts – so don’t get complacent.