Though the battery in your car or truck is something that’s rarely given much second thought, a little TLC can go a long way to extending its lifespan. This saves you money, reduces waste, and helps ensure your engine will start when you need it to, which is important in the winter and with the current mandate to limit non-essential travel.
Remember, showing your battery a little love can make the difference between it lasting two years or five years plus.
Here are six easy ways to extend the life of your car’s battery.
Clean the Corrosion
Over time, a salty-looking corrosion can start to form on your battery terminals, the part of your battery that connects it to the electrical system of your car.
Battery terminal corrosion is a natural phenomenon in many climates. It’s usually crystalline in appearance and may be brown, green, white, or blue in colour. The formation of this dry, crumbly substance is relatively normal, though it should be cleaned regularly.
The crud is semi-conductive, which means it can slowly drain your battery at all times, reducing its lifespan in the process.
Thankfully, removing battery corrosion is quick and easy. See your owner’s manual for the scoop or ask your technician to take a look next time you’re in for service. There’s a great DIY here that shows you how to safely clean the corrosion using baking soda, water, and a toothbrush.
Mind the Smart Keys
A common cause of battery drain and poor battery lifespan has to do with the remote “smart keys” used with modern vehicles.
The smart key allows drivers to access the vehicle and start the engine with a simple touch, thanks to a communication field that’s generated between the smart key and the vehicle, provided both are in close proximity.
If you store your smart key too close to your vehicle, however, the communication field between the two may never turn off, causing battery drain to set in. Over time, this can shorten the life of the battery. For many drivers, storing the smart key(s) far away from the vehicle when it’s not in use has solved numerous battery-related problems.
The communication range is limited, so there’s no need to store the keys on the other side of the house, but avoiding storing them on a shelf next to the car in the garage or close to where the vehicle is parked can make all the difference.
Use a Trickle Charger
If you have an occasional-use vehicle or one used commonly for shorter trips, a trickle charger is another means of fending off premature battery death.
All you have to do is plug the trickle charger into an outlet, then hook the two leads up to the terminals of the battery. Once connected, the trickle charger recharges, conditions and maintains the battery, even when you’re not driving the vehicle.
Many trickle chargers can be purchased for under $50 and can typically be installed in half a minute or less. Hook one up whenever your car will be parked for more than a few days and your battery will thank you.
Unplug your MP3 Player
If you plug music into your vehicle via an MP3 player or other USB-connected storage device, consider unplugging it when it’s not in use. Though somewhat rare, there are reports of these devices causing unintended battery drain if they’re left connected while the vehicle is off.
In some cases, incompatibilities between your vehicle and your MP3 player may cause the in-car entertainment system to stay active in the background for hours on end, which will drain the battery.
For best results and longer battery life, unplug that music player or USB key when you park your car.
Go for a Long Drive
One significant cause of early battery failure has less to do with the battery and more to do with how the vehicle is used.
If your car is frequently used on short trips or used infrequently, it could suffer an earlier-than-intended death. Long periods of sitting, combined with frequent short-distance drives, may drain the battery faster than the alternator is able to recharge it.
Over time, this type of driving can degrade the performance and lifespan of the battery.
This one has a simple solution. Take your car or truck for a longer drive a few times a month. A highway is best, but anywhere that you can cruise steadily for a few minutes or more will work just fine. Not only will this help top off the battery and extend its lifespan, it can help keep your engine running in tip-top shape, too. Although non-essential travel is currently not advised in many parts of the world, when things get back to normal, it will be a great excuse to go out for a long drive.
Automakers often release software updates that technicians load into your vehicle as a means to correct or improve the operation of one or more of its systems. There are literally thousands of problems that can be remedied by software updates like this, in modern cars. One of these is unwanted battery drain, and the associated implications on battery lifespan.
When you shut your ignition off, software controls when and how certain electronic components will be shut down. Many systems in modern cars stay active for some length of time after the ignition is switched off, and bad software can mess this up – possibly failing to cut the power to one or more systems, and killing your battery in the process.
Talk to your dealer service advisor to see which (if any) software updates might be available for what you drive. One or more of these updates could have a dramatic effect on the life of your battery.