(dpa) — Particularly in colder weather, car batteries can have a tough time. Low temperatures, short journeys and additional electrical loads such as lights and heated seats all sap power. The end result can be that the battery is too weak to start the engine.
To prevent that you should check the battery’s condition periodically and not just in winter, says Achmed Leser, a vehicle expert with technical inspection agency Tuev.
“Even if modern vehicles nowadays have so-called maintenance-free batteries, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to pay any attention to the electricity storage system,” Leser says.
For one thing the battery should be cleaned at least once a year, and the connection terminals and cable clamps protected from corrosion using grease.
“White oxide layers on the battery terminals as well as dirt and salt deposits can cause current leakage, which in turn lead to a gradual discharge,” Leser says.
Lots of short journeys and leaving the car stationary for long periods both contribute to a gradual discharge of the battery. Especially in winter conditions, the alternator does not charge the battery as much as it needs.
“If you have no way of charging the battery with a charger, you should try driving a longer distance,” Leser advises.
That trip should last at least half an hour and unnecessary power guzzlers such as the heated rear window, the radio, and heated seats should be turned off. “This allows the alternator to recharge the battery more quickly,” the expert says.
If you want to recharge the battery yourself with a charger, you should carefully observe the operating instructions for the vehicle and the charger. Doing it incorrectly can cause costly damage to the vehicle’s electrical system.
“In general when handling the battery, the ignition, engine, and all electricity consumers must be switched off,” Leser says. “In addition, due to the risk of chemical burns, protective goggles and acid-proof gloves are always recommended.”
If you remove the battery from the car for charging you may also need to reconnect it to the battery management system that many modern vehicles possess.