6 smart ways to keep your car battery in tip-top shape

August 6, 2015 12:38 PM

There are few things worse than hopping in your car, turning the key ... and nothing. You have a dead battery. This means finding a friend with a working vehicle, getting out the jumper cables and heading down to your local auto repair shop for a replacement battery.

A dead battery can be the result of several factors. It could just be old age, wear and tear, or you may have left a door cracked and your lights on. Some drivers even drain their own batteries by running a constant stream of electrical devices inside, from phone chargers to GPS devices. 

However, you can delay the onset of a dead battery with a few smart tips. Here are six that can help your vehicle always have the juice it needs:

"Stored vehicle often wake up with a dead battery."

1. Drive your vehicle
The first tip is to actually get behind the wheel and go for a ride. If you have more than one vehicle, or just aren't a frequent driver, you may run into more dead batteries than you prefer. This is because leaving a car parked and off for long periods of time can drain your battery. Running it gives your alternator time to recharge the battery, so it won't be dead the next time you try to turn it on.

2. Clean your battery
Batteries often end up corroded and dirty. This isn't great for its charge, and a much better option is to keep the battery and its surrounding area as clean as possible. All it takes is a simple wiping down to get rid of much of that dirt and grime, and that can go a long way toward keeping your battery charged. Consider doing a simple cleaning around your regular service appointments, or when you get your vehicle inspected. 

3. Keep it insulated
Batteries can be picky about their temperatures, too. Too warm can be just as bad as too cold. This is why many drivers with some wiggle room around their batteries add insulation. Like with insulation in your home, batteries can be padded to control their temperatures - and prolong their life. Only use a specific insulation blanket for the job, though. Don't wedge assorted materials into the gaps around your battery. 

These tips can help you avoid the jumper cables.These tips can help you avoid the jumper cables.

4. Be a gentle jumper
Say you do end up with a dead battery. How you get it started again can affect its overall lifespan. For instance, jumping a colder battery can hurt the charge. Jumping a warmer one will have less of an effect. So, if you have the time, consider popping the hood and rolling your vehicle into the sunlight. Let the battery warm up a little bit before you jump it.

5. Unplug your devices
A well-charged phone is important, but not at the expense of your vehicle's battery. Instead of leaving your devices plugged into your vehicle around the clock, only charge them when necessary. This will reduce the strain on your car battery and help it last longer. 

6. Keep up with regular maintenance
Your battery is the life behind your engine. Regular maintenance all round will help ensure a long life, and that goes for your engine too. Make sure you bring in your vehicle for frequent tune-ups and inspections. A poor engine can strain your battery, hurting its charge. And an infrequently serviced battery can die a whole lot easier as well. Therefore, it is in your best interests to talk to your mechanic about the maintenance you need to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape for years to come.

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