Did you know that the humble car battery is one of the most hard-working components in the entire vehicle? If you haven't "had a look" at yours in some time, it pays to know more about how it works so that you can take care of it and ensure that it lasts a lot longer. What should you be aware of?
Many people think that the battery is something that should last forever as it is infinitely rechargeable. It's important to remember that car batteries are filled with a corrosive substance and this will invariably cause the internal components to degrade as time goes by. However, you can expect them to last a lot longer if they are well maintained.
But surely, you may say, you don't need to maintain them as they're marked "maintenance free." This is often terminology used to market the battery in the first place and doesn't mean that you can get away without any service whatsoever. As an owner, you should always remove any residue that may build up around the terminals and should clean the casing. It's also important to check what the "alternator discharge" rate is, to see that everything is working correctly.
Using the Right Fluid
If you're in a hurry, you may have used tap water to fill up the battery compartment in the past. However, there is a reason why manufacturers specify that you should use distilled or demineralised water instead. Tap water has many imperfections that can cause deposits on the plates inside, which will shorten the life of the unit. Check the level of the water frequently, and use the correct fluid to top it up.
Keeping the Charge
Try not to let the battery go completely flat at any time if you can help it. Sometimes this may happen accidentally, but if it does you should always connect the unit to a battery charger that is designed to work in multiple stages. This will allow the voltage to be set properly so that the battery acid and electrolytes recharge correctly. Most people just go for a short drive and think that this will be sufficient, but it will lead to early battery failure in the long run.
Leave It Connected
Finally, don't get into the habit of disconnecting the battery when you go away on holiday, in the belief that it will somehow "preserve" the charge within. Modern-day vehicles are designed to provide a constant flow of power from the battery to the main computer to power some systems in the background. If you disconnect everything, then this may cause the computer to shut down, and it may not reboot correctly when you get back from your trip.
If it's been a while since you serviced your battery, it's a good idea to take it in so that the professionals can make sure it is in first-class condition.