BOISE – (February 18, 2020) – It’s National Battery Day – a timely reminder for drivers to have their batteries checked before trouble strikes. According to a AAA survey, two-thirds of American drivers say they have never had their car battery tested before their vehicle didn’t start.
The warning signs of a weak battery include the starter motor cranking the engine slowly, dim headlamps (especially when the car is idling), and an illuminated battery warning light in the dashboard. But there’s an even better rule of thumb – if your battery is three years old or older, AAA recommends having it checked by a trusted repair shop, and every six months after that.
“Some repair shops and auto parts stores will perform a complimentary battery check,” says AAA Idaho spokesman Matthew Conde. “Vehicle owners should contact shops in their area to find one that can check, and if necessary, replace a dead or dying battery. No one wants to get stuck waiting for battery service on a dark and stormy night or during an upcoming spring break vacation.”
Extending the life of your battery
There are many ways to extend the life of your battery, including:
- Clean and inspect the case. Dirt and oil residue can cause a current drain on your battery. Clean the case by wiping it with paper towels that have been moistened in a mild detergent solution. Once the case is dry, check for cracks or bulging that indicate that the battery needs further testing or replacement.
- Inspect and clean the terminals. Remove any corrosion from the battery posts with a 50/50 solution of baking soda and water, applied with a stiff brush. After removing corrosion, rinse the battery with clean water. Catch all used water and dispose of it properly.
- Check the electrolyte level. Although most batteries today are “maintenance-free” and cannot be checked, if your battery has removable cell caps, you should check the level at each oil change. If necessary, refill with distilled or demineralized water.
Removing and installing the battery
There are many ways to tell if your car battery is starting to lose it’s juice, so when it’s time to swap it out, here’s what you need to do.
If the battery is severely corroded, it may be necessary to disconnect the cables and remove the battery as part of the cleaning process. Loosen each battery cable clamp and spread its ends to remove the cable from the battery. Never pry a cable clamp off the terminal post, which can damage the battery’s case and connections. Always remove the cable from the negative battery terminal first, then the positive terminal. Reinstall them in the reverse order.
There are three ways to identify the positive and negative terminals:
- Color-code: Red for positive and black for negative, however, not all cables match this code
- Symbol: “+” for positive and “–“ for negative, usually molded into the battery case
- Size: On post-type terminals, the positive post is usually slightly larger
“If you’re doing any work on a car battery, safety has to remain the top priority,” Conde said. “Wear gloves, eye protection, and old and protective clothing, as batteries contain highly corrosive sulfuric acid. Never smoke when working near a battery, and never place metal tools on or near the battery where they can accidentally create a short circuit that could result in sparks, burns, an explosion, or vehicle system electrical damage.”
To locate a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility near you, visit AAA.com/aar.