In areas without mass transit and with record-setting snow storms dominating a large portion of the US, a vehicle prepared for winter is a must. One of the many things to consider is the health of your car’s battery. Many individuals unknowingly drain their vehicles’ batteries. No matter the car type, a battery may lose charge if the vehicle is left unused for too long. Like the multitude of mental tabs we constantly have open, there are plenty of things running in the background. Everything with “power” can slowly deteriorate, such as power doors and locks. The radio and thermostat are also culprits.
However, these are things that drain your battery over time. What about the things that cause it to drain quickly?
1. Did you turn everything off?
Much like we fret over trying to remember if we turned off our hair straightener, we need to apply that same concept to our cars. Lights left on (I’m totally looking at myself, the queen of leaving her headlights on) and doors not closed properly can drain the battery. So give your car a once-over when you’ve parked or gotten home.
Sometimes you haven’t done anything, and the battery continues to drain. This is called a parasitic drain and is usually caused by a faulty accessory (like when the strap of your fave purse breaks!). Find a mechanic you trust, so they can determine if this is the cause with a parasitic current draw test.
3. Those mini trips to the corner store can add up quickly.
Essentially, the battery gives power when the car starts. Boom, now you’re driving. This power needs to be recharged by the alternator. When you regularly take very short trips, the alternator is not given the proper time to recharge the battery. Over time, this damages the it.
4. Think positively or negatively but with cables.
Batteries have positive and negative terminals. Cables are attached to these. Much like the chagrin you experience when your HDMI cable is loose, these cables can also become loose. If your car is struggling to start or your headlights are flickering, your vehicle isn’t haunted; it likely has a loose connection to the battery. There are possible safety issues when reconnecting these cables, so I recommend an automotive expert to avoid a possible shock.
5. Getting dirty.
Sometimes, the cause can be as simple as a dirty car battery, which leads to corrosion. Unfortunately, you can’t Lysol your way out of this one. You can take a stab at cleaning the battery if you’re feeling brave, but I like a pro to help me with this one.
6. The bad apple.
Alternators charge your battery and provide a flow to car accessories like the radio. Bad or broken alternators fail, causing the battery to drain and eventually fail. You can jump-start (this is your cue to buy jumper cables) your car and sputter to your local mechanic.
7. Out with the old, in with the new.
Much like our cell phone batteries become worn over time, the same is true of your car battery. Typically lasting approximately five years, batteries can die an earlier death based on a variety of factors. For example, length of use, battery strain, and even weather can negatively impact the health of your battery.
8. It’s getting hot in here.
Extreme cold or hot conditions can have an impact on your battery. Temps affect the chemicals in your battery. Winter brings the need to expel twice as much energy to operate. Summer, on the other hand, can cause evaporation of your battery’s liquids, which leads to icky corrosion and battery failure. Climate change will only add to these extremes.
Bear in mind these tips are for educational purposes. A professional is the only person to determine the cause of your battery failure. So, be sure to keep up the maintenance of your vehicle, and you’ll have the power to go anywhere (or as far as your gas budget allows!).