The majority of cars on the road today are powered by SLI (starter, lighting, and ignition) batteries. These car batteries provide initial power to the starter motor, ignition system, fuel system, and engine management computers. Once the engine is running, the charging system takes over to generate enough current to recharge the battery and continue to power the vehicle’s lights, audio, climate control, and more. Without a healthy battery, you won’t get very far!
With proper care, most SLI batteries last between three and five years. In addition to a thorough maintenance routine, these tips will help your car’s battery and charging system last as long as possible.
Battery corrosion is unavoidable. The best way to keep it at bay is by cleaning and protecting your car battery. Visible corrosion will be blue, green, or white.
CRC Battery Cleaner
GUNK - Battery Terminal Cleaner & Protector
Use a voltage drop test to reveal hidden corrosion. You can do this with your multimeter. If there’s significant corrosion in the battery cables, replace them.
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Clean the Engine
Oil leaks from valve covers, oil seals, or hydraulic power steering systems can cause many problems that won’t show up immediately. For example, a leak can contaminate the drive belt and reduce alternator output. It can also cause the alternator or starter to overheat and burn out the windings.
Clean your car’s engine once or twice a year to avoid contamination. Don’t spray engine cleaner directly into the alternator or starter.
Check the Drive Belt
The alternator generates electricity to power the rest of your vehicle. A worn, loose, or slippery drive belt (also known as a serpentine belt) may not reliably drive the alternator, especially if you’re driving on wet roads or carrying a heavy load.
Inspect the drive belt for wear, contamination, and proper tension every 95,000 km or if you hear it squealing while the engine is running. If it’s severely worn or damaged, replace the drive belt. If the spring is worn, replace the drive belt tensioner.
Put It to Work
One of the best ways to keep your battery going is to use it regularly. Driving at least once every three or four days is ideal.
If you know you won’t be using your car for more than two weeks, consider getting a battery maintainer so that it’s ready to go whenever you need it next.
Carlyle Battery Charger 6/12V
Minimize Current Draw
Your car battery is designed to use a large amount of current for a few seconds to get the engine running so the charging system can take over and power the vehicle. Excessive current draw can permanently damage the battery, preventing it from fully recharging. So, unplug your electronics and turn off the lights when your ignition is off.
Jumping a Car
If you end up with a dead battery (likely from excessive current draw), you can jump-start it by following this guide. You’ll need to invest in a pair of jumper cables or a booster pack. Check out our comparison of the two here.
If your battery frequently dies, use your multimeter again to do a parasitic drain test. You may be dealing with a faulty circuit or module.
Ultrapro - Booster Cable
12 Volt Jump Starter - Booster Pac
Replacing Your Car Battery
Once your battery reaches the end of its life, you’ll need a replacement. How much is a car battery? A battery usually costs between $100 and $300, and voltage ranges from 12 to 15 volts. Your owner’s manual should have all the information you need to find the right battery for your vehicle. If you have any questions, speak with an expert at your local NAPA Auto Parts store.
You can browse our selection of car batteries at www.NAPACanada.com. If you input your vehicle’s details in the top left corner of the web page, you’ll be matched with products guaranteed to fit. After picking out your new battery, follow this guide to install it.
Compared to other parts of your car, your car battery doesn’t require too much maintenance. If you’re interested in expanding your DIY skills, though, investing in a diagnostic tool can help you identify and resolve various issues with your battery and charging system.
For more automotive tips and DIY guides, check out our blog.
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