One of the essential components in your vehicle can also be the most frustrating when it isn’t in good shape: your vehicle’s battery is the difference between a good morning and a bad one, should it be flat. Here is a quick guide to understanding your vehicle battery.
Did you know that in hot weather, the heat can accelerate te chemical reactions within the battery and make it corrode quicker, thereby reducing its lifespan by as much as half? With a climate like ours, this is something one should take into account, especially in our intense South African summers. You can help to prevent this by parking in the shade or under cover whenever you possibly can, and ensuring there is water in the batter if it needs to be topped up – nowadays, most batteries are self-maintaining.
Driving short distances and in bad traffic is also not good for your battery; this is simply due to the fact that it is constantly kept at a low charge which results in acid stratification and sulfation within the battery, often leading to battery failure. If you can’t do longer trips from time to time, it may be a good idea to invest in a battery charger to ensure the battery is fully charged on regular occasions.
A tell-tale sign of damage to your battery is a pungent rotten egg smell, which is the sulphur gas that may be vented in the case of an internal short or overcharging. Leaking sulphuric acid can also be dangerous to you, and corrosive to the rest of your vehicle; thus, getting your battery checked out as soon as possible should you smell something off, or notice any discharge, is highly recommended.
Speaking of corrosion and discharge, battery terminals that become caked with corrosive substances can be cleaned off safely with a mix of baking soda and water. Baking soda is alkaline and helps neutralise the sulphuric acid, which helps to remove the deposits and corrosion that usually stop a battery from functioning at its best. It also means better connection to the terminals and will prevent any acid getting onto the rest of your vehicle.
Finally, leaving your car radio, lights or headlamps on for extended periods of time will inevitably spoil your mood when you try to restart the car. Always double check when leaving the vehicle, as a battery can sustain long-term damage and give you endless problems should it not be charged properly in such event.
Recent battery trouble with my own vehicle has also taught me that buying a good quality battery at the outset is important, and one with a warranty is even better. Having my battery replaced under warranty saved me a substantial amount of money and trouble and had me back on the road in no-time.
By Desh Bechan