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Car Maintenance Basics: Batteries


There’s nothing worse than rushing out the door to work or school, jumping in the car, turning the key and...nothing. The health of your battery is a pretty big deal. You’ll get NOWHERE quick if it fails. Here’s a handy guide to help you care for your battery and avoid a nasty surprise.

1. Clean the case

The simplest form of maintenance for your battery is to make sure the case is clean. Dirt and oil can leave a residue that can actually create a current that will drain your battery. You can clean the case by wiping the battery down with moist paper towels and a mild detergent. Check for any cracks or bulging that could indicate a problem.

2. Check the electrolyte level

Your battery contains a mixture of sulfuric acid and water. If your battery has removable vent caps, your mechanic will probably check the levels each time you get an oil change. Keep in mind that this can be done on your own, but it’s best to leave it to the pros.

3. Inspect and clean the terminals

Take a close look at the battery terminals, posts, and the hardware that holds down the battery. Check for corrosion or loose or cracked connections. If you do see corrosion, you can clean it with a mixture of baking soda and water. Apply it with a stiff (nonmetallic) brush. Rinse with clean water. It’s important that you collect the dirty water in a safe container and dispose of it properly.

4. Removing and installing a battery

If the corrosion is severe, you may need to disconnect the cables and totally remove the battery to thoroughly clean it. Always remove the cable from the negative battery terminal first, then the positive. Reinstall in the opposite order – positive first, then negative. There are several ways to tell the difference between the positive and negative terminals.

  • They may be color-coded with red for positive and black for negative.
  • You may see the symbols “+” for positive and “-” for negative.
  • If the distinction is by size, you’ll see that the positive post is larger in diameter than the negative.

Pay attention to warning signs

Your battery may give you a heads-up if it’s on its way out. Watch out for:

  • The engine turning over slowly.
  • Dim headlights, especially when your car is idling.
  • The battery warning light is illuminated on your dashboard.

You don’t have to go it alone

If all of this seems a little too overwhelming for you to handle, you can always pay a visit to your trusted mechanic to have a look. At Conrad’s, our experienced auto technicians are happy to help you out – come and see us today!

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