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Preventative maintenance tips for your car's battery.

Guest Contributor July 15, 2020
Woman looking under the hood of her car in summer.
When your mechanic mentions the upcoming weather might have an effect on your car's battery, there's an excellent (and reasonable) chance you'd assume they're talking about the winter months. After all, media imagery during that time of year is filled with images of cars failing to start outside the hockey rink or sitting alone in a snowbound parking lot.

However, there's a case to be made that heat can be just as damaging to a vehicle battery. It may seem completely counter-intuitive but high temperatures also have a tendency to impact the battery performance. Here are some ideas to keep your battery in top shape and avoid a breakdown.

Visual inspections.

If you're of a certain age, you may recall the days when an attendant would pop the hood of your car and check its oil while pumping fuel. Those days are long gone. However, it remains a good idea to take a minute or two and give your engine bay a quick once-over look at every fill up. Even if a person is not at all mechanically inclined, a peek under the hood can avert a mishap.

Fizz and Foam?

What battery-related problems should the new driver look for under the hood? Check for obvious signs of corrosion, which looks like white or bluish/green foam. This stuff generally collects on the battery terminals, indicating a failing battery and can actually block the flow of power since it is non-conductive. Use gloves if you choose to brush some of it away yourself.
car battery

Down the drain.

Completely running a battery flat does it no favours. Sure, it's great to hear tunes or charge up a device while waiting for a family member at the hardware store, but be sure to start the engine from time to time provided you're in a well-ventilated area. This will introduce a bit of juice back into the battery and keep it in good shape.

Hot, hot, heat.

All cars generate heat but an excessively warm engine bay can do a number on its battery, which contains vital liquids that can evaporate when the mercury climbs to outrageous levels. Make sure the vehicle is up-to-date with maintenance items like engine coolant and engine accessory belts, both of which can help other mechanical systems reduce ambient temperature under the hood of a car. A properly functioning belt will also permit the alternator, a key component of keeping the battery charged up, to operate at peak efficiency.

Stay cool.

We know the simple act of parking in a shaded area can be very effective in preventing the interior of your car from baking in the sun. Logically, that same action also keeps the heat off mechanical components, including the battery. We know excessive heat can wreck a battery's internal liquids but it can also speed up corrosion, harming its internal structures.

Long may you run.

Quickly popping to the shop for a gallon of milk is actually not great for your car's battery. Repeated short car trips don't permit a battery to fully recharge, setting it up for early failure. Do you operate well with only short bursts of rejuvenating sleep for days on end? Exactly.  While we can't eliminate all short trips, try to sprinkle them with a few longer drives if possible.