How to take care of your car battery during winter

During cold winter months the chances of having a flat battery increase significantly

03 July 2020 - 14:28 By Motoring Reporter
Dead battery? Here are some tips to prevent that from happening.
Dead battery? Here are some tips to prevent that from happening.
Image: Supplied

There are few motoring experiences as unpleasant as turning the key to start your car and hearing the dreaded “click” signifying a dead car battery.

During these cold winter months, the chances of having a flat battery increase significantly, and even more so if the battery is getting old and your vehicle wasn’t driven much during lockdown, says Kelvin Naidoo of Willard Batteries.

“When it is cold, the chemical reactions that take place when the battery delivers charge occurs very slowly, and this makes it difficult for the battery to deliver the current it requires. Batteries don’t like standing idle for long periods, and it’s a true case of prevention rather than cure,” he says.

He offers the following tips to ensure the health of your car’s battery and to keep your vehicle running smoothly:

  1. Make sure that when the vehicle is unattended, all electronics are switched off: lights, radio etc.
  2. Make sure the doors, boot and so on are shut to ensure that the door lights and warning systems are off.
  3. If the vehicle is not in use, start and run the engine for five minutes every few days. Remember, if the vehicle is in a garage, make sure the garage doors are open to avoid toxic fumes.
  4. If possible and available, it is recommended to use a smart charger to keep the battery conditioned and charged.
  5. If possible, disconnect the battery, but only if you are technically capable and can reinstall it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  6. If you suspect a problem with your battery, do not try to open it, revive it or fill it. Rather let the professionals handle it.
  7. If you are able to measure the voltage of the battery (with a voltmeter) and have easy access to the battery, measure the voltage every few days. If the voltage drops below 12.6V it will need to be recharged by running the vehicle for 10 minutes.
  8. Should the vehicle not start, follow the vehicle and battery manufacturer’s jump-starting or push-starting instructions and run the vehicle for at least 15-30 minutes to recharge. If the battery is damaged and not just discharged, this may not help.
  9. The following are signs that your battery is on its way out and will have to be replaced: You hear grinding or a clicking sound when you turn on the ignition; the engine does not turn at all when you turn on the ignition; the engine cranks slowly when attempting to start; your headlights dim when idling but brighten when you rev the engine.
  10.  If your battery is still under warranty and it fails, make sure you have your proof of purchase for replacement. Do not attempt to repair, top up, overcharge or tamper with the battery in any way as this will void the warranty.
  11. If you need to replace the battery yourself, follow the vehicle and battery manufacturer’s instructions on fitment. As a minimum, ensure the following: the battery is the correct size and for your make of vehicle; battery terminals are clean;  the terminal connectors are correctly torqued – if you cannot do this, tighten so that they do not slip but do not overtighten; do not dispose of the old battery – it must be returned to a dealer for recycling.
  12. Perform regular visual inspections of the battery (where possible) – ensuring that the battery is clean and dry and shows no signs of swelling. Wipe down the battery to remove dirt and grease – this creates an insulation that can keep the battery hot.
  13. Short drives don’t allow the battery to fully recharge.
  14. If you can access the battery, make sure that the terminals are not loose – a loose terminal will restrict the recharging of the battery.
  15. Do not use the vehicle battery for any other application (like removing the battery and using it to power a TV) as this could damage the battery and leave you stranded. This will also void the warranty on the battery.