It’s a typical dark, rather cold, winter morning. Running a few minutes late, you head out to car, coffee in hand, slide into the driver’s seat and turn your key in the ignition ready for the off and another busy day.
Except nothing happens. Nada. Naught. Zilch. No coughing, no spluttering. Just a big fat nothing. Your battery’s drained. No matter, just give it a bit of jump then, you’ve got a charger in the trunk, as it always pays to be prepared. Except that doesn’t work either. At this point it dawns on you. The battery isn’t drained because of the cold, it’s actually dead.
It’s all too easy to forget that car batteries don’t last forever and that, thanks to certain driving habits, they may not even last as long as was promised when you first purchased them. Read on though and you’ll learn more about the driving habits that could be weakening your car battery and help avoid the frantic panic caused by a vehicle that won’t start when you really need it to.
Certain driving habits really can be hard on even the best car battery. The following are a few of the most common. And if any of these sound familiar you may want to start paying a little more attention to this all important power source.
You’re a Gadget Geek
If you spend a lot of time in the car – which many of us do – the chances are that your phone spends a lot of time on the car charger, which is, of course, powered by your vehicle’s battery. Oh and you also have a GPS, and a nifty little coffee cup warmer and when your significant other and/or kids are in the car their phones and gaming gadgets are usually plugged in too.
All of this convenience is great, except you may be zapping your battery to death. TIME magazine’s auto writers conducted a study and they concluded ““if your car battery is old and only holds a 2% resting charge…your phone could easily kill your car. What’s more likely [though] is that charging your tablet or laptop would drain your car battery first, since they have high-capacity batteries, and would draw a higher percentage of your car battery’s reserved charge.”
Batteries and the Summer
We all tend to worry more about our car battery in the winter, as we know that cold temperatures can knock them out of action easily. The fact is though it is the warm summer months that are really potential battery killers.
This is because the higher the temperature outside, the higher the temperature under the hood. For example, if its 80 degrees out it’s probably at least 130 where your battery ‘lives’. This increased temperature often causes your battery fluid to evaporate, which increases the pace of corrosion, and causes the battery to charge at a higher rate than normal, significantly shortening its useful life.
Often, this means that by the time those cold winter mornings do return, your sun baked battery is on its last legs and that first cold snap is simply the final nail in its coffin.
You’re a Short Distance Driver
If you make a lot of short trips on a regular basis this is another potential battery killer. All of that stopping and starting, then stopping again, and starting again etc. etc. wears your poor battery out, as it rarely gets the seven to eight hours of continuous driving a modern car battery needs to fully charge via the alternator.
The Warning Signs are There
Often, a hard working car battery will try to warn you that it’s in trouble. Any of these signs are probably not good:
You’ve had to jump your battery several times already – No matter the reason, if you have had to jump your battery several times in the last few months you need to get it checked out (at the very least) as this is a good sign that it does not have much of a will to live left in it.
You can smell rotten eggs but your lunch is ham sandwiches… If you get into the car and a rotten egg smell seem to be lingering in the air this may be a sign that your battery is damaged and is beginning to vent gas. This is not something to be ignored, as sulfuric acid may also be leaking and that can do serious damage to other engine parts.
It takes a couple of start attempts to get going – This may be due to a problem with your starter itself, but more often it is a battery issue instead. Either way though this is a vehicle crying out for some professional attention because it’s getting sick.
Your battery gained weight – If you check your battery and it looks swollen or misshapen – like it’s been on a bit of a junk food binge – then that is often a sign that something – usually temperature extremes – has caused the swelling and, unlike humans, there is no way to help it shed the extra weight. In this case there’s no question, it’s time to get a replacement ASAP.
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