Batteries 101

Like every good toy, your vehicle needs a battery to make it go. The battery works by producing an electrical current, using a chemical reaction. The battery supplies electrical energy to the engine's ignition system and starter motor.

Proper Battery Maintenance

These days, properly maintained batteries can last a long time, about 5 years, no matter what the manufacturer tells you. An inexpensive battery might get a year or two less, and a higher-quality battery might get a year or two more.

Proper maintenance helps your battery live to a ripe old age. Try:

  • Using a battery lithium grease or or anti-corrosion spray to help prevent corrosion, and a wire brush to remove present corrosion. (See below.)
  • Driving your car for an hour or two, at least every 3 weeks, to bring your battery to a full state of charge (the alternator will charge the battery while your motor is running).

Charging Your Battery

Sometimes, despite our best efforts (or because someone left the headlights on overnight) the battery dies anyway. It doesn't mean you have to immediately purchase a new one. Often, a battery can be recharged and sent on its merry way.

Besides the time-honored jumpstart, you can also have your battery recharged by a mechanic. You can also purchase a battery recharger, which hooks onto your battery and plugs into an electrical outlet.

But when the jumpstarts or rechargings happen all the time, consider getting a new battery. Another clue is that there are cracks or oozing on the top.

Replacing Your Battery

To replace your vehicle's battery, you'll need the following:

  • A new battery that fits your vehicle's requirements. Check your owner's manual for specifications, or look at label on the old battery.
  • Safety equipment, including gloves and goggles.
  • Battery lithium grease.
  • 2 adjustable wrenches.
  • A wire brush.

You might also want to use a PIN memory keeper so you don't lose your car stereo stations, PINs, and powertrain learned adaptives. Otherwise, you'll have to reprogram everything.

  • Park your vehicle in a safe, level, and well-ventilated work environment. As always, don't smoke or allow anyone else to.
  • Locate the battery; it's usually on one side or the other of the engine compartment.
  • The positive terminal is marked with a plus sign, while the negative terminal is marked with a minus sign. If it is of the top post design and you cannot read the markings, the negative is the smaller in diameter of the 2 posts.
  • Put on gloves and goggles even if your father, brother, mother, and uncle never wore them; battery acid hurts.
  • Loosen the clamp with your wrench and disconnect the negative terminal first since it's connected to the car chassis. It also helps prevent a short circuit or sparking.
  • Disconnect the positive terminal.
  • Unscrew or unlatch anything holding the battery in place, and lift the battery out using the attached handle or a very firm grip(the battery will be really heavy). Put the screws, bolts, and latches in a safe place.

Do not throw the old battery away. Keep it upright to prevent it from leaking. Old batteries contain hazardous materials that can't go in a regular landfill. Instead, they can be recycled. Call your local mechanic or automotive store for more information. There should not be a fee for disposal as the old batteries are valuable cores for recycling.

  • Place the new battery in the tray and reattach the stuff that holds it in place.
  • Use the wire brush to brush off any corrosion on the cable terminals.
  • Reconnect the positive terminal first and the negative terminal last.
  • Tighten the clamps with the wrench.
  • Then spray the battery terminals with the lithium grease to help prevent erosion.

Finally, close the hood, remove the memory saver, and start your car. Make sure everything is working accordingly. If all systems are go, congratulations! Pat yourself on the back. If things aren't running quite properly after you change your battery, give your mechanic a call.

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