A properly maintained car battery is crucial to ensure optimum performance. Inspections on a regular basis (e.g. once a month) is highly recommended, as doing so will help to maximize and prolong your car battery life.
To prevent the inconvenience of a roadside breakdown, it is advisable to have a car battery replacement at periodic intervals instead of waiting till it is completely dead.
• Regular Inspection of your Car Battery
Consider these points when examining your car battery:
i. Ensure that the top of the battery case is clean and dry, and free of dirt and dust. A dirty battery can discharge unintentionally across the dirt and dust on the top of the battery case.
ii. Examine the battery terminals, screws, clamps and cables for damage or loose connections. At all times, these should be clean, tight and free of corrosion or sulfation build-up.
iii. Check the battery case for obvious signs of physical damage or swelling. This usually indicates the battery has overheated or has been overcharged.
• Battery Terminal Corrosion and Sulfation
Formaintenance-free batteries, corrosion happens when electrolyte (diluted sulphuric acid) makes its way out to battery terminals through any leaks or joints over time.
Overcharging can also result in excess heat which increases the volume of electrolyte filled inside the car battery. The electrolyte will then overflow through leaks and loose joints. If the electrolyte comes into contact with the the copper battery clamps or ringed copper terminals with electricity flow, they react and form hydrated copper sulphate, a blue-ish powder.
To eliminate the corrosive materials, you can use a DIY baking soda mix (3tbs baking soda & 1 tabs warm water), and scrub the terminals clean using an old toothbrush. Wipe them dry and apply a bit of petroleum jelly around each terminal to deter future corrosive build-up.
Sulfation occurs when the sulphur molecules in the electrolyte becomes so deeply discharged that they begin tocrystalise and coat over the battery's lead plated terminals. Over time, the terminals become so thickly-coated with lead sulphate crystals that the battery loses efficiency and dies.
Most car battery failures are related to sulfation build-up. The causes of sulfation are numerous, and include not using the car/battery on a regular basis and excessive battery drain from in-car computer systems and gadgets.
Initial signs are slower cranking, reduced battery storage capacity and inability to reach full charge voltage (12v). Crystal formations are easy to break down and be absorbed back into the electrolyte. However, if left unchecked, they will begin to harden and stick to the terminals. Eventually, the battery will be rendered non-chargeable and dead.
To counter desulfation, the best solution is to drive your vehicle on a regular basis. Even if you don't need to drive much, at least take the vehicle for a spin once or twice per week.
Alternatively, you can connect battery desulfators/restorers, such as the Lotus Life Pulsar Car Battery Desulfator to your car batteries. These devices generate an electrical pulse to shatter and remove the sulfate crystals, slowing down the rate of sulphate crystallization and preventing damage to the battery terminals. In this way, the service life and performance of the battery is extended and maximized.
• In-Car Electronic Gadgets and Accessories
With the popularity of in-car electronic gadgets and accessories such as GPS devices, digital video recorders and in-car phone chargers, this often puts unnecessary strain on the car battery.
If you have multiple gadgets or similar items installed in your vehicle, it is highly recommended to power them using a separate power source, use a constant power cable or turn them off before turning off the engine.
This avoids 24-hr continuous discharge of the car battery, of which most battery warranties do not cover.