are responsible for how long they can support our vehicle. To extend their
lifespan, we need to properly maintain them. Maintenance free batteries are
slowly taking over lead-acid batteries but it is important to understand that
the basic principle remains the same. We will discuss all the important aspects
of a battery in this article.
How does a battery work?
Lead acid car batteries are energystoring devices made up of lead and lead dioxide plates. These plates are
submerged into an electrolyte solution. The percentage of water is 65% and
sulphuric acid contributes 35% to this solution. When the battery is used to
start the car, it gets discharged. The sulphuric acid in the electrolyte
solution gets depleted leaving a higher proportion of water. The sulfate is
returned to the acid during the charging process. The battery provides high
current required by the starter motor to crank the engine of the car. Once the
engine is started, the battery is again recharged by the engine drivencharging system. In this process, the alternator takes necessary energy from
the rotation of engine through a belt to charge up the battery. When the engine
is running, the alternator generates electricity for the electrical equipment
of the car.
What makes a battery weak?
When the car is exposed to directsunlight in summers for longer periods of time, it accelerates the process of
corrosion and evaporates the electrolyte. This reduces the life of a battery
making it weaker. So, avoid getting your car heated by sunlight by parking in a
A battery must be fitted properly toavoid any sort of vibrations. These vibrations over the time shake the plates
around which in turn make the internal connections lose. As a result, the
battery would not get properly charged.
Once you start the car, make sure todrive it for enough time for the battery to get recharged again. The alternatortakes time to recharge the battery after it has released its energy while
starting the engine. Otherwise, the battery will stay undercharged which is not
sufficient to provide high current to the starting motor.
Keeping the headlights or music systemon while the engine is shut down drains the battery over the time. Avoid
plugging in a charger for a longer period of times to prevent the battery from
Corrosion on battery terminals is asharmful to the battery as anything else. Always clean the battery terminals
carefully once or twice in a month. Make sure to wear gloves and eye
protection. The white powder on terminals is toxic and should not be allowed to
come in contact with the skin.
Signs that indicate battery replacement:
There are a couple of signs that mayindicate your battery is getting weak and needs a replacement.
· The bright headlights of the car become slightly dim whenthe engine is turned off.
· The starter motor turns slowly when you start the car dueto the low current provided by the battery.
There are a few visual signs thatindicate the battery needs a replacement.
· An internal short circuit or overcharging leads to aswollen battery. If you see signs of bulging anywhere around the battery,
· Examine the battery case carefully for any damage to thebattery case.
How to start an engine with a weakbattery?
It is not recommended to use a weakbattery. However, in an emergency case, jumper cables can be used when you are
stuck during your trip along the roadside. Always keep a set of jumper cables
in your car if you think the battery is not in a supreme condition. Jumper
cables let you jump start your vehicle with the help of another car. Although
it is a very simple technique but safety measures must be taken to avoid any
danger. Following steps will guide you to jump-start the vehicle:
· Make sure both batteries have the same voltage ratingi.e. 12 V
· Turn off the ignition switch after parking it closeenough to the other car in neutral position.
· Never jump a frozen battery. It can easily explode.
· Wear rubber gloves and safety glasses.
· Carefully identify and connect the positive terminals ofboth batteries to each other.
· Make sure the other end does not touch car's body toavoid any dangerous spark.
· Clamp the negative cable to the negative terminal of thegood battery.
· Connect the other end of the negative cable to a metalpart of the car with a weak battery.
· Finally the start the car with the goodbattery.
· Give it 5-7 minutes to charge the weak battery.
· Now start the ignition of the car with a weak battery.
· Carefully remove the cables in reverse order. Remove thenegative cables first followed by removing the positive cable from the car with
the good battery. In the end, remove the positive cable from the car with a
How to check battery's health?
For proper maintenance of battery, schedule once a month to check thestatus of the battery. Nowadays there are tools that can help measure the
present condition of the battery. Following are the most commonly used tools
for this purpose:
Battery load tester:
Battery load tester is used to check thevoltage rating of the running battery. It has a display meter with voltage
readings up to 16V along with the battery health indicator. It has positive and
negative probes. Inside, there is a high current capacity coil which provides
the necessary load with a toggle switch. Battery voltage can be tested easily
by following these steps:
· Turn off the car engine.
· Connect the positive probe of load tester with thepositive terminal of the battery.
· Similarly, connect the negative probe with the negativeterminal.
· Make sure both probes are properly connected with thebattery terminals.
· The meter will show a voltage reading in accordance withthe health of the battery.
· Now, turn on the load toggle switch for 05-07 seconds tomeasure the battery voltage on load.
· A healthy battery ideally shows 12.5 volts.
· If the meter needle deflects anywhere near the"weak" indication, immediately replace the battery.
· Safely remove the probes in reverse order.
The hydrometer is another tool tomeasure the battery health. It measures the specific gravity of electrolyte but
can only be used on batteries with removable caps. Hydrometers usually have a
built-in thermometer. Follow these easy steps to measure the remaining battery
· Start with removing caps from the top of the battery.
· Dip the tip of the hydrometer in the first cell of thebattery.
· Squeeze and release it from behind to let the electrolyteenter into the cylinder of the hydrometer.
· Read the specific gravity of electrolyte as indicated.
· Note the reading for all cells one by one.
· Make a comparison of readings with those one given onhydrometer.
· Usually, readings between 1.265 and 1.299 indicatetowards a charged battery. Any reading under this bracket show signs of a weak
· Another method to examine battery health is to use amultimeter. This process is similar to the one we used for the battery load
How to replace a battery?
A car battery can be easily replaced athome without any complication by following these simple steps:
Removing the old battery:
· Start with removing negative terminal of battery usually marked as black or with (-)symbol to avoid any arcing with the wrench.
· Disconnect the positive terminal usually marked as red orwith (+) symbol.
· Remove the "hold down clamp" of battery
· Batteries are heavy in weight so lift it up carefully.
· Clean the battery tray if it is corroded.
Connecting new battery:
· Carefully lift in the new battery in its position.
· Properly connect the "hold down clamp" first.
· Connect the battery terminals in reverse order by connectingthe positive terminal first.
· Connect the negative terminal of the battery.
· Make sure the connections are not loose.
· Battery must be fixed properly to avoid any vibrations.
· Terminals must be in a clean condition.
· Add some petroleum jelly on both terminals as it reducesthe process of corrosion.
The old battery can be sold to a batteryshop from where you have purchased the new one. These car batteries are also
recycled to prevent dangerous chemicals from getting into the atmosphere. Old
lead plates can also be recycled into various other products.
How to maintain your battery?
To extend the battery life, it should bewell maintained. Schedule the maintenance of battery every month. It includes
following few things:
Cleaning battery and its terminals:
Cleaning of a battery involves removingthe corrosion or any white powder from the terminals and the surface of the
battery. For this purpose, use warm water and add a tablespoon of baking soda
to it. Carefully remove the battery (as mentioned in replacement section) Make sure theremovable caps are properly tight. Always use rubber gloves because the white
powder is toxic and should not be allowed to come in contact with the skin.
Thoroughly apply the solution over the battery case. Clean the terminals
properly. Use a brush to reach narrow spaces. Let the solution for a couple of
minutes and then wash it with cold water. The terminals will be corrosion free
after this practice. Install the battery back to its position with care.
Inspection of Electrolyte level:
Electrolyte level inside a battery canbe examined visually by removing the caps on top of the battery. The lead
plates must be dipped properly into the electrolyte solution. If you see a
decreased level of electrolyte in any of the cells, add some water into it. Let
the solution get mixed properly.
Using a battery charger/maintainer:
If your car is idle for a long period,use a battery charger to keep the battery properly charged. Batteries soon
become dead if you don't charge them. A battery charger can be of great help to
keep the desired voltage output from the battery. Usually, it comes in
different modes as per requirement i.e. charging, boost charging and
maintainer. It can also be used to maintain battery voltage. Carefully plug in
the charger into a socket. Connect the positive cable with the positive
terminal of the battery and negative cable to the negative terminal. Turn on
the switch and let the battery charge properly.
Always inspect the battery before leaving on a trip. Overlookingthe condition of battery might bring you trouble in the middle of nowhere. A
10-15 minutes inspection might help you save a lot of time during your journey.
If you know any other important aspect related to batteries, do mention in the
comments section below.
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