Battery maintenance is simple yet important enough to prevent incidents of electrical failures in your car. It can happen that your car starts properly in the morning and then when you try to start it an hour or so later, it refuses to do so. Preventing this from happening, takes but a few steps and a little diligence. Here are some tips you may consider when caring for your car battery.
1. Clean the battery terminals on a regular basis. Of course, this includes the cable clamps that connect the battery to the rest of the car’s electrical system. A light coating of grease on the battery posts helps in preventing the build up of the white stuff around the terminals, which work to lessen the contact between the terminals and the clamps.
2. It is important to check your battery's electrolyte level frequently. The electrolyte level must be maintained above the level of the plates to prevent irreversible damage to the battery. Distilled water will suffice but if that is not available, good drinking water will make a decent stopgap. This is better than adding nothing; the battery plate will dry out when you use the car and the battery will lose capacity.
3. A battery should not be unused for extended periods of time. If this is going to be the case with, say, a project car or because of out-of-town work, use a trickle charger to keep the battery topped up.
4. Before turning off your vehicle, ensure that your accessories like the aircon, headlights, wipers and even your radio are turned off. Having these on, can possibly load up your battery beyond its capacity when you start your car. Also, headlights that are accidentally left on will definitely leave your battery flat in a short time.
5. When you check electrolyte levels, also make sure that your battery is secure. Vibration is one of the causes of battery failure since they can dislodge the plates, stretch the cables and loosen the clamps.
6. Apart from the battery itself, you must also check the electrical wiring and cables, especially in the engine compartment, to ensure that there are no stray strands or damaged insulation that can cause electrical leaks and short circuits.
With true maintenance-free batteries like AGM-type batteries, checking the electrolyte level is not possible. However, the other maintenance checks still hold true, even for these maintenance-free batteries. Note that with vented lead acid-type batteries, venting gas can cause serious injury and even possible explosion. It is best to check the battery in an open environment to ensure that any residual gases will have dissipated.