Basic Auto Battery Maintenance and the Tools to Make It Happen

Caring for and replacing a vehicle battery is one of the easiest tasks a DIYer can perform under the hood. It's also one of the most important. A little maintenance, which includes cleaning car battery terminals, will extend battery life while preventing the frustration and added costs that come with being stranded unexpectedly by a dead car battery.

Autocraft battery

Test your battery

As car batteries age, they build up high, internal electrical resistance that makes recharging more difficult. The vehicle's alternator is then forced to run longer and work harder, which in turn reduces vehicle performance and gas mileage. When your old battery finally quits, it probably won’t happen in a convenient place or at just the right time. Instead, the unplanned failure will result in the additional expenses of an emergency roadside assistance for a jump or tow and labor costs to replace the car battery. In the end, trying to squeeze the last trickle of life out of your old car battery won't save you money; it'll cost you. The best way to know whether your battery needs to be replaced? Get it tested.

Replace your battery

Contrary to popular belief, the number one killer of batteries isn't cold but heat. Under-hood temperatures can approach 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Over time, that excessive heat sucks the life out of a battery. Meanwhile, today's vehicles are jam-packed with accessories that draw power and cause a deep discharge. Combine the long-term effects of repeated deep discharging, longer charging times, and higher under-hood temperatures, and it’s no surprise that you end up with a dead battery. Car batteries last about three to five years. So, if you're approaching the high end of that range, it's time to look into replacing your battery

Battery maintenance tools and products

In addition to testing and replacing your battery on a regular schedule, the right tools will help maintain a car battery and prolong its life. Here are the tools and products we'd recommend you buy or borrow to keep your battery in good working condition.

 

Battery Cleaner Spray

Battery cleaner spray

If you're wondering why do car battery terminals corrode, it's because batteries leak acid as they age, and that acid can corrode your battery cables and terminals, appearing as a white powder. As for how to clean the corrosion off of a car battery, use Battery Cleaner spray. To get started cleaning car battery terminals, spray the top of your battery with the cleaner spray. The yellow foam turns pink when it contacts battery acid. Wait for it to neutralize the acid, and wipe it off with paper towels.

 

Battery Cleaning Brush

Battery terminal brush

Keeping battery cables clean is key to maintaining the best starting and charging performance. Once you’ve cleaned the top of the battery, remove each battery cable (disconnect the negative cable first and install it last). Then use this combo-wire brush to clean the terminal posts and the inside of the battery cable clamps. Then reassemble the battery cables and spray them with battery terminal protectant spray to prevent corrosion.

 

Battery Terminal Protectant Spray

Battery terminal protectant

Now that you know how to clean the corrosion off of a car battery by neutralizing the battery acid and wire-brushing the terminals and cables, spray all the connections with CRC Battery Terminal Protectant. The spray prevents future corrosion—ending the age-old question of why do car battery terminals corrode—and ensures the best electrical connection.

 

Battery Hold-Down Brackets

Universal bracket

A loose battery is a dead battery because vibration contributes to early battery failure. To prevent your car battery from shaking itself to death, replace broken and corroded battery base clamps and hold-down brackets. They’re inexpensive, easy to install and provide some added peace of mind.

Pro Tip

When installing a new battery, be sure to note in your vehicle maintenance records the month and year the new battery was installed so you'll know when it's due to be replaced.

 

Battery Cables, Terminal Clamps, and a Side Terminal Wrench

Battery terminals

Corroded battery cables and terminal clamps can reduce the voltage going to the starter, and that can cause premature starter failure. So replace your battery terminal clamps at the first sign of corrosion. If you see green corrosion working its way into the copper cable, replace the entire cable.

If your battery has side terminals, you may not have enough clearance to use an ordinary ratchet and socket. Pick up this special, side terminal ratcheting wrench and remove the battery cables in a flash.

Car Battery Maintainer

Battery maintainer

Batteries lose their charge when they sit. And that long-term discharge can permanently damage the internal plates. Don’t connect a car battery charger and leave it on full time. It’ll overcharge the battery. Instead, buy a different type of car battery charger called a battery maintainer. The maintainer tests the battery at regular intervals, charges it when needed and sits idle the rest of the time. That’s better for the battery than a traditional car battery trickle charger that never shuts down.

Staying on top of your car battery replacement is fairly quick and painless, and in the long run, will save you time and money. Advance Auto Parts will test your car battery free of charge. If you do need a new car battery, we'll install it for free with the purchase of a new one and recycle your old battery.*

*Car battery installation available on most automotive vehicles, at most locations, unless prohibited by law. Always consult your owner’s manual first. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure warranties are not voided

Do you have tips for how to keep your battery going strong? Let us know in the comments.

Last updated July 11, 2017

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