Whether you’re on the way to work or out doing the shopping, it’s never a good time to have a flat battery. Car battery chargers can help keep your battery running, but if you’re caught without one it can be a struggle to revive a flat car battery to get you home.
The older a battery is the more likely it is to go flat, but even newer batteries can develop issues which will reduce their expected life. That’s why it’s important to keep your battery well charged and always have a backup plan.
Causes of a Flat Battery
Human error is a common cause for a flat battery. If you’ve accidentally left the headlights on or the boot slightly open overnight, you’ll wake up to a flat battery and a car that won’t start. Your car’s internal lights can also stay on when they shouldn’t, draining your battery without your knowledge. Make sure to check the glove box and boot for this common problem.
Cars that draw a large demand from their battery for electrical components such as radios, lights, and power seats may struggle with older batteries, as they naturally hold less charge and will go flat faster.
Extreme temperatures can also interfere with your battery, causing a build-up of lead sulfate crystals and increasing the time needed to recharge. If you don’t drive your car often, storing your battery at a more regulated temperature can help to preserve it.
Tip: If your car won’t start, try turning on the headlights. If they come on with full brightness, it’s a good indicator that your battery isn’t to blame.
Reviving a Dead Battery
There are several methods which you can use to help revive your battery:
- Jumper leads: Using a second battery and a set of jumper cables, a dead battery can be given a ‘jumpstart’ of electrical charge. The jumpstarted battery may not be rechargeable, so make sure to keep your engine going once it starts.
- Remove sulfate: Sulphate build-up can reduce your battery effectiveness over time. The best way to remove soft sulfate build-up is to place it on a slow charge over seven to 10 days. The gradual charging of the battery will help to dissolve the accumulated sulfate and will improve your battery’s ability to hold a charge.
- Distilled water: Adding enough distilled water to submerge the plates in your battery can help to increase the electrolyte level in its solution and enable more of a reaction area. However, some sealed, maintenance-free modern battery types won’t allow this.
- Aspirin and Epsom salts: Adding Epsom salt or crushed aspirin to the distilled water method can help to chemically alter the battery solution and increase its acidity, allowing it to better conduct a current.
These methods are generally intended to be used as a last resort and will not fix serious issues with your battery. If they manage to get your car back on the road, then it’s best to immediately visit a mechanic or auto parts store and have your battery replaced.
Maintaining Your Battery
The best way to lengthen the life of your battery is to keep it regularly charged, as fully discharging and recharging your battery causes wear and tear on it that will significantly reduce its running life.
To avoid the risk of a flat battery when away from home, consider bringing a spare battery with you or investing in a car battery charger. Keeping your battery regularly charged will ensure you’re never caught with a flat battery.
If you aren’t planning to use your car for a long time you can remove its battery and place it on a float charger. Float chargers keep batteries topped up to the correct voltage without overcharging them and so maintain their good condition.
Proper use and maintenance of your battery can help to avoid problems which will reduce your car battery life. With the right preparations in place, you can keep your battery in good working condition for many years before needing a replacement.
This article was written by Daniel Defendi, who writes for Autospark Electrical in Perth, Western Australia. You can catch him on Google+ to discuss this piece.