Batteries are an essential part of a vehicle and should not be overlooked. Without a healthy battery, the car stands still. We 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 energy storing 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 driven charging 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 direct sunlight 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 suitable shade.
A battery must be fitted properly to avoid 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 to drive it for enough time for the battery to get recharged again. The alternator takes 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 system on 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 discharging.
Corrosion on battery terminals is as harmful 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 may indicate your battery is getting weak and needs a replacement.
- The bright headlights of the car become slightly dim when the engine is turned off.
- The starter motor turns slowly when you start the car due to the low current provided by the battery.
There are a few visual signs that indicate the battery needs a replacement.
- An internal short circuit or overcharging leads to a swollen battery. If you see signs of bulging anywhere around the battery, replace it.
- Examine the battery case carefully for any damage to the battery case.
How to start an engine with a weak battery?
It is not recommended to use a weak battery. 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 rating i.e. 12 V
- Turn off the ignition switch after parking it close enough 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 of both batteries to each other.
- Make sure the other end does not touch car’s body to avoid any dangerous spark.
- Clamp the negative cable to the negative terminal of the good battery.
- Connect the other end of the negative cable to a metal part of the car with a weak battery.
- Finally the start the car with the good battery.
- 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 the negative 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 weak battery.