Car Battery Problems and Solutions

These car battery problems are ones every car owner should know how to address. When dealing with these problems, always make your safety a top priority and take the time to read owner's manuals and instructions as you deal with car battery chargers and accessories.

Corrosion on the Terminals
Some amount of corrosion on battery terminals is normal, especially if you have an older battery or an older car. If you're having trouble starting your car and you see corrosion, it could be a sign of a battery leak, or it could simply be a case of the corrosion interfering with the transfer of power to your vehicle.

If you see corrosion on the battery terminals, it's easy to remove. Start by putting on rubber, latex or solid nylon gloves. The dried material from the battery can cause serious burns if it contacts your skin. Wearing safety goggles is also recommended.

Unplug the negative cable first, then unplug the positive cable. Mix a solution of one tablespoon baking soda and one cup of water. Using a nylon bristle brush, scrub the cables and terminals. Dip the nylon brush into clean water to rinse and scrub the cables and terminals again, using clean water. When the battery case and terminals have dried, use a cotton swab to apply a thin coat of petroleum jelly to the battery terminals. Carefully reattach the cables, first positive, then negative.

Leaky Car Battery
It's important to check your car battery every once in a while for cracks or deformations, especially if you park outside and the temperature has dipped below freezing. Extreme cold can cause your battery to freeze, crack and leak. Look for cracks, bulges and compromises of the battery case. If you see any obvious leaking, cracks or deformation, it's time to get a new battery. Never try to charge a frozen or cracked battery, as the rapid change in temperature can cause it to explode.

Battery Losing Its Charge
The following signs could mean that your battery is losing its charge:

  • Dim headlights
  • Dim dashboard lights
  • Sluggish ignition
  • Weak flow from air conditioner or heater
  • Clock is dim or fails to keep time
  • Radio presets disappear

If you notice these problems when you first start your car, there's a good chance that a weak battery is to blame. If you see these problems while you're driving, it could be a problem with the alternator. In either case, you'll want to get your car serviced immediately. A damaged alternator will quickly drain your battery, leaving you with two parts to replace. A weak battery can fail at any time and is likely to freeze on cold days.

Basic Car Battery Maintenance Suggestions

  • Check the Fluid Level: If you have a maintenance-free battery, you'll simply need to watch the indicator light to see when you need a new battery. If you have a normal battery, use distilled water to fill the battery cells so that the plates are covered. Be careful not to overfill.
  • Make Sure the Battery is Secure: The battery should be securely fastened to the mounting bracket. This prevents the battery from shifting around and getting damaged while you drive.
  • Test the charge regularly. It's a good idea to check the charge on your battery every 50,000 miles, as well as each spring if you live in an area with winter temperatures that fall below zero.
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