Seven Ways You Might Be Hurting Your Car’s Battery

April 19th, 2024 by

A mechanic is shown performing a car battery replacement near Monroe.

It’s been a long week, but you’re finally done with work. Now it’s time to head home, relax a bit, and start to enjoy some well-earned time off. That’s when you get in your car, hit the ignition, and you’re rewarded with… nothing. Absolutely nothing happens. Your car doesn’t even try to start, and all of that relaxation you had planned vanishes in a cloud of stress and panic. This is not anyone’s idea of a good time, but it can easily happen if you discover the hard way that your vehicle has a dead battery.

Before you find yourself looking for an emergency car battery replacement near Monroe, it’s a good idea to know what you can do to avoid this situation. There are things you might be doing every day that you don’t even realize are harming your car’s battery, causing it to drain faster, or moving it toward that disastrous moment we just looked at.

Fortunately, there are also some things you can do to help avoid shortening the lifespan of your vehicle, and some that could maybe even prolong its life so you go longer before it’s time for your next battery. You should be able to get a good three to five years from your vehicle’s battery, but only if you take good care of it, so let’s see what you might be doing that’s hurting your battery and what you should do instead.

#1) Exposing Your Car Battery to Extreme Temperatures

While you can’t entirely avoid some extreme temperatures under the hood (primarily being heat from your engine), you can minimize things. Extreme heat is generally worse for your car’s battery than the cold, which we don’t have to deal with too much here in the Cincinnati area. But cold can still shorten the lifespan of your battery over time.

The solution is to park your vehicle in a garage or similar space whenever possible so that it’s protected against high heat and cold temperatures. If we have a particularly cold winter, then a battery heater is not a bad idea, though that’s typically a resolution reserved for Alaska or parts of Canada rather than around here.

#2) Taking Too Many Short Trips

Your car’s battery is used primarily to start your vehicle, as it provides the initial surge of power to get things going before the alternator takes over. The alternator uses mechanical energy from the engine—transferred through belts—to create electrical energy that’s used to power various features and electrical systems in your vehicle. The alternator also recharges your car’s battery after it starts your vehicle, which keeps it ready to start you up next time.

This recharging process takes some time, however, so if you’re making a lot of short trips, then you’re using your battery repeatedly to start your vehicle without giving it enough time to recharge. It’s generally better to take longer trips whenever possible; if you have a day of running errands with a lot of quick trips, then it’s a good idea to end it with one longer drive that lets your battery fully recharge.

A mechanic is shown holding a car battery in winter.

#3) Leaving Your Car Unused for Too Long

Your car’s battery uses a chemical reaction to create energy; this is why it can potentially leak acid or other dangerous chemicals from inside it. Eventually, these chemicals stop creating the reaction needed for energy, which is why you’ll have to replace the battery at a certain point.

If your car’s battery is left alone too long and not used, it will naturally lose charge, which can negatively affect these chemicals and shorten its lifespan. So, if you’re going to be away for more than a week, it’s a good idea to have someone you trust turn on your vehicle and run it a bit (maybe even go for a drive) to keep the battery in shape.

#4) Using Power While the Engine Is Off

As we said, your battery gets your engine going, and after that, the alternator provides power to the other systems in your vehicle. That’s all well and good, but what about if you turn the stereo or lights on when your engine isn’t running? Put simply, without the engine running, your alternator can’t generate electrical energy, so your battery is doing all the work.

This is one of the quickest ways to drain your battery and find yourself in need of a jump start when you want to get going. Make sure you don’t run your A/C, listen to music, or have your lights on for an extended period of time when your engine isn’t running. If you need to sit in place and use something with power, it’s a good idea to start the engine first—just make sure you’re not inside a garage or other enclosed place to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

#5) Letting Your Battery Shake and Rattle

Like many other parts of your vehicle, your battery is a complex component that needs to be seated properly. One thing that can shorten the lifespan of your battery that you might not expect is excess rattling or shaking. Your battery should be bolted securely in place to avoid this, but over time, it can come loose—and excess shaking can damage your battery or cause parts to wear out faster.

An occasional inspection under the hood to make sure your battery is secure and not rattling too much is a great idea. Also, if you hear something shaking, vibrating, or rattling under your hood, then bring your vehicle to us, and we’ll find the culprit.

A corroded battery terminal is shown.

#6) Not Cleaning Your Battery Terminals

Over time, it’s not unusual for corrosion and dirt to build up on the terminals of your car battery where the cables from your vehicle connect to it. When left to build up, this corrosion and dirt can reduce how well your battery performs and even cause problems with starting your engine.

Cleaning these terminals is quite easy: safely disconnect the cables, mix a little water and baking soda together, and then use a toothbrush or small cleaning brush with this mixture to scrub the terminals. It’ll take a bit of effort and time, but it’s a simple way to keep your battery in great shape. Just rinse the terminals off after with some water and dry them—and remember not to use that toothbrush for anything else!

#7) Leaving Things On When Your Car Is Off

One of the subtlest ways you could be adding extra wear to your car battery is with excess draw when you start your car. Your battery sends power to your engine to get it going, but it also sends power to any other accessories and electrical systems that are running when your vehicle first starts.

Before your alternator kicks in, these immediately-active features can ask too much of your battery. This is why it’s a good idea to turn off your music, climate controls, lights, and anything else before you shut off your vehicle when you reach your destination. It reduces the draw on your battery when you first start back up, thus helping extend its lifespan.

Get the Most From Your Vehicle’s Battery

As you can see, there are a lot of little things that can negatively impact how long your car’s battery lasts—and while some can have a fairly small effect, they can quickly add up. That’s why it’s important you’re mindful of the things you’re doing with your vehicle. With a little care and caution, it’ll be easy to keep your battery in great shape for much longer.

When the time comes that you do need a new battery, however, you can count on us here at McCluskey Chevrolet to get you set up with the right replacement that’s perfect for your vehicle.