When it comes to road trips, errands around town and the drive to and from work, a reliable car battery is imperative. Here are some tips for a healthier and better-performing car battery.
Electricity is the stuff of life. Even those with a passing understanding of electricity intuitively use words like "live" and "dead" for describing electrical circuits and components. And car batteries are like living things: they use chemistry and electricity to maintain a constant and delicate internal balance, they prefer certain weather conditions and they have a finite lifespan that depends largely on how you treat them.Battery Temperature
Both very hot and very cold temperatures will negatively affect battery performance; all batteries work best and live longest at about 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
Intense heat and overcharging are the two primary culprits for shortened battery life. If a battery gets hot because of overcharging or bad storage, it will lose power. The heat can also cause battery fluid to evaporate. Conversely, if it gets too cold, the acid may not conduct electricity. Both temperature conditions may result in the battery not functioning properly.How You Drain a Battery
Modern cars use a tremendous amount of electrical power. The engine's actuators, sensors and ignition system, powerful projector headlights, electric fans, the fuel pump, electric power steering, entertainment systems and heated seats all drain electrical energy. The more you use these electrical accessories, the harder it is for your battery to maintain a full charge. That's especially true if you have a short daily commute or sit in stop-and-go traffic a lot; these conditions might not give the alternator a chance to fully recharge the battery before you turn the engine off.Jump-starting the batteryCaution:
Jump-starting a car can be dangerous if done incorrectly. Before attempting to jump-start your vehicle, refer to your owner's manual and carefully follow its instructions. Do not perform this procedure if you do not feel comfortable doing so — contact a professional. If you have Liberty Mutual's 24-Hour Roadside Assistance
, you can call 1-800-426-9898.
Most batteries are easily accessible from under the hood, but some cars have their batteries buried deep in the engine compartment or in the trunk. Such cars generally have remote terminals located under the hood for easy jump-starting; check your owner's manual for the location of the remote terminals if they're not immediately visible.
To jump-start your car, you'll need a second vehicle with a working battery. Start by unplugging all electrical accessories, like phones, MP3 players and navigation systems, from both cars. Jump-starting can send power surges through the accessory system and fry those delicate components. Make sure the cars are parked close but not touching, the engines of both cars are shut off, and all the doors are closed (so even the interior lights are off).
When attaching the cables, you must follow this sequence exactly: Connect one end of the first cable to the positive terminal on the donor car, and then connect the other end of the same cable to the positive terminal on the dead car. Route the cables so they won't interfere with moving parts when the engines start. Next, connect one end of the other cable to the negative battery terminal on the donor car. Then connect the other end of the same cable to the engine block or frame of the car with the dead battery. Never connect the cable to the negative battery terminal on the dead car
, because batteries give off explosive hydrogen gas. Since the last connection is the only one that might create a spark, you want it at a distance from the battery. That's why you must follow the sequence exactly.
Start the donor car and briefly bring rpm up to 2,500 to energize the alternator. Wait about 30 seconds and try to start the dead car. If it doesn't start, wait a few seconds and try again. Once both cars are running, disconnect the cables in the exact reverse order that you installed them. Be careful not to touch cable ends together.
If your cable connections are correct and your car doesn't start, and you have Liberty Mutual's 24-Hour Roadside Assistance, you can call 1-800-426-9898. To check if 24-Hour Roadside Assistance is part of your policy, or to add this optional coverage before you have a problem, call customer service at 1-888-398-8924.