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How to keep a battery in good working condition

Summer heat is hard on car batteries, and winter weather is even worse. Learn how to routinely test your car battery to ensure it remains in good working order all year round. Plus, keep your battery terminals free of corrosion and battery cables secure.

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Video Transcript

Car batteries are one of those things that are pretty easy to forget about once you close the hood of your car. What were you talking about? Ah yes, car batteries. See how easy that was? Now although never having to think about your battery is a good thing, there are a few important maintenance steps that you should remember.

Now we love batteries, but even we don't expect you to think of them every day, but you should be testing your battery about twice a year, or every three to five thousand miles.

The easiest way to think about this is check your battery every time you take your car in for oil changes or tire rotations.

Now, if you live in a really hot or really cold place, always get a battery test before the summer and winter months.

The simplest thing you can do is to take your car into your nearest auto shop. Getting your battery tested is often free, or you can watch this video on how to test your battery.

Why should you test your battery? Well, let's put it this way: the one time you're sure to not forget about your battery just happens to be the moment when you realize you're stranded because of a dead one.

Now let's talk about testing with the multimeter. We do this to determine the voltage of the battery, you know, to see if it has a charge or if it's just dead. These tests are very helpful, but they don't tell you about the full health of the battery. You can always visit an Interstate Battery pro to perform a deeper diagnostic test that can tell if your battery needs to be recharged, replaced, or if there may be another system to evaluate like an alternator.

So, since batteries are now top of mind, you're probably thinking how do I know what battery is right for my car? Well, as always, a good place to start is by referring to your car owner manual. There's a part number on the top or the front of the battery. This group size number helps you narrow down your options when looking for a new battery. And did you know you can find your exact battery on our site? All you need to do is fill in your car's make, model and year.

Simple! Just click here to visit our battery finder.

Now this is important: if you put a flooded battery in your car when your car really needs an AGM or vice versa, you're going to need to make sure that the charging system will work with the vehicle. Again, check your manual.

You'll know if your battery and charging system are inconsistent in a matter of a few days. It starts when your dashboard won't light up for some reason, or you start getting an error message or a check engine light that's referring you to the battery voltage.

That's weird ... my dashboard won't light up. This could mean that your car's computers and systems may be damaged.

Next step is fun, fun, fun paying for all those replacements. And that can be expensive.

So, what else do you need to know about your battery? Well, don't laugh, you're going to want to know where your battery is located in your car. Not all cars or trucks are alike.

Most commonly you'll find it under the hood, but it can also be in the trunk, under the passenger seat, even in the fender well. Still in doubt? Remember that you can always check the manual.

Now that you've found your battery, you're going to want to check for signs of wear and tear, but first a few words about handling a car battery. Gloves, eye protection and closed toe shoes are some of the safety precautions to take when working around batteries.

The most common sign of  wear and tear is corrosion. Corrosion is when the sulfuric acid from the battery leaks and builds up on the battery terminal. It will look green and crusty, like, uh, corrosion. Corrosion can cause a decrease in your battery's performance, but it can also affect the car's electrical system as a whole, so you're going to want to clean it. First, detach your cable's negative cable first. This is the black one. Then detach the red, positive cable. You don't have to take your battery out, but you can.

Now, take an old toothbrush, doesn't really have to be old, but you're not using this brush on your teeth again, so old is good. Now, create a cleaning solution by combining one part baking soda, start with just a teaspoon and mix with five parts water. Combine until you have a paste. This is your last chance to use this toothbrush on your teeth, because it's about to get real corrosive.

Scrub the terminals with the paste on the brush. Next, rinse off with water. Finally, make sure you dry everything off before reattaching cables. Start by attaching the positive, red cable and then the negative cable. So, if you notice cracks in the battery casing and wetness at the terminal, or even bubbling liquid, your battery may be leaking. If this is the case, take your car with the battery still in it to a mechanic.

When the time comes to part ways with your battery, there is a sustainable way to do it. At Interstate Batteries, we call it the Green Standard. Truth is, at Interstate we recycle more batteries than we sell. In some states, there are laws that prohibit rechargeable batteries from being placed in the trash, so please be sure to check your recycling laws based on your location. To recycle car batteries, be sure to take in your old core battery so it can be replaced by a new one, or you'll likely get charged a fee. We also hope you recycle other types of batteries besides the ones in your car.

Some of the most common rechargeable battery chemistries include lithium, alkaline and other non-rechargeable, single-use batteries can be recycled, but there may be a charge to recycle them. Since alkaline batteries are no longer made with mercury, they are safe to dispose of in landfills in all US states, except California. In fact, alkaline battery recycling is strongly encouraged in Vermont. Way to go, Vermont! But before you head out to your nearest landfill, check with your local city on options for recycling.

Now you know all you need to know about battery maintenance, that is. If you have any other questions about batteries that aren't in this video, worry not. You can always come to one of the 150,000 Interstate pros who are just around the corner. Find one now!

Liked our video? Give it a like and subscribe to our channel for other videos like "How to Change Your Battery" or "How to Jump-Start Your Car."

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