Most car drivers rarely actually see their car battery. In most cases, the only time they bother to look at it is when something goes wrong. However, your car's battery is one of the most important components under the hood.

Battery basics

The car battery is used to start the vehicle's engine. A chemical reaction inside the battery creates an electrical charge, which then starts the car's motor. The battery is also used to activate other electrical components in the car, such as the headlights. Car owners know when the battery has failed, because the car will not start.

As your Rodland Toyota of Everett auto technician will tell you, maintaining the car battery ensures that it will run at optimum effectiveness and will last as long as possible. Car batteries are generally designed to last for at least five years, but without good care, this lifespan may be shortened, leading to unwanted expense and the potential for inconvenient mornings without a car.

Follow recommended maintenance guidelines

Regular inspection of your car battery is an essential part of your routine auto maintenance schedule. You shouldn't always wait for a routine service, though, as early detection of problems can reduce the risk of having to replace the battery. Look for cracks in the plastic casing or wear and tear to the battery connections. Ensure that the tie straps are tightly secured. Vibration from the car engine can lead to damage to the battery if it is too loose.

You should also aim to clean your battery once a month. Dirt and debris from the road can build up and prevent strong connections. Use a small, stiff brush to clean the battery. Do not use any type of cleaner when working on engine parts. You can remove corrosion from the terminals (the pins on top of the battery) by dipping a toothbrush into some flat Coca Cola (or water and baking soda) and scrubbing firmly with the bristles. Corrosion can prevent the battery from operating effectively. After cleaning, dab a little petroleum jelly on the connections to prevent further corrosion build-up. Clean the battery cables with a small, dry brush too.

Ensure that the battery cell has the right amount of water inside it. You can normally see this through a little indicator on the side of the battery. Your local service department should be able to supply you with a special tool for filling this up. Never use anything made of metal to fill up your battery cell!

Go to the experts

If you do need to replace the battery for your vehicle, always use authorized parts from Rodland Toyota of Everett. The wrong-sized battery may not be powerful enough for your car and will be drained more quickly. Your service department will advise you on the right battery for your car make and model. Never jump start a cold battery. Always allow it to warm up in the sun for at least thirty minutes, or you can damage both the battery and the engine.

Recharging your battery after use can also extend its life. You can purchase electric battery chargers, which automatically charge the battery to the optimum level, without over or under charging. Always use the right charger that matches the size of your battery. Lots of short trips in the car can also quickly reduce the life of your battery. Try and reduce car usage for short trips, where condensation in the exhaust causes water accumulation in the muffler.

Nobody wants to drive a car that won't start in the morning, but you cannot expect your car to be completely reliable if you never look after it. Follow these basic tips from the Rodland Toyota of Everett service department to maintain and extend the life of your car battery and avoid those nightmare cold mornings when your car just doesn't want to start.