The last thing you need is a car that won’t start because the battery is dead. You can avoid that expensive service or tow charge (and the worry of being stranded!) by carrying out a 10-minute seasonal battery check along with a few maintenance tips.
In addition to a set of wrenches, you’ll only need a post cleaner or side terminal ($4), a hydrometer ($6) and a cable puller ($4), all available at auto parts stores. Keep in mind that you can skip the battery service if you make sure the mechanic does it during periodic servicing, but you’ll want to keep up with the regular maintenance.
Telltale Signs of a Low or Failing Battery
- Your headlights look dim at idle and then brighten when you rev the engine.
- The starter turns slowly, barely starting the car. But you may have alternator wiring problems that prevent the battery from fully charging. If that’s the case, schedule a service appointment. Check your fan belt. If it’s loose, frayed, cracked or glazed, have it serviced or replaced.
A low battery can also be caused by:
- Frequent short trips.
- Too many accessories left on or added.
- Look for a purchase date chart on the battery (it may be handwritten). The battery case will also have a decal stating its expected life, such as 60 or 84 months. If it’s near the end of this expected service life, replace it.