online resource for auto, truck or motorcycle insurance.
f you’re like me, you might think that your
car runs on gasoline, but without electricity your car isn’t going
provides the power to crank the engine and the spark to fire the
cylinders. From the
computer controls to the light that comes on when you open the door,
it’s all run by electricity.
The battery is the initial source for all of
the electricity in your car. In most cars, it's a 12-volt, wet-cell
battery that creates electricity through an electrochemical reaction
caused by immersing a series of dissimilar metal plates in an acid
solution. The result is a transfer of electrons, which is another
way of describing electrical current flow.
Some manufacturers have begun experimenting
with dry-cell battery configurations. Over the next few years, auto
manufacturers will introduce 42-volt electrical systems. In general,
the processes and procedures for maintaining those systems will be
similar to the 12-volt, wet-cell battery.
To keep your car firing on all cylinders, it's
important to have a good working electrical system, and that begins
with maintaining the battery. In general, a good working system
involves three things: keeping the battery filled, charged and
Maintaining the battery is easier today than
ever before, because in most cases, today's batteries do not need
water added under normal driving conditions or the batteries are
sealed. They still have acid in them, but you can't add to it even
if you wanted to. If your car's battery does have removable caps,
you should check the level about once every three weeks or so to
make sure it's full. Here's
Make sure the engine's off.
Open the hood.
Remove the battery caps. (Do not force the cap off; it
may appear to be removable but is not.)
Look inside each battery cell. See the little
ring, near the bottom of the opening? That's the "Full"
line. The battery should be filled to one-quarter of an inch below
the bottom of the opening. If the water level is low, add a little
distilled water to bring it up to the proper level. Then replace the
caps. (Be sure to wear eye protection and be careful when you do
this.) If you're adding water to a battery when the outside
temperature is below freezing, ensure that the battery is charged
immediately after the water is added.
Remember: Most of the time you won't have
removable caps to fill the battery. Some batteries have a small
"eye" that indicates whether the battery is full or not.
In most cases, the eye should be green when the battery is full and
charged. Some imports use yellow to indicate that it's full. If the
battery eye turns black, it means the battery either is too low or
it has become discharged. Take your car into the shop to have the
battery charged and tested.
Next, check the battery itself. Is it clean or
covered in grease and dirt? Believe it or not, grease on the battery case actually can
discharge the battery. If the battery is dirty or greasy, clean it
with a mild detergent and a damp cloth. Be careful: Batteries
contain sulfuric acid. If you get any on your skin, always flush it
off immediately with a solution of cold water and baking soda to
prevent acid burns. And always wash your hands with soap and water
after handling the battery.
Finally, look at the battery terminal ends.
Those are the cable ends that connect the battery cables
to the battery terminals. The terminal ends should be clean and free
of any signs of corrosion.
a New Battery
come in different types, sizes and price ranges.
Whether you buy it yourself or get it through your
repair shop, it's important to know how to identify the
differences and how to choose the one that's right for your car.
Warranty — Most decent
batteries last three to four years, regardless of warranty length.
Very often manufacturers offer longer warranties at higher prices
just to hook you on their batteries. If you get rid of the car
before the warranty expires, they win. If the battery fails while
still in warranty, you take it back and they prorate your refund
from the cost of a new battery.
Size — Don't
be fooled by the size of today's batteries. New technology has
enabled battery manufacturers to develop much smaller batteries that
provide | just as much power as the older, larger ones did. When
choosing a battery, there should be only three size considerations:
1. Does it fit properly in the battery
2. Is the battery
short enough for the hood to close without causing a problem?
3. Are the
terminals on the proper sides, so the cables will reach?
As long as the answer to these three
questions is "yes," the battery fit just fine in your car.
Capacities — This is the real
difference between batteries: how much they provide and for how
long. All battery manufacturers must declare this information using
three standard measurements:
Cranking Amps — Cranking amps (CA) is
the amount of power the battery provides for cranking your car's
starter for 30 seconds at a temperature of 32 degrees F (zero
degrees C), while maintaining at least 1.2 volts per cell (7.2 vol
total). As you might expect, the higher the number, the more power
the battery provides for starting your car .
Cold Cranking Amps — CCA is virtually
the same as cranking amps, but with one difference: The measurement
is taken at zero degrees F (-17.8 degree C). So, cold cranking amps
indicates how well the battery will crank the starter in really cold
weather — when the engine is hardest to crank.
Reserve Capacity — This measurement
indicates how long your battery would keep the engine running if the
alternator stopped charging. It's a measurement of how many minutes
the battery will deliver 25 amps at 80 degrees F (27 degrees C)
while maintaining at least 1.75 volts per cell, or 10.5 volts total.
In other words, this is about how long your car will continue to run
with the headlights, wipers and defroster on, if the alternator
So what capacities would be adequate for your
car? Bigger doesn't necessarily mean better when it comes to
batteries. The climate where you live plays a factor. In a cold
climate, bigger is better, but if you live in a hot climate, the
lighter CCA may offer an increased life expectancy for the battery.
Not sure what the specifications were in the
original battery? Check the owner s manual. If it doesn't provide
the battery specs there, check the application guide from the
battery manufacturer. They'll usually list a minimum recommendation
for your car. Choosing a battery with higher specs won't hurt, but
choosing a battery with lower capacities could leave you stranded
Car's Mechanical Condition
vs. Automatic Transmission:Which is Better? -tips for
deciding on the type of transmission
Easy Steps to Make Your Clutch Last Longer -some of these
may surprise you.
is a Differential? -During a turn, the outer wheels drive
farther than the inner wheels, and this is an important function of
with Transmission Problems -learn about some common
transmission problems for manual and automatic transmissions.
This webpage is
brought to you for general information purposes only and there are
no warranties as to accuracy, completeness, or results obtained from
any information posted on this or any linked website.