Battery

Corrosion on a car battery is formed on a car’s battery when the battery off-gases hydrogen gas during the gas process.

When it comes to car maintenance, it’s important to know that each car requires a specific type of battery.

“It’s just important to get the correct battery for your car,” said Mike Fittes, parts and service director for Kirk Auto Group.

Since cars have become more electronic, including touchscreens on the dashboard and Bluetooth capability, cars now require stronger batteries to support the new technology, Fittes said.

Should your car battery die and you need a replacement, not any car battery will work, he said.

“If somebody buys a replacement battery for a car, they should buy the proper cold cranking amps car battery for the car,” Fittes said. “Don’t buy a cheap or different size battery.”

When a car battery needs to be replaced, Fittes recommends buying the same type of car battery that was once in the car.

“There’s a reason there’s specific battery in a car,” he said. A new battery with less cold cranking amps may not last as long.

An average lifespan for a battery is about three to five years, Fittes said.

At some point, all car batteries eventually die. So, how do you know if your battery is close to dead?

If your car is “slow to start,” Fittes said — when cranking the engine is slower — then the battery is weak and may be close to dying.

If your battery is dead, there’s nothing else you can do but replace it.

If your car’s battery is low, however, then you can recharge it, Fittes said, by using jumper cables to connect the dead car battery to a working car battery.

When the car of the working battery is started, that car’s battery will give a jolt of energy to the dead battery.

It’s important to match the correct cable to the correct terminal of the car battery — i.e. connect the positive jumper cable to the car battery’s positive terminal. Then connect the negative jumper cable clamp to the negative terminal of the working car battery.

Instead of attaching the other negative jumper cable end to the negative terminal of the dead car battery, attach the clamp instead to an unpainted metal surface of the car that’s away from the battery.

When attaching the cables, the ignitions of both cars should be off. Once the cables are attached, the driver of the car with the working battery can turn the ignition on.

Also important, Fittes emphasized, is to connect jumper cables to the dead battery first, THEN connect the jumper cables to the working battery last.

If not done properly, Fittes said, there’s a risk that the dead car battery may have a short and could then either spark or, worse, explode.

By connecting jumper cables to a dead car battery first, you avoid the risk of that battery blowing up since it’s not yet connected to a working car battery.

“If a car battery explodes, that means acid is blowing up,” Fittes said, explaining the acid of the car battery can get into your eyes or on your face.

Fittes himself knows from experience, having had a close encounter with a battery explosion in the 80’s, when he ran s service station in Germantown, Tennessee.

While on a service call, Fittes jump-started a dead battery. Though he correctly connected the jumper cables to the dead car battery first, moments after he connected the cables to the working car battery, the dead car battery exploded.

Fortunately, Fittes said he has never seen a car battery explode any other time.

Aside from charging a weak car battery, the other maintenance work a car owner can do, he said, is to check the battery for any corrosion.

Anytime you get your car inspected, such as an oil change, Fittes said to see if it’s possible if you car’s battery can be looked at too.

If not, you can also check your car battery for corrosion.

Corrosion is identified by white and blue looking mold that appears on the terminal and cable ends of a car’s batteries.

Fittes said you can buy a corrosion cleaner and a wire brush to clean the car battery of corrosion or you can take your car to a service place to have them do it. Should you decide to clean the car batteries yourself, it’s recommended you wear eye protection and gloves to prevent any contact with the battery’s acid.

The car’s battery powers the car, but what powers the battery?

The alternator, a belt-driven machine, is what charges the battery when the car is running, Fittes said.

Unfortunately, he said, an alternator can’t be maintained.

“If the alternator fails, your car can’t go,” he said.

Just as it’s important to take care of the exterior of your car, it’s also important to take care of what’s under the hood.

nContact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or gedic@gwcommonwealth.com.

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