Car Batteries - FAQs for the Auto-Illiterate

Cars are expensive - the petrol, the insurance, the registration. While these are expenses the car owner must simply deal with, it can be difficult to know if you are spending money on worthwhile things when you go for a car service. If you know nothing about cars and how they work, unscrupulous mechanics can take you for a figurative ride. Below are some common questions and answers regarding one of your car's essential and expensive parts - the battery. 

Why does my car need a battery? When you turn the key to your car, the battery sends a jolt of electricity to the engine which allows your car to start. It also powers the electronics in your car such as lights, air conditioner and audio. It also powers the important computer systems that modern cars use. 

Why does it go flat if I leave the lights on? Though the battery starts the engine, the engine keeps the battery charged using the power it generates while working. If your electronics are left on the battery will send power out without getting any back. This is why you can recharge a battery if you use another car's battery to start your engine. 

So I don't need a new battery if it goes flat? Probably not. Try jump-starting your car first if you find yourself with a flat battery. If your battery is very old it may not work, in which case it needs replacing. 

Why does a battery need replacing if the car charges it? A battery's insides involve metal plates that are immersed in acid. Eventually the acid will wear the plates down, and the whole battery will need replacing. Build-up of dirt and oil will also eventually wear the battery's important outside parts down. So keeping it clean and making sure the connecting parts aren't frayed or cracked will prolong its life. But don't try to clean a battery or replace connections. Ask your mechanic.

How do I know if it's just flat or needs replacing? If your car won't start but you haven't left any electronics on, it may be a battery problem. If your car has struggled to start the previous few times you have turned your car on, or you have noticed a warning light on your dashboard, it is especially likely the battery needs replacing. But don't go and replace your battery immediately - it could be a problem with other parts. Ask your mechanic or auto-electrician to test the battery. 

Are cheap batteries OK for my car? It's a good idea to talk to a mechanic or auto-electrician about what kind of battery is right for your car and your driving habits. For example, a car that drives in stop-start city traffic will work better with a different battery to a car that drives at high speeds for long stretches of time. Then you can make an informed decision if a cheaper, store-bought battery will be right for you. 

Anything else I should know? Batteries are very dangerous. Never have a flame (matches, cigarettes, pilot lights) around a car battery. Batteries also contain highly corrosive materials. If you notice damage to the battery or connections, do not attempt to clean or fix it yourself, or you risk serious burns.

For more information, contact The Battery Factory.