Ensure you get the most out of your car battery

By Pritesh Ruthun Time of article published Jan 23, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - I walked out to my car the other morning and hit the unlock button on its key. Instead of the cheerful click and unlock sound, there was nothing. The central locking was dead too.

Battery, I thought. A quick boost with my handy cables and I’d be on my way.

But the cables were in the boot. The car had no keyhole for boot access, and an electronic button had to be depressed in order to open the boot from inside. This button was not working, thanks to the dead battery.

I thought I could drop the rear seats and access the boot that way, but realised that the release catch for that was in the boot as well. Dead End.

I called a roadside assistance company. They could be there in an hour only. Eventually I triangulated booster cables from one of my neighbours. Another neighbour swung his car around and hey, presto, my car was alive again.

But what happens when I get to my destination and it’s dead again? Before leaving, I took my set of cables out of the boot just to ensure I could thumb a bit of energy on the other side after my meeting if needed.

What went wrong

On the way to my meeting, I called the friendly folk at Battery Centre headquarters. They recommended a few branches close to my vicinity. I popped into the Fourways branch to have them investigate.

The battery shop was easy to find, in what felt like a safe area and the shopfront was inviting and warm. I had not been to a battery outlet for years, and to see the cleanliness and pick up on the positive vibes in the shop was easy. I’m sceptical when taking my car in for a service, or buying parts or tyres, but was helped by two knowledgeable and friendly business operators, Chad and Rob.

What was wrong with the battery? A test revealed it was holding little charge. However, the vehicle's alternator was also tested and it was putting out the appropriate current.

It was also pointed out that, the OEM-specification battery in my car had been swopped or replaced with a smaller battery that was not made for the vehicle. I wasn’t aware it had happened. Perhaps during one of its trips to the workshop, a Jazz battery found its way into an Accord’s engine bay? Why was the battery removed in the first place, for a regular service?

Ultimately, using the wrong size battery in the car was the cause of its demise. It had started to push battery material out from the ventilation ports, corroding the base plate and mounting bracket. Over time, this could lead to unwanted corrosion of the vehicles body, not to mention the possibility of fire if the battery overheats.

The experts say:

With summer in full swing, car batteries are under high stress to perform optimally. Chad and Rob say the warmer months are harsher on your car battery than colder months.

“The air temperature and heat generated under the bonnet can lead to your car battery not performing at an optimal level, but you do a few things differently to ensure your battery isn’t overworked,”

One of the easiest ways is to minimise its exposure to the sun by parking in the shade.

“A vehicle cover at home also helps keep your car cool, particularly if you’re planning on parking it for an extended period. Remember though, if your vehicle is not being used for a long period, it may not be ideal for your car battery.

If you need a test

With new cars becoming sophisticated and more demanding when it comes to energy, it’s not recommended you replace a car battery yourself.

“Call a trusted battery specialist and they will test your battery for free to ensure you get the best performance out of your car,” Chad and Rob said.

If you have issues with starting your vehicle, or want to ensure the correct battery is fitted, contact Battery Centre. For more information on battery maintenance, see www.batterycentre.co.za.

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