Changing you car Battery is simple enough, but before you remove and discard the old one, make sure you actually need a new battery first. It could be your old one still has a bit of life left in it, but just needs a charger…
It’s true that car batteries don’t last forever, especially with the added burden placed on them by the ever increasing range of electrical equipment in modern cars. Gone are the days when your batteries simply started your car and ran just the basics: lights, wipers and heaters. Nowadays, batteries must also provide power to the myriad of modern on-board computers. From the sat-nav to the car’s climate control system, there are a lot of mouths to feed. In addition to that, they have to continually restart the engine in traffic when the fuel-saving stop/start system kicks in.
Understandably, this makes flat batteries the premier reason why breakdown services are called out. But a flat battery doesn’t have to be a something you purchase in an emergency; it’s easy to spot the signs of failure if you’re looking in the right areas. From dim interior lights to slow engine turn over – and it’s easy enough to change the battery yourself before it packs in and you’re stranded in the middle of no-where.
Choosing the correct battery for your vehicle
First things first, you need to make sure you’re fitting the correct battery. If in doubt, a quick glance at your owner’s handbook will confirm what you’re looking for. The internet can also provide the answer if you look on a reliable site. Most suppliers’ websites have a feature where you can enter your registration number and it will match your vehicle with the correct battery. Shopping online also has the advantage of allowing you to find yourself a good deal plus you won’t have to transport a heavy battery home yourself from the garage or accessory shop.
The most common batteries used by vehicles are standard lead-acid ones. Diesel cars usually require more powerful versions, where as models with start/stop technology tend to use enhanced cyclic mat (ECM) or absorbed glass mat (AGM) batteries. It’s important that the same battery is fitted that the car originally came with. Check the manual if unsure.
An important thing to remember before you unhook the old battery is that it powers the car’s entire electronic features, which may be reset when power is temporarily lost. Make sure you’re familiar with all codes that may need to be re-entered when the system re-boots (the stereo for example).
Disconnecting your old battery
The majority of car batteries are found under the bonnet, but a few store it in the foot-well or in the boot. Ensure you disconnect the negative terminal first, followed by the positive. Then remove any plastic clips keeping the battery in place and gently slip it out of its plastic cage. Once safely removed, dispose of the battery at your local recycling facility.
Slide the new battery into the cage and reverse the process, connecting the positive terminal first followed by the negative. You’ll now need to reset the car’s electrical equipment – from clocks to the stereo and sat-nav. If your car has stop/start, the battery will need to be tuned into the onboard computer, which is why fitting an ECM or AGM battery may require the services of a mechanic.
Looking after your battery
If you’ve had to fork out for a new battery, you want to make sure you get your money’s worth by looking after it. The latest car chargers have intelligent programmes to help maintain the charge level. They’re especially good for those who use their car infrequently – classic cars owners find them very useful.
Smart chargers alternate the amount of current they feed into the battery and this prolongs its life. They can actually be left attached to the car for long periods and will only top the battery up gently. Also, if your battery is showing signs of failing, you might want to try one of these products to see if they can bring it back to life.
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