Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Helpful Hints for Changing Your Car Battery

Okay, so every once in a while, you have to do things like changing your battery. If you don't have a favorite mechanic or you're a do-it-yourselfer, here's some advice from CarMax about what to do and not do when changing your battery.

Among the do's:
  • Wear proper eye, hand and clothing protection when around batteries
  • Check the terminals where cables connect to be sure they are tight and corrosion free. If corrosion is present, have terminals cleaned by a professional.
  • Lubricate terminals with a dab of petroleum jelly to keep cables clean and free from corrosion longer.
  • Make sure the battery is firmly secured to its mounting bracket. An unsecured battery can become damaged and cause short circuits.
  • Check the fluid level unless it's a maintenance-free battery. If the fluid is low, add distilled water. If there is no fluid visible, then replace the battery.
  • Keep your battery case clean. Dirt conducts electricity which can discharge the battery. Use a solution of baking soda dissolved in warm water to clean. Wet the case and agitate with a nylon bristle brush to scrub surface. Rinse well with plain water.
  • Batteries come in many different sizes. When replacing a car battery, make sure you choose the right size for your vehicle. When it comes to car batteries, bigger is not always better.
  • Always disconnect the negative cable first and reconnect it last.
  • Charge battery in a well-ventilated area.

And what shouldn't you do:

  • If your battery is frozen, do not charge it, as it may explode! One visual sign of a frozen battery is that the sides are bowed out. This condition is not repairable and dangerous; the battery will need to be replaced.
  • If you need to charge your battery yourself, switch the charger to a low-charge setting. Most chargers have this feature, but if not, have a professional charge the battery.
  • Don't charge a dead battery with a car's alternator. An alternator is not designed to function as a charger, and it may be damaged or have a shortened life as a result.
  • Never lean over a battery when charging, testing, or jump-starting the engine.
  • Don't disconnect battery cables while engine is running (your battery acts as a filter).
  • Don't let the battery get totally discharged. Most car batteries get their power from lead cells submerged in electrolyte and these cells can be damaged when the battery is totally discharged.
  • Don't let the battery get hot or the electrolyte boil while charging.

Helpful hints from CarMax, a FORTUNE 500 company, and one of the FORTUNE 2008 "100 BestCompanies to Work For." CarMax is the nation's largest retailer of used cars.

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