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Know Your Car – Car Battery Basics

Battery 1Somewhere in every single car on the planet, even hybrids and electrics, there’s a 12 V car battery. It’s usually under the hood, but some automakers hide them in the fender or in the trunk. Here are some of the things you should know regarding your car battery.

Car Battery Safety

The majority of car batteries on the market are conventional liquid-electrolyte lead-acid chemistry, followed by absorbed-glass-mat (AGM) batteries and lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. Liquid-electrolyte batteries may leak if cracked or tipped, spilling highly corrosive sulfuric acid, but Li-ion and AGM batteries are not susceptible to spills.

All batteries contain chemical compounds that can be toxic or corrosive, so they should be handled with care. Take care not to drop a car battery, and it is always a good idea to handle your car battery with full safety precautions, including gloves, safety glasses, and no smoking.

How to Jump-Start Your Car Battery

Battery 2If you have a dead battery, it may be because of a fault in the charging system or the electrical system of your vehicle. Of course, you may have left the lights on all night long. Unless you have a battery charger or extra battery on hand, you’ll need a friendly neighbor and his car to help you out. Follow these steps to safely jump-start your car:

  1. Park the donor car to get the batteries as close together as possible. Turn off all lighting and accessories in both cars, such as headlights, radio, air conditioning, and heater. Leave the donor car running and turn off the ignition in the dead car.
  2. Connect the jumper cables in this order:
    1. Red cable to dead battery positive (+) terminal.
    2. Red cable to donor battery positive (+) terminal.
    3. Black cable to donor battery negative (–) terminal.
    4. Black cable to dead car engine block.
  3. Hold the accelerator down slightly on the donor vehicle for about five minutes. A good engine speed is 1,500 to 2,000 rpm, but if you don’t have a tachometer, a little above idle is good. You don’t need to race the engine. This gives the donor car some time to charge the dead battery.
  4. After about five minutes, attempt to start the dead car. If the car still doesn’t start, give it another five or ten minutes of charging.
  5. Once your car is started and running smoothly, remove the jumper cables in the reverse order that you connected them, that is, dead block, donor negative (–), donor positive, dead positive.

Finally, it’s good to know that all car batteries have a working life of five to seven years, which is affected by how often you drive, the climate, and the condition, cleanliness and health of your electrical system. Given that your driving life is counting on that 12 V car battery under the hood, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on it and know how to handle it.

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