5 battery facts that could save your car from 'brain' drain

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Car batteries are probably one of the parts or items in a vehicle that gets taken for granted the most. Yet, it's the brain of your car. If it's dead or flat, your vehicle won't be going anywhere. 

My husband's car had been standing for a while, it was getting a heart transplant (engine overhaul), and every other little item was being fixed or replaced.  

We finally got it back on the road, but as we ventured to this point of finally starting his car with a new engine, he had bought a brand-spanking new battery just a couple of months before.  

The day arrived to start his car, so we put in the "new" battery, only to find it was completely dead. His mechanic then asked where he kept it, and my husband said, "right here on the garage floor".

car battery
This is a heavy-duty battery from a luxury SUV. Replacement costs can run to over R5 000 for this type of battery.

Who would have thought that was such a rookie error? Because we had not placed the battery on a plank, box, or anything else, the cold concrete floor drained it like Bella Swan drawing her first blood when she turned vampire in Twilight.  

Luckily, we could charge it for a couple of days, but it's something we will never do again. So, this is the first thing you should know about a disconnected car battery.

This brings us to some more useful facts you should know about car batteries before handling one. 

SEE | Definite signs your vehicle's battery is due for a replacement

The folk over at Battery Centre, a specialist battery fitment network with more than 120 branches in South Africa, shares some crucial information we all should know about car batteries.  

Checking a car battery

All car batteries need to be replaced at some stage, whether they have reached the end of their lifespan or because they have been drained too often due to the lights or radio being left on. 

Battery Centre’s franchise manager, Jason Ravenscroft, said: "When a quality car, bike, or truck battery is correctly specified, fitted, and maintained, it could last more than five years.

"There are a lot of variables that impact the life of a vehicle battery, and our customer research proves that about 30% of cars need a new battery each year." 

1. Find an expert 

"While flat and faulty batteries are an inconvenience, and many motorists may feel tempted to replace them themselves, there are dangers to handling a battery.  

"If you don't have the right tools, expert knowledge, or follow the correct safety measures when replacing a flat battery, you can risk serious injury," Ravenscroft added.

Car battery being charged
Car battery being charged

Safety and health risks of handling vehicle batteries

2. Fire and explosions

Batteries might contain flammable hydrogen gas that could ignite from matches, cigarette lighters, or sparks from short circuits caused by spanners or connecting jumper cables incorrectly.  

"Even a small spark can cause a fire or an explosion," he said.

Hence it's also crucial your battery must be disconnected when your car needs some repairs.

3. Serious injury

All batteries contain sulphuric acid that can cause burns, irritation, and blindness. If the fumes are inhaled, they can harm your lungs and mucous membranes.

4. Injury from battery weight

Some batteries are heavy and must be lifted using the proper handling equipment. Lifting them by hand can cause muscle strain or spinal injury.

car battery
Modern batteries are reliable, but need to be kept charged. If a car is left standing for too long, damage to the battery can be the result.

5. Inexperienced replacement can damage the car

While replacing a battery in a conventional car may be straightforward, vehicles with Start/Stop technology are more complicated, especially if the battery isn't under the bonnet.  

"It can take up to 28 steps to replace a battery in a car with Start/Stop technology," said Ravenscroft.

If the battery is fitted incorrectly, it could cause electrical system malfunctions, loss of data and display error messages. Battery Centre specialists recommend Start/Stop vehicles should only be fitted with batteries approved by the car manufacturer and meet the vehicle's requirements.

In addition to the risks to a person or vehicle when batteries were not handled correctly, Ravenscroft said battery acid could also cause environmental pollution if spillages were not properly contained.

Handle vehicle batteries with care.

"All automotive batteries, whether functional or defunct, contain harmful chemicals and should be disposed of correctly," Ravenscroft urged.

He said motorists should drop their batteries with a trusted battery specialist to ensure they did not end up in dust bins or landfills and to ensure the lead and plastic were recycled.

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