All Things Automotive with Ken

How to avoid unnecessary surprises
Ken Bolser

Many of us are not driving as much and staying closer to home for the time being. This might be your best opportunity to have your battery, starting, and charging system tested.

Be Proactive

The day your car doesn’t start probably isn’t the best time to shop for a new car battery—and it almost always occurs when it’s the last thing you need. That never has to happen to you as a AAA member. We’ve made it easy to maintain your battery and know when it’s getting too old to perform up to specifications.

Keep your battery clean

Look to see if there is any visible corrosion on the battery or the battery terminals. If so, you can clean it yourself—just make sure you’re wearing protective eyewear and gloves—or have it cleaned by a professional. You’ll also want to use a computer memory-saving device, so the settings for your computer diagnostics and infotainment systems will be not be lost when disconnecting the vehicle’s battery.

Check the post terminal ends

Assuming they are easily accessible, give the cable terminal ends a gentle twist. If they move, your battery may not be getting a full charge. You can tighten them yourself (or let a pro do that), but be careful not to overdo it.

Battery life

The average life of a battery is typically 3-5 years, but driving conditions, climate—especially heat—and lack of care and maintenance can shorten its lifespan. These are some of the warning signs your battery is failing or nearing the end of its life:

  • Vehicle cranks more slowly when trying to start.
  • Hear a grinding, clicking, or buzzing when turning the ignition to the Start position.
  • Vehicle stalls.
  • Headlights dim when idling but brighten when you rev the engine.
  • Battery is more than three years old.
     

Testing

While most car batteries nowadays are known as “maintenance-free,” as they start to age, it’s a good idea to have them tested. Advanced testing can tell the condition of the battery, how much life is left, and whether it’s beyond its service life (or about to be).

What happens when you’re NOT driving?

What you may not know is the safety and entertainment systems are draining power from your battery—even while it’s just sitting at home. This may be the perfect time to have a AAA tech conduct a full diagnostic on your battery, starting, and charging system. Don’t worry, about social distancing. You won’t even need to be in the same room during the test.

Did you know?

AAA keeps you on-the-go with our Mobile Battery Service. We come to you—at home, at work, or at roadside—and test your battery and your vehicle’s starting and charging system. In many areas along the Front Range, you can even set an appointment. If you need a new battery, we’ll replace it on-site, and you’ll get exclusive AAA member prices, a 6-year limited warranty with three years of free replacement, and disposal/recycling of your old battery.

Visit AAA.com/battery, or get the AAA Mobile App, for more information and to place a request for roadside assistance.

Ken Bolser is the vice president of automotive for AAA Colorado.