Lockdown in South Africa due to the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult to simply go out and get help when your beloved car starts acting up. With dealerships and car service shops forced to close, it’s now your job to ensure your car is able to perform – for a short while, at least.
It’s now more important than ever to know how to keep your car in good working condition, but don’t worry, we want to help! We’ve compiled some useful information that anyone can follow to keep everything running smoothly.
Prolonging the life of your battery.
Remember to always ensure your car battery isn’t wasting power. Every time you leave your vehicle after a drive, make sure everything is switched off to maintain battery levels. This includes the lights, radio and air conditioner. Additionally, check your car to see all doors are properly closed so that door lights and warning systems remain off. If possible, minimise short drives as much as you can as they don’t allow the battery to fully recharge.
Where possible, park your car in a cool spot to prevent exposing the battery to high ambient temperature and consequent high self-discharge. If you can access the battery, make sure that the terminals are not loose – a loose terminal will restrict the recharging of the battery.
Avoid performing any DIY work on your car during the lockdown. Any damage to the battery or electrical system of your car could negatively affect your car’s reliability and potentially leave you stranded. If you’re not a qualified mechanic, leave the alterations for after the lockdown.
Keep your battery and your warranty in good condition – don’t take the battery out for use in other applications. Removing the battery from your car to run other appliances such as freezers or the TV might damage the battery and void the battery’s warranty.
Keep the battery running while isolating.
Working from home? If you know you won’t be driving for a while, disconnect the battery – But only if you know what you’re doing and can reconnect it properly when the time comes (as per vehicle manufacturer’s instructions). Now is also a great time to make use of your smart charger if you have one available. Use the smart charger to keep the battery conditioned and charged.
If your car is sitting idle due to the lockdown, start the vehicle every day and run the engine for 5 minutes in a well-ventilated area. This maintains the charge and reduces the chance of the battery running flat. If you can reach and have the necessary tools, measure the voltage of the battery using a voltmeter every few days. If the voltage drops below 12.6V, recharge it by running the vehicle for 10 minutes.
How to diagnose battery problems.
It’s important to know the warning signs of a failing battery. The following are signs that your battery is on its way out and may have to be replaced after the lockdown:
- You hear grinding or a clicking sound when you turn the ignition.
- The engine does not swing at all when you turn the ignition.
- Your vehicle cranks slowly when attempting to start.
- Your headlights dim when idling but brighten when you rev your engine.
If your battery is still under warranty and it fails during the lockdown, make sure you have your proof of purchase for a replacement after the lockdown. Do not attempt to repair, top up, overcharge or tamper with the battery in any way as this will void your warranty. After lockdown, have the battery tested at one of our approved battery specialists.
Replacing your car’s battery.
In the unlikely event that you need to replace the battery with a spare yourself, follow the vehicle and battery manufacturer’s instructions on fitment to the letter.
Ensure the new battery is the correct size and type for your car and that the battery terminals are clean. If you are able, make sure the terminal connectors are correctly torqued – if you cannot do this, tighten them in a way that they do not slip but be careful not to overtighten them.
Remember not to dispose of your old battery! It should be returned to a dealer for proper recycling.
With regular inspection and care for your car’s battery, it should perform without incident throughout the lockdown period. Make sure you keep the battery clean and dry and watch out for any signs of swelling. Occasionally wipe down the battery to remove dirt and grease as these can act as an insulator and can keep the battery hot. If you care for it, it will continue to run reliably for you.