Your vehicle's battery is crucial – without it, you'll find that starting your car is impossible. Batteries last four to five years on average, but the life of a battery can vary. In extremely cold or hot climates, a battery may only last three years before it needs replacement. To help ensure that you don't find yourself stranded, be proactive – regularly check your battery for signs of corrosion. A visual inspection is easy, so roll up your sleeves and get started!
The simplest (though not necessarily most reliable) way to check the health of your battery is with a visual inspection. Though obviously such an inspection will not tell you what the battery's voltage or amperage charge is, it can alert you to signs of corrosion or wear that may be indicators that your battery is in need of replacement. When visually inspecting your battery, look for the following:
If there are powdery deposits on either the positive (green) or negative (red) terminals of your battery, you should clean them with a metal brush, rag, or used tooth brush. This corrosion is caused by battery acid, however, so we recommend that you counteract the acid with a base, such as baking powder, before doing so. And as always, be sure to remove both the positive and negative connections first.
If the external casing or cell cover of your battery is cracked, you should replace the battery. The chemicals in batteries (primarily acid) are hazardous and you shouldn't take the risk of keeping a cracked battery. If your battery is cracked, store it in an acid-resistant storage container until you can dispose of it.
If the connector cables are frayed, or are damaged in some other manner, you should replace them immediately. These cables transmit electrical energy from the battery to the engine; if the protective covering is damaged, leaving the metal wiring exposed, there is an extreme risk of electrocution or electrical burns.
Though a number of visual signs may point to a battery needing replacement or service, these are probably the most important. Please remember, however, that when working around batteries, take extra precautions. The risk of fire, electrocution, acid exposure, and electrical burns are real. With due diligence and common sense though, inspecting a battery is quick and easy!
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