If you think car batteries are like the batteries of a toy car, it’s almost the same, except the common full-sized car doesn’t use the car battery to create motion. That part is covered by the internal combustion engine. At least until hybrid cars came into the picture.

The battery is an amazing electrical device. This nondescript item with no movable parts is an essential part of the car. Read on to see how you can keep it running in tip top condition with little fuss.

How does it work?

The car battery is a rechargeable device that generates electrical energy from a chemical reaction. These batteries are commonly referred to as SLI (Starter-Lighting-Ignition) batteries because they are primarily used for these purposes.

Batteries generate electrical energy from a chemical process. These batteries are usually use a lead-acid method. Within the battery are six galvanic cells made of lead and lead oxide. Each of these cells generate 2.1 volts each, totaling 12.6 volts. These cells are immersed in a electrolyte solution made of 35% sulfuric acid and 65% pure water.

When the cells interact with the electrolyte solution, electrons are release to move among the plates, which creates electricity. This has the added effect of changing the composition of the cells, creating lead sulfate.

This process is reversed as the battery is being recharged by the alternator. This time lead sulfate returns to its state of lead and lead oxide.

Faulty batteries can seriously degrade the performance and shorten the lifespan of your car.

How to check your batteries

To check the battery, follow these steps:

Remove caps from the battery (if you have them). Some lead acid batteries may be sealed so skip this step. Older lead-acid batteries are refillable.

Look inside the battery. Check the condition of the plates and especially the water level.

Refill the water. If the water isn’t reaching the top of the plates, refill the battery with distilled water. DO NOT fill the battery past the cells.

Clean the terminals of deposits and buildup. To prevent electrocution, REMOVE the terminals off the battery before wiping off the sulfur. Make sure you do not contact the material on your skin. USE CAUTION. Use a rag and a used toothrush.

Dry off the battery. Dry the battery with a lint-free rag.

Coat the terminals with petroleum jelly to prevent corrosion.

Check the cables for fraying or damage. Replace or seal with electrical tape if damage is minor.

Check the case for cracking. Replace if serious cracks are found regardless of electrical performance.

If you encounter weak to dim lights, use a battery tester. A low indication may show low acidity in the battery.

How do I dispose of the battery?

DO NOT dump in the regular trash. Batteries are hazardous to the environment, its sulfur acid and lead contents are toxic to plant, man and animal alike. Make sure you bring them to the nearest battery center when you buy a new one. Batteries are recyclable so you can use this to get a discount from the dealer.

There you have it, simple, isn’t it?

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