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The Do’s and Don’ts of Maintaining Your Car Battery

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0227homespunweb.jpgRISMEDIA, Feb. 27, 2008-(MCT)-Replacing a car battery can be a hassle so it is important to know how to keep this essential power source in top-notch condition. To help your car battery maintain its peak performance follow these suggestions by CarMax, the nation’s largest retailer of used cars:

DO:
- Check the terminals where cables connect to be sure they are tight and corrosion-free. If corrosion if present, have terminals cleaned by a professional. Periodically lubricate terminals with a dab of petroleum jelly to keep cables clean longer.
- Make sure the battery is firmly secured to its mounting bracket. An unsecured battery can become damaged and cause short circuits.
- Check the fluid level unless it’s a maintenance-free battery. If the fluid is low, add distilled water. If there is no fluid visible, replace the battery.
- Keep your battery case clean. Dirt conducts electricity which can discharge the battery. Use a solution of baking soda dissolved in warm water to clean. Then wet the case and agitate with a nylon bristle to scrub the surface.
- Batteries come in many different sizes. When replacing a car battery, make sure you choose the right size for your vehicle. Always disconnect the negative cable first and reconnect it last.

DON’T
- If your battery is frozen, do not charge it because it may explode. One visual sign of a frozen battery is that the sides are bowed out. This condition is not repairable and you need to replace the battery.
- If you need to charge the battery yourself, switch the charger to a low-charge setting. Most chargers have this feature, but if not have a professional charge the battery.
- Don’t charge a dead battery with a car’s alternator. An alternator is not designed to function as a charger and it may be damaged or have a shortened life as a result.
- Never lean over a battery when charging, testing or jumpstarting the engine. Also, don’t disconnect battery cables while the engine is running (your battery acts as a filter). Don’t let the battery get hot or the electrolyte boil while charging.
- Don’t let the battery get totally discharged. Most car batteries get their power from lead cells submerged in electrolyte and these cells can be damaged when the battery is totally discharged.

© 2008, MarketWatch.com Inc.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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