The recent lockdown means that most of us have spent the last few monthS or so at home, with our cars idling on our driveways. While you might think that the odd trip the local shop is enough to keep your engine turning over, the truth is that a lack of regular use can easily result in a flat battery.
As research shows that 1 in 4 batteries would fail a test – and 42% of motorists don’t know what to do if they’re faced with a flat battery – we thought it would be a good time to look at how you can avoid this situation during Covid-19.
Why do car batteries go flat?
Simply put, a component called an alternator draws power from a running engine to automatically recharge a car battery. So, if you haven’t driven your car for a while then the alternator hasn’t had chance to charge up your battery and your engine may not start.
You might be wondering why a battery would go flat in the first place, particularly if it’s not being used. Surely it just maintains its charge? Well, batteries naturally lose a small amount of charge whether they’re in use or not and higher outside temperatures can make this process worse. In addition, things like your car alarm and any immobilisers also drain the battery, and the more you have of this type of equipment, the quicker it will drain. The age of your car is another factor, with older batteries more vulnerable to lack of use.
How can I look after my battery?
Running your engine for five minutes a day isn’t enough to charge your battery and might make the situation worse, because it takes a large amount of battery power to start your engine. It can actually take at least 30 minutes of driving to charge the battery, depending on the vehicle and battery age, but the current restrictions advise against this type of non-essential travel.
We’d therefore recommend that you use a battery charger every two weeks to keep the charge topped up. If you’re concerned about the condition of your car battery, you can also buy a car battery tester to monitor its health. And if your car travel is essential during lockdown, we offer a free battery health check to help keep your car running.
What if my battery is already flat?
The first option is to try to revive it by using a set of jump leads. You’ll need a second car to do this and remember that you need to have minimum contact with others, so ideally you’d use another car within your household. If that’s not possible and you need to ask someone else, then make sure you always keep a safe distance and only go to these lengths if it’s absolutely essential.
Your second option is to use a dedicated jump starter, to provide the essential spark. Batteries can be dangerous bits of kit, so take care and make sure that you read our guide on how to jump-start a car before you get started. This guide shows you how to use jump leads safely, protecting you and your vehicle from the dangers of a short circuit and a potential electric shock. It’s crucial because incorrectly jump-starting modern cars with complex electrical systems can cause irreparable damage to your electronic control unit.
Your third option is a car battery charger that will slowly and safely bring your battery back to life.
What if my battery needs replacing?
Our car battery buyer’s guide is a great place to start if you find that you need a new battery. It’s packed full of useful information and advice that will help you select the right replacement.
We also have our online battery finder. Simply enter your car registration number and our unique database will tell you the right product for your vehicle. You can then select the product you want, enter your postcode to find the nearest fitting store and book a fitting from £15.
Another option is our Halfords Mobile Expert team, who can come directly to your home and fit your new battery while maintaining a safe distance. Appointments can be booked online, where you can also find full details of about services, coverage and safety procedures.
Whatever you choose, rest assured that we will take your old battery away and recycle it for free with an approved waste disposal company.