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A key component to your car’s electrical system is the car battery. The car battery’s main functions are to not only to provide the necessary voltage to start up, but to also provide electrical power to the accessories in your car. When the car is actually running, it is the alternator that works to recharge your battery to ensure that it maintains the proper voltage for continued use.
When a car is left undriven for a prolonged period of time, the car battery can slowly drain to the point where the voltage is too low and doesn’t have enough juice to start up the car. Depending on the condition of your car battery and your specific vehicle, your car battery may go dead between 1-3 weeks of non-use.
Keep in mind that when people say the “battery is dead”, it doesn’t mean you have zero voltage on the battery. The voltage is just not high enough in order to start up the car. If the car is left undriven for even longer than a few weeks, the battery can be even more “dead” to the point at which a jump start isn’t even able to start up the battery. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to keep your battery from dying.
Nowadays, especially due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, many people are working-from-home more than ever. Because of this, it is much more common occurrence to experience a dead battery at home. Here are some various ways that you can keep your car battery from dying when you’re not using your vehicle is not in use.
How to Keep your Car Battery from Dying When Not in Use
The first thing to think about is whether or not your car battery will actually die given your circumstance. I guess it sounds silly to state this considering you’re probably looking at this to find a solution to your car battery from dying while sitting. But if you’re able to drive your car once a week and each time you’re driving at least 20 minutes (highway is better), then that may be enough for your alternator to charge the battery each week.
If you are not driving your car for at least once a week, you definitely want to do one of these options as letting your battery die constantly is likely going to degrade the health of your car battery.
1. Disconnect the Negative Terminal of the Battery
This option doesn’t require purchasing anything at all if you already own either wrenches or a socket set. Simply disconnect your car battery by disconnecting the negative terminal from the car battery and leave it disconnected. You should ensure that the negative terminal is secure off to the side so that it does not re-contact the battery terminal.
If you leave a car battery disconnected, your battery should be able to maintain its charge for at least a couple months, and sometimes even longer. It will mainly depend on your car battery itself.
Disconnecting the positive terminal as well technically shouldn’t make a difference. With just the negative terminal separated from the car battery, there is no voltage differential and therefore no current, which leads to battery depletion.
Also as a safety note, you should never remove only the positive terminal. You should always remove the negative terminal on its own, or remove the negative terminal first before removing the positive terminal (if you’re planning to disconnect both terminals.) This is because the negative terminal is grounded to the vehicle and therefore if you are say removing the positive cable with a wrench and accidentally touch something on the frame, then you will get an arc and/or shock.
2. Use a Battery Charger/Maintainer to Keep Battery Charged
Another option which I think is the best and most long-term solution to keeping your battery charged is using a battery maintainer. A battery maintainer charges the battery until it is fully charged, then “maintains” the battery by maintaining that level without overcharging the battery. Therefore, you can “set it and forget it” without worry of damage to your car battery.
Below the Battery Tender 4 Amp Battery Charger and Maintainer. It is the one I own, but Battery Tender offers a selection of other units for different needs. It comes the unit itself, along with wiring so that you can clamp directly onto the battery terminals, as well as extra wiring that you can hook up permanently to your battery for easy connecting/disconnecting.
Once you plug in the battery maintainer, the charging light will blink orange. When you connect the clamps to the battery, the light will then light orange. When the battery is fully charged, then the ‘fully charged’ light will light up green.
Depending on where you car is parked in the garage or in the driveway, you may need an extension cord to reach to the vehicle. Otherwise, you always have the option of removing the battery completely and charging it indoors instead. For long term storage, I’ll stick with the latter solution.
Overall, this is just a simple and elegant solution to keeping your battery charged so that it doesn’t die on you. The fact it has the capability of preventing overcharging of the battery makes this a fool-proof way of maintaining your battery.
3. Keep a Portable Jump Starter on Hand
If it’s only the rare occasion that your battery dies on you or you can’t be bothered with using a battery maintainer or disconnecting your battery for prolonged periods of time, you can always have one of these convenient portable jump starters on hand.
These things are no longer the incredibly heavy and inconvenient jump starters of the past. These portable jump starters really are portable, and they can be stored in the vehicle in the case of a dead battery. It’s much easier to pull this out and jump start your own vehicle, rather than wait for someone who is willing to jump start your car with jumper cables.
Even if you do use a battery maintainer or disconnect your battery when you know you won’t be driving your car for a while, a portable jump starter is still a great thing to have around. It even doubles as an emergency flashlight and offers charging for your devices in many of the ones offered today.
What I do for Keeping my Car Battery from Dying
I think that should give you some ideas on how you can keep your battery from dying when your car is not is use for long periods of time. It’s not good for the car battery to constantly die and having to be jump-started again and again, which will degrade the battery over time.
For me, I actually use all three of these options. If I will be driving my car at least once a week, I don’t do anything but ensure that when I do drive, it is for at least 20 minutes of highway driving. If I don’t drive my car for 1-3 weeks, I’ll just disconnect the battery terminals. And if I don’t plan to drive the car for longer, I’ll just leave it on the battery maintainer. If I’ll be gone for a long period like months, I’ll probably just take the battery out of the car and have it hooked up the the battery maintainer there. I even have the portable jump starter in case I need it.
It’s easier than ever to keep your car battery from dying especially with so many more affordable options for battery maintainers. I hope this gives you some options for keeping your car battery charged and to save you time and convenience to prevent a dead battery in the future.