Coronavirus: How to maintain your car’s battery during the lockdown
- Lockdown means many people aren't driving for long periods
- We explain how to maintain your car battery
- Discover why hybrids are different
The battery is arguably one of the most important parts of your car. Not only does it generate the electricity your vehicle needs to start, but it also stabilises the voltage to keep the engine running.
It’s unlikely you’ll get a flat battery, but it’s always best to be on the front foot and take preventative measures where you can. So our experts have the best ways to maintain your car’s battery during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) lockdown.
Make sure everything is switched off
There are many potential causes to a flat battery, but one of the most common is parasitic battery drain. This happens when a circuit or switch continues to draw power long after the vehicle has been switched off. This doesn’t usually cause a problem if your car isn’t driven for a couple of days, but can do if the car is left idle for a longer period of time.
Don’t worry - you don’t need to be an automotive electrician to minimise the risk of parasitic drain. In most cases, the problem can be avoided with a few simple steps, such as switching off the interior lights and radio before you turn off the ignition. It’s also important to switch off the lights in the glovebox and boot. We’ve got some helpful tips here on how you can make sure all the lights in your car are turned before storing your car for longer periods of time.
Charging up your car battery
Most batteries will cope with a couple of weeks of inactivity without problem. However, if your car is older than three years or being stored for several weeks at a time, you may want to consider fitting a trickle charger. A good one will cost you around £65 and should automatically measure how much charge is required, so it doesn’t overcharge (and potentially damage) the battery.
That said, there are some important things to think about before fitting a trickle charger to your car. Firstly, you’ll need electricity to plug the charger into - that’s great if you’ve got a garage but not so great if you park on the street. Secondly, it’s vital that you read the owner’s manual. Failure to do so may invalidate your vehicle’s warranty. If you are unsure (or cannot find the owner’s manual for your car) you should contact the manufacturer’s customer care team; they will be able to talk you through the process or email you the instructions specific for your make and model of vehicle so you can fit a charger safely.
Got a hybrid? Harness its awesome power!
If you own a hybrid car then you may be able to laugh in the face of a flat battery. For example, some Hyundai and Kia hybrid models have a ‘battery reset’ button. Press this, and the car automatically uses the hybrid battery to charge the 12v battery - this means you can effectively jump start your own car from the comfort of the driver’s seat.
If your hybrid car doesn’t have a smart battery reset function then trickle chargers will work with most (not all) hybrid cars that have a separate 12v battery under the bonnet. Make sure you read the manual first to see if it recommends the use of a trickle charger - nobody wants an expensive repair bill if you make a mistake that causes damage.
There’s no need to worry about the hybrid (traction) battery - this is the big high voltage battery which works with the engine to provide power. In most circumstances, the hybrid system will automatically maintain its charge to make sure this battery will never go entirely flat. You won’t need to attach a charger to the hybrid battery at any point.