Due to the current Coronavirus threat, many of us are taking government advice by working from home or self-isolating where needed. This unprecedented time is worrying for us all. We have prepared a few points to consider so that when you come out of isolation you don’t get into your car or onto your bike to find that you have a flat battery, making a tough situation even more difficult.
Your battery has a finite amount of charge in it, known as the capacity. When you start your car or use the onboard electronics you are taking from the stored capacity. So why does your battery not run out of charge? That’s because your car has a component on board called an alternator, which uses power from the engine to recharge your battery back to its full capacity.
When your car or bike is stood without use it continues to slowly take charge from the battery to power items such as the alarm and onboard computer etc. Normally you would use your vehicle most days, or every few days at least, so as you drive you’re replacing the lost charge. However, at the moment we do not know for how long some of us may be indoors and unable to regularly use our vehicles or motorcycles again. So if the period is prolonged, the capacity in the battery may well fall well below the capacity required to start the vehicle. This is when you’ll need to call a breakdown service to start your vehicle for you.
Further to this – and to make matters worse – when a battery is left in a discharged state, a chemical reaction occurs and a coating begins to build on the internal plates. This reaction is called sulfation and makes the battery resistant to taking a future charge. Symptoms of this are easy to detect; the battery will get warm during charging and a smell of rotten eggs is often emitted. If this is allowed to build for too long the battery will become unserviceable and will need replacing. This is not covered by any battery warranty as it is not a manufacturing defect.
The ultimate solution is regular use of the vehicle, but under current conditions, unless you have a sprawling country estate at your disposal that’s not going to be possible.
The next ideal thing to do would be charging your battery every two weeks using a dedicated car battery charger. If you have a garage or driveway, you can use any car battery charger, such as those from CTEK and NOCO. Read the instructions carefully and connect as described. Many people opt to leave the charger connected to the battery for long periods where the charger state this is possible.
If you have no driveway, the alternative is to take the battery from the vehicle and recharge it indoors.
Questions and Answers
Q: Why would I need to look after my battery? It’s maintenance-free!
A: Maintenance-free batteries are confusingly named – they do require charge maintenance – you simply don’t have to monitor the electrolyte levels as you would have had to do a few years ago.
Q: Will running my engine for 5 minutes maintain charge?
A: No – this won’t help and in many cases this can make things worse! Charging a battery from discharged to charged takes around 10 hours. By starting your engine you will be taking a large chunk of charge from the battery and over five minutes may not replace all that you have taken out. If you were to try this method you’d need to leave the engine running for a couple of hours. IN a confined space this would be dangerous, and the environmental impact wouldn’t be great either.