It’s not uncommon for a car battery to die after being left unused for a long period of time. In fact, the battery will slowly discharge even when the car is not in use. This can be a problem if you’re not expecting it and need to start your car.
There are several ways to keep your car battery charged while it’s not in use, and we’ll discuss some of them in this blog post.
Let’s dive right in!
Table of Contents
What Does the Car Battery Do?
First, let’s look at what the car battery is and what it does for a car. A battery is a device that stores chemical energy and converts it into electrical energy.
While many cars still have only one battery, many other cars have more than one, especially if they are hybrid or require a lot of power to start. These kinds of cars have a starter battery, which starts the engine, as well as at least one auxiliary battery, which keeps the car’s computer running, as well as the accessories, such as the radio, the headlights, and the inverter outlet, if applicable.
The Starter Battery
The starter battery tends to be a lead-acid battery, which is made up of a mixture of lead and sulfuric acid. It produces around 12 volts of electrical energy and uses that voltage in order to start the car’s engine.
The Auxiliary Battery
The auxiliary battery is generally a deep-cycle battery, such as a lithium-ion battery, responsible (as we mentioned) for supplying electrical energy to the accessories.
Why Does a Car Battery Die When it’s Not in Use?
Over time, a car battery will slowly discharge, even when the car is not in use for a long period of time. This is due to something called self-discharge, which is when the chemicals inside the battery slowly break down over time.
In general, a lithium battery will lose around 5% of its charge per month when it’s not being used. So, if you have a brand new battery, it should last around 4 to 5 months without being used. However, if your battery is older, it may only last 1 or 2 months.
A number of factors affect self-discharge:
1. The Battery’s Age
One major reason why your car battery may die when it’s not in use is simply that it’s old and needs to be replaced. As batteries age, they lose their ability to hold a charge, and you will eventually need to be buy a new one.
2. The Battery’s Type
The type of battery you have will also affect how long it will last when not in use. For example, lead-acid batteries tend to self-discharge faster than deep-cycle batteries.
3. The Battery’s Storage Conditions
The way you store your car battery can also affect how long it will last. For example, if you keep it your vehicle out in the elements during extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold climates, the battery may discharge faster than it would if it were kept in a regulated, cool, dry place like a garage.
4. Parasitic Drain
Another factor that can affect self-discharge is something called a parasitic drain. This occurs when there is a small current draw from devices such as from an alarm system or electronic key fob that are connected to the battery. Even when these devices are turned off, they can still draw power from the battery, which will slowly discharge it over time.
5. Faulty Charging System
Finally, another reason why your car battery may die when it’s not in use is because of a faulty charging system. If the alternator or other charging system components are not working properly, it will not produce a charged battery during each time the engine is running, as it is supposed to. This can eventually lead to the battery being discharged and maybe needing to be replaced.
How to Keep Your Car Battery Charged While It’s Not in Use?
Now that we’ve looked at some of the reasons why your car might get a dead battery after being left unused for a long period of time, let’s look at some ways to keep your car battery charged when not in use.
1. A Trickle Charger
There are a few things you can do to keep your car battery charged while it’s not in use. One option is to use a trickle charger. This is a device that plugs into your car’s battery and continually tops off the battery. This is a good option if you just need a quick fix, but it’s not necessarily good for the battery to be left on all the time.
2. A Battery Charger
Another option is to use a battery tender or battery maintainer. This is a smart device that plugs into your car’s battery and charges it just when needed. This is a good option if you want something that can be left on all the time.
3. Drive it on Occasion
Finally, if you’re just keeping your car in your garage and taking it on short trips, you may not need to do anything at all. Just make sure that you take it for a drive every once in a while to keep the battery charged.
4. Invest in a Voltmeter
Regardless of whatever else you do, you may want to invest in a voltmeter so you can check the voltage of the battery from time to time. If your car sits for long periods of time, then a voltmeter will certainly add to your peace of mind.
What to do if Your Car Battery Dies?
If your car battery dies, there are a few things you can do to try and revive it.
1. Clean the Battery Terminals
If there is corrosion on the battery, then your first step will be to clean the battery terminals with a wire brush. This will remove any corrosion that may be preventing the battery from charging.
2. Use a Jumper Cables
The next step will be to use a battery charger, jump starter, or jumper cables to charge the battery. If you don’t have one of these items, you can usually borrow one from a friend or family member. Just make sure that you read the instructions carefully before using them!
3. Replace the Battery
Finally, if all else fails, you may need to replace your car battery. This is usually pretty easy to do, but you may want to take it to a mechanic if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions about Car Batteries
Now that we’ve gone over some of the basics of car batteries, let’s answer some frequently asked questions.
1. Should I remove my car battery if I’m not going to be using my car for a while?
Not necessarily. If you’re going to be storing your car for a very extended period of time, then it might be a good idea to remove the battery and store it in a cool, dry place. If you’re just storing your car for a short period of time, though, you don’t need to remove the battery.
2. Will leaving my car’s lights on drain the battery?
Yes, if your car’s lights are left on for too long, they will drain the battery. However, if you turn your lights off as soon as you’re done using them, they shouldn’t have too much of an impact on the battery. And some newer vehicles have a built-in feature that will turn off your interior lights for you, in order to save you unnecessary battery drain.
3. Is it bad to let my car sit for long periods of time?
It’s not necessarily bad, but it can be if you’re not taking proper care of your car. If you’re going to be storing your car for an extended period of time, make sure to clean it and cover it so that it doesn’t get too dirty or dusty. Additionally, make sure to check on it every so often to make sure everything is still in working order.
4. How often should I replace my car battery?
The general rule of thumb is to replace your car battery every 3-5 years. However, this may vary depending on the type of vehicle you have and how often you use it.
In conclusion, car batteries can die for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common reasons are parasitic drains, old age, and lack of use. There are a few things you can do to keep your car battery charged while it’s not in use, though, like using a trickle charger or battery maintainer.
Additionally, if your car battery does die, you can jump-start it if you know how. Just be sure to replace your car battery every 3-5 years to keep it in good working condition.
What are some other things you do to keep your car battery charged while it’s not in use? Share your tips in the comments below!