Friday, June 12, 2015


The holidays are fast approaching. You may have your accommodation and itinerary organised, but when last did you check that your car and its battery were road-trip-ready?

There is no certain way to predict when your battery will fail, but regular battery checks can help ensure that everything is in top working condition. The last thing that you want is to be stuck halfway between your holiday destination and home with a dead battery and a car full of irritable family.

If you turn on the ignition and the car doesn’t start, or the starter motor is experiencing slow or interrupted turnover, or the headlights dim at idle, then it's possible that your battery needs to be replaced. Older car batteries require that battery water is regularly topped-up, while most new car batteries are maintenance-free.

A flat battery and not knowing how to start your car with cables from another vehicle is another risk that could potentially ruin your holiday. While the jump-starting procedure is relatively standard for all vehicles on the road today, jump-starting can cause damage to the vehicle's electrical system and computer if done incorrectly.

If you try to jump start a battery with a crack in it, it will explode. You will need to buy a replacement. In this case it is better not to take chances.

Once you have obtained jumper cables and located your battery terminals you can line up another car as close to the battery as possible without the cars physically touching. (In many modern cars the terminals are placed at strategic places in the vehicle due to the battery being in a hard-to-reach place.)

Make sure that both cars have their handbrakes on and the gear lever in neutral/park. Before you connect the batteries ensure that all headlights, indicators, car radios and air-conditioners are off and cell phones are unplugged to prevent electrical damage. Also, remove the keys from the flat car's ignition until the jumper cables are hooked up.

Battery terminals are all clearly marked, positive (+) and negative (-), with the positive battery cable usually being red/orange and the negative (ground cable) being black.

  • Connect one positive (red) end of the jumper cable to the positive (red) terminal of the dead battery. Connect the other positive end of the jumper cable to the positive terminal of the good battery.

  • Connect the negative (black) end of the jumper cable to the negative (black) terminal of the good battery. Connect the other negative end of the jumper cable to a shiny nut or bolt on the uncharged vehicle. This will need to be a grounded piece of the engine or the frame of the vehicle. You should only connect to the negative terminal on the dead battery as a last resort to avoid an explosion by spark.

  • Once the car batteries are linked, let the host car run for a minute or two before attempting to start the uncharged vehicle. Once the vehicle starts, remove the cables in the reverse order to that you connected them.

While it may be winter now, you should always keep in mind that batteries and heat don’t mix well. Older batteries can struggle during the summer time, especially if there is a sudden and continuous use of the air conditioner and other electrical accessories. Cars with smaller grilles usually have higher under-bonnet temperatures which can shorten battery life.




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