As a proud owner of a car, RV or boat, you know that maintenance is key. But, did you know that learning how to store vehicle batteries is just as important as changing your oil or rotating your tires? Take it from Robert Walden, a seasoned mechanic, car enthusiast and founder of Vehicle Freak, who truly knows his batteries.
“It’s always rewarding to see a car continue to purr like a kitten, thanks to the conscientious care it’s received over the years,” Walden said, while stressing how these small tasks collectively contribute to the overall health of the vehicle.
Now, understanding different battery types and knowing the right storage techniques can ensure optimal performance and prolong your battery’s lifespan.
Let’s shed some more light on this, and get ready to supercharge your vehicle maintenance game!
Selecting the Storage Location
So, can you store a car battery in your garage or house? The answer is yes, but there are some important considerations. The location must strike a balance when it comes to temperature and humidity. Walden learned this lesson the hard way early on in his career as a mechanic.
“One frosty morning, I walked into the garage to find a battery I’d left on the cold concrete floor completely drained of charge,” he said. The takeaway: Temperature and humidity play pivotal roles when it comes to storing batteries.
“A battery’s chemical reactions speed up in the heat, causing it to discharge quickly, but they slow down in the cold, hampering its performance,” Walden explains. Likewise, excessive humidity can lead to condensation on the battery terminals, causing corrosion.
“I’ve seen batteries so corroded they looked like they’d sprouted a green, furry coat,” he said.
Aim for a room temperature of around 15°C (59°F) and low humidity. Minor fluctuations in temperature won’t hurt but steer clear of extreme cold or heat and keep those batteries dry to avoid a ‘green, furry’ surprise! Your best bet? A climate–controlled storage unit.
Disconnecting the Battery
You found a sweet parking spot for your battery or even rented long-term car storage. What comes next?
“Disconnecting the battery during storage is essential. Many people don’t realize a parked automobile’s systems can slowly drain a cell,” Walden said. The same goes for boats or if you’re looking to winterize an RV.
Here is how to disconnect your vehicle battery for storage:
- Start the disconnecting process with your vehicle turned off.
- Identify the battery terminals, typically color-coded with black indicating the negative and red the positive.
- Always tackle the negative (-) terminal first. Why? It’s all about safety. Removing the negative terminal first helps prevent any accidental short-circuiting that could occur if the positive terminal were to touch a grounded part of the car.
Once you’ve disconnected, consider using battery terminal protectors. These little gems are an extra line of defense against corrosion during storage.
When it’s time to reattach, remember, the negative terminal should be connected second. Stick to this ‘last in, first out’ rule, and you’ll be golden!
Cleaning and Inspecting the Battery
Ever heard that cleanliness is next to godliness? Walden says this also holds true when it comes to storing vehicle batteries.
“Dirt or grime can cause the battery to discharge slowly over time,” he said.
Give your battery a thorough cleaning, focusing on the casing and the terminals. If your battery is exceptionally dirty, it might need a little more elbow grease. The expert’s suggestion? A bit of mild detergent and thorough drying.
But don’t stop at cleaning. Inspect your battery for any signs of damage or leakage. Damage can accelerate the battery’s deterioration while a leak can cause a whole mess of trouble, not just for the battery but potentially for anything nearby.
Test your battery with a 12V battery tester before storing it. Address any necessary repairs or maintenance before you store your battery. If the damage is too extensive, it might be time to consider a replacement. The ‘store now, worry later’ approach may seem convenient, but it won’t do you any favors in the long run.
Proper Battery Storage Techniques
There’s a method to the madness of proper battery storage techniques.
“Always store batteries in an upright position,” Walden said.
“Tipping or flipping could lead to an acid leak — a messy and hazardous situation you don’t want. And, a leak could cause permanent damage to the battery and potentially anything nearby.”
Placement is essential too. Walden advises against storing batteries on a concrete floor as the cold seeping in can quickly drain your battery. Place your battery on a shelf or bench instead of the ground. And if you’re wondering how to store vehicle batteries in containers, know that all battery storage boxes serve as an extra layer of protection.
- Plastic battery boxes are cheap, light and corrosion-resistant. They break down in sunlight, but you won’t store your batteries in the sun anyway.
- Aluminum storage boxes are also light, but more expensive and long-lasting than plastic. Overall, they are a better investment for long-term car battery storage.
As a final tip, make sure to keep your battery away from flammable or corrosive substances.
“Never store near fuels, sparks or naked flames,” said Walden, highlighting that batteries emit flammable hydrogen.
Monitoring and Maintenance During Storage
Battery storage is not a ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ scenario. Regular monitoring and maintenance are critical.
“If a battery sits for too long without charging, it can undergo ‘sulfation,’ a process where lead sulfate crystals form that can’t be broken down,” said Walden. “This can drastically cut your battery’s lifespan.”
Pro tip: Charge your battery at least once every three months during storage to prevent this, Walden says.
Don’t forget to use a battery maintainer or charger to maintain optimal charge levels. And, do keep in mind that battery types such as lead-based, absorbed glass matrix, and lithium-ion each have their own optimal storage advice. For example, lithium-ion batteries fare best when stored at 40-80 percent charge.
Also, be sure to inspect the battery periodically for any signs of deterioration or damage. As with every aspect of how to store vehicle batteries, vigilance is the key to longevity.
Preparing for Battery Reinstallation
Before reinstalling your battery, ensure it is fully prepared for action. Here’s how:
- Clean: Clean the battery terminals and ensure a secure connection. Dirty or loose connections can lead to power loss.
- Test: Test the battery’s voltage and capacity using a multimeter or a battery tester. For a 12-volt battery, anything under 12.2V indicates that the battery should be charged before use.
- Charge: If your battery’s voltage is low, charge it until it measures between 12.6-12.8V before it goes back into the vehicle. A poorly charged battery can cause starting issues.
Remember, knowing how to store vehicle batteries is just the first part. It goes hand in hand with taking extra care when you’re about to put them back to work!
Additional Tips for Specific Vehicle Types
Every vehicle has its own quirks when it comes to battery storage. Here are some expert tips on how to tailor your approach for cars, RVs and boats:
- Cars: Keeping the battery fully charged is a must, especially when it comes to winter car storage. Got an electric car? Check out these useful tips.
- RVs: For recreational vehicles, continual charging during storage is especially crucial to power appliances when stationary. This will help avoid any nasty surprises when it’s time to hit the open road again.
- Boats: Boat battery storage can be particularly tricky due to the corrosive effect of moisture. Walden says dryness pre-storage is key, as residual moisture can corrode over time. Additionally, the salinity of marine environments calls for extra precautions including thorough cleaning and a light petroleum jelly coating of terminals.
Secure Your Vehicle Battery Longevity
The art of understanding how to store vehicle batteries is a fine balance of meticulous preparation, careful storage and regular maintenance. Your battery is a vital element of your vehicle, and it pays to treat it with the care it deserves.
In the vast world of cars, RVs and boats, each battery has its own unique requirements. Don’t neglect the specific needs of your vehicle’s battery and if you’re unsure or uncomfortable handling the battery yourself, don’t hesitate to seek professional assistance.