Several different methods can be used to
recharge a depleted battery. See your battery’s
owner’s manual to decide which method
may work best for your situation, or talk to
If your car has a manual transmission, you can
push-start the vehicle. If the charging system
(alternator and voltage regulator) are in proper
working condition, simply push-start the car
and kick it over, then drive long enough to let
the charging system do its work. A good
half-hour drive should give it a solid charge.
Here are a few tips to quickly restore a battery
using this method.
• Drive at a constant speed (highway driving)
versus stop-and-go (city driving). This will
allow the alternator to charge more evenly.
• Turn off all accessories
(radio, air conditioner, etc.).
• If possible, drive during the day. Even headlights use power. Having them off increases
the amount of electricity going to the battery.
Remember, this does not replace charging the
battery. A car’s alternator is not designed to
fully restore a depleted battery, but rather to
maintain a healthy one. As soon as possible,
put your battery on a battery charger and
give it a full charge for a day or two.
If you will be parking a car for long periods of
time (weeks or months), it’s best to disconnect
the battery to prevent discharging. Use a crescent
or open-ended wrench to loosen the strap from
the negative terminal on the battery, then remove
the connector. Make sure the connector is tucked
away from the terminal, where it cannot come
into contact with the post.
Select a battery with a higher-than-required CCA rating if the vehicle is
operated in temperatures lower than zero degrees. Never select a battery that
has less than the CCA required by your engine. A few extra amps are better than
Notes on reserve capacity
The reserve capacity (RC) is the measure of battery strength when the
going gets tough. RC is the amount of time the battery will deliver maximum
amperage before discharging altogether.
A good example of RC in practice is trying to start a stubborn engine. A
battery with a high RC rating will have enough power in reserve to get through
tough situations, such as a stubborn engine or accidentally leaving the lights
on while at the store. Because the RC is measured at warmer temperatures, it
is of great importance to select a battery with a higher-than-required RC rating
for a vehicle that is operated in colder climates.
Removing and replacing the battery
Hauling the battery out of the engine compartment and into the warehouse
for a like-for-like comparison is one way to choose a battery, but not the most
practical or reliable method. Compounding the confusion is that time and battery
acid are usually not kind to any identifying labels on the battery.
When you buy a battery, choose one with the highest quality and CCA/RC
rating your budget can afford. In general, selecting more battery power than
you need is better in the long run than choosing just enough. A
THE FOLLOWING TIPS apply to all batteries,
including maintenance-free batteries.
• Make sure to wear safety glasses when
working near or with car batteries.
• To ensure good connectivity, clean the
terminals periodically with a wire brush.
• When removing a connector from a
terminal, twist it from side to side
and pull gently upward. Refrain from
excessive tugging or prying.
• When reconnecting a connector to
a terminal, seat it down firmly on the
post. A few gentle whacks from a
rubber mallet will do it. Don’t overtighten
and strip the nut.
• After securing the connector, coat
the whole post with high-temperature
grease. This will reduce corrosion
• If you keep having electrical problems
(battery dies, car won’t start, power is
intermittent or weak), it’s not necessarily
the battery. It could be in the charging
system, normally a bad alternator or
voltage regulator. A mechanic can test
the system to isolate the problem. A
Mike Bumbeck spends a great deal of his time in Los Angeles photographing, repairing and writing about cars and their odd effect on those obsessed with their powers.
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FOR INFORMATION ON HOW TO JUMP-START A CAR, SEE PAGES 148– 149.