Does My Battery Need Watering?
- by Joe Weber
- updated on
Some batteries need occasional maintenance by topping off the water in the battery to ensure the electrolyte solution is properly mixed. Not all batteries need routine maintenance, however. Learn which batteries require maintenance and how to best go about completing this task to get the most life out of your battery.
What kind of batteries need watering?
Many years ago all lead acid batteries required the occasional maintenance of popping off the caps and adding distilled water. Batteries nowadays that require routine maintenance will be labeled Non-Maintenance Free (NMF). These batteries are starting to become rarer and rarer as battery technology advances. While you may buy a battery that is labeled "maintenance-free" the battery may still have removable caps for you to check water levels, although most owners of these batteries go the entire life of the battery without having to add water.
When should I water my battery?
How often you need to water your batteries will depend largely on how much you use them. For instance, if you have a golf cart that you only use on the weekends, it may not need water more than once a month. Cars that have non-maintenance-free batteries that are used a lot may need water more frequently. To make this very easy, some batteries have an indicator that will glow green when the water level is good and goes dark when it is in need of topping off.
How Do I Fill My Battery's Water?
Remember to wear gloves and safety glasses at all times when working with batteries.
- Make sure the battery is completely charged before checking the water level and that the engine is off and cool so you don't get burned.
- Clean the case of the battery with a mixture of baking soda and water before removing the caps. This helps keep debris out of the battery.
- Remove the filler caps. If you need something to pry them off, use a plastic tool. Nothing that contains metal.
- Carefully and slowly pour distilled water into the filler hole. Only use distilled water, do NOT use tap water. Tap water contains minerals that can damage the battery. If you need more control you can put distilled water in a small plastic measuring cup.
- Don't overfill the battery. The fluid levels should cover the lead plates but still leave about 1/8" to 1/4" of room beneath the filler hole. Adding too much water will dilute the electrolyte solution causing it to expand when charging and damage the battery.
- Securely replace the filler caps.
How do you know when your car battery needs to be replaced?
Your car will give you some clear signs when it may be time for a new battery. Look out for these signs as it means you may need to start shopping if you notice one or more occurring.
- Your engine is starting to struggle to start after sitting. This may be something as simple as it just takes a few extra seconds for the engine to start when you turn the key.
- The battery runs all of the electronics in your car so when the battery starts to go bad you may notice things like dimming lights when you turn on the radio.
- Some cars will actually trip the check engine light if the battery is going bad. If your check engine light is on take it to a service center to have the service codes read to determine what the culprit is.
- If you notice a build-up of a white ashy substance on any metal parts of the battery, you have yourself a corrosion problem. Corroded terminals can lead to poor connections that can cause voltage issues.
- If you notice the casing of the battery is misshapen it could have been warping due to extreme heat or cold exposure. If your battery is anything other than rectangular, chances are the battery isn't working properly.
- Something that is often overlooked is the age of the battery. Most batteries last on average 3-5 years but a lot of people don't keep track of when they purchased their battery and could easily have a battery that is 5-7 years old.
Shop For New Car Batteries at Batteries Plus
If you are seeing some of the tell-tale signs that your battery may be starting to go, stop into your local store for free battery testing and if you need a new battery, free installation (on most vehicles). Check out our large selection of car batteries today! If you want to learn more about getting the right size battery for your car read our blog article titled "How Do I Know Which Car Battery Fits My Car?".