The heat of summer can be hard on your vehicle, so it's important to inspect your vehicle's battery to avoid breaking down on a crowded interstate or being stuck in the middle of nowhere with a load of impatient family members.
You'll need a plug-in battery charger from a local auto parts store to perform a basic check on both the battery and charging system.
Checking the battery
Performing a visual check of the battery
Dirty terminals can blunt the effectiveness of the charging system's ability to keep the battery at full charge.
You can check the terminals by loosening the nut on the terminal clamps that secure the battery cables to the terminals.
When the nuts are loose, wiggle the clamps back and forth as you lift them from the terminals. If you see a white deposit on the terminals, you can remove it with a light sandpaper or even an emery board for shaping nails.
Be sure to clean the inside of the terminal clamps also before replacing them and securing them by tightening the nuts.
You should also inspect the cables for any bare spots. If the copper wire inside touches a steel body part, the battery will gradually lose its charge.
Wrap a few layers of electrical tape around any small bare spots to prevent grounding issues and battery drain.
Using a battery tester
Your battery will be stressed both by higher temperatures and increased use on long summer drives, so you'll want to be sure that both the battery and charging system are up to the task.
All you need to do is to plug the battery tester into one of the power ports of your vehicle. Turning the key to the accessory setting will provide the current voltage of your battery on the tester's display.
The voltage must be slightly above 12.0. If it is less than 12, you should take your battery to an auto parts store for free testing.
If the battery voltage is in the proper range, you can test the charging system by turning on the vehicle, the battery tester should then read above 14.0. Any reading less than 14.0 will require that your charging system be tested at a local auto repair shop.
The problem could be a simple as a loose belt or as serious as a worn or defective alternator. In either case, you must get the charging system in order.
In a best case scenario, a dead battery will not restart the vehicle after you have parked it intentionally in a populated area. A worse situation could result if your vehicle simply shuts down while driving in a less than hospitable location.
If you can contemplate the vision of sitting, stranded in the summer heat, in a vehicle full of family members with no way to charge their cell phones, you will realize the importance of a battery check before you embark on a summer adventure. If you're having problems, visit a local auto repair shop.