Tips for Filling a Car or Motorcycle Battery

car battery

If you find yourself needing to fill a car, motorcycle, or other type of battery there are some tips I thought I'd share.  I assume filling a battery with battery acid is not really something you want to do in the first place.  Let me tell you that most professional mechanics don't like doing it and will try to avoid doing this too.  Sometimes though you have to buy particular batteries “dry” meaning they will not come filled with battery acid.  So you don't have an option.

Even though it might seem like a scary procedure to do it's not that hard.  However, there are several precautions you should take before attempting to do this.  So here are some tips for filling a car of motorcycle battery.

Wear Protective Clothing and Gear

This sounds like common sense but don't wear open toe shoes or sandals, shorts, or t-shirts when filling a battery with acid.  Always wear boots or shoes, long sleeved shirts and pants, and you MUST wear goggles or something to protect your eyes.  I'd highly recommend wearing rubber gloves when handling the battery acid and battery.  Just run to the grocery store and pick-up a pair of glove for dishwashing.  While these might not be the best protection they are better than standard latex gloves.

You might also want to wear a mask.  The reason?  When you pour the battery acid into the battery it's going to smell like rotten eggs since it produces sulfuric dioxide.  It's not a pleasant smell and can hit you hard if you are not expecting it.

Buy a Clear Battery

If you are going to buy a battery to fill yourself it's a good idea to make sure it's a clear see-through battery.  This will make filling it a lot easier and make your pouring more accurate so you do not accidentally overfill it.

Fill the Battery Outside or in a Garage

Since filling a battery is going to smell like rotten eggs, DO NOT do it your basement or house. It's going to smell and it will likely make you a very unhappy camper to have that battery smell lingering in the air.

Use a Table

I'd recommend using a table when filling your battery.  This again, sounds basic, but you would be surprised by the people that I've seen do it on the ground.  Not only is this more complicated but will hurt you knees and back.  Unsure why some people opt not to use a table.

Let the Battery Sit

One of the biggest mistakes people make is to not let a battery sit for awhile after they have filled it with battery acid.  The reason you want to let a battery sit, with the holes open, is that air bubbles are usually form when you fill each individual cell.  If you seal and then charge it there are going to be air pockets in the battery cells which will ruin the charging efficiency of the battery.  This will result in bad battery performance and most likely a shortened battery life.  I'd recommend letting it sit at least 10-12 hours possibly 24 hours if you can manage that.

Charge the Battery Slowly

Once you let the battery sit for awhile you need to charge it up.  If you are going to charge the battery it's best to put it on a slow charge, preferably at 1.5 amps.  If you choose a fast charge it might ruin the initial charge, which is the most important one.  Letting it charge slowly will ensure that it reaches 100% capacity which will improve the battery performance and longevity.

Final Tips

Remember you are handling battery acid which is extremely corrosive and could seriously hurt you or damage your vehicle.  Treat it with respect and do not mess around.  I also encourage anyone reading this to dispose of old batteries properly by taking them to your local auto parts store for recycling.  Be kind to the environment and your neighbors.

If you enjoyed this article please checkout my video on How to Replace a Car Battery.

Hoped you like my tips for filing a car or motorcycle battery.  Think I missed something?  Let me know below.

5 Tips for Preparing for Winter Wonderland Driving

winter driving
Winter Driving

Winter is can be a dangerous time for American driver and winter driving can be hazardous.  Drivers in parts of the country that get snow should be well-prepared for conditions over the next couple months and your vehicles must be prepared too.  You are likely to experiences infamous black ice, all-encompassing whiteouts and blizzards so why not prepare now? Brave the winter with the following five essential tips for safe, accident-free driving:

#1 Survival Kit, Assemble!

It is recommend that you gather essential supplies in your trunk, so that if you're ever stranded, you'll be able to survive Bear Grylls-style. Pack the essentials into a duffel bag for ample space. Begin assembling your survivor kit with spare prescription medicine, high-calorie food (perhaps any of the now defunct Hostess products), bottled water, a first aid kit, extra clothes, thick blankets and an assortment of tools to make Tim Taylor proud. It's also wise to bring jumper cables, a shovel and a bag of kitty litter or sand for traction when you might be able to get yourself out of trouble without the aid of a tow truck.

#2 Winterize Your Car

It is a good idea to have a mechanic check your car's fuel, ignition, cooling and exhaust systems every year. Fluid levels and batteries should be checked; and belts, brakes, wipers and hoses should be in good condition.  If you are not sure you can afford all the maintenance at once, it's a good idea to spread out the costs or learn to do some DIY maintenance.  Slippery winter conditions mean you'll need good dependable tires with adequate tread for good traction in snow. Snow tires a good option if you live in an area with harsh winters.  Michelin tires are the best you can buy since they provide great performance in all driving conditions, including wet winter weather, and last a long time.

#3 Slow Ridem

There's never a better time to drive defensively than winter. Slow down—you shouldn't be going as fast as you do in the summertime—and be extra-careful going over or under bridges and overpasses. Allow extra space between yourself and the car in front of you, in case you need to make a sudden stop. Inspect your tires before you leave to make sure they're inflated and wearing evenly. Make sure you're familiar with the skills to recover from a skid—if you start skidding, gently steer your car in the direction of the car's rear. Keep an eye out for disabled vehicles on the side of the road, never pass snowplows and, above all else, wear your seat belt—click it or ticket.

#4 The Man with a Plan

If you're planning to make a trip during the winter, make sure someone knows where you're going (and your route); check weather conditions before you leave. Most state patrol or highway department websites offer up-to-the-minute information on road conditions. Television and radio stations, including weather band radio, also provide current and reliable weather forecasts. Before you leave, double-check that you've got everything you need in your survival kit. Check around the circumference of your car before you depart, and every time you stop, ensure that your tires and other equipment are still in good condition. Take frequent breaks at rest stops or gas stations to prevent exhaustion and fatigue, and pull over to the nearest shelter if a storm becomes overwhelming. Don't allow your gas tank to drop too low before refilling; fill that sucker up frequently.

#5 Stuck in the Snow & Nowhere to Go

When you're stuck in feet of snow or some other winter-related wretchedness has wrecked your car, turn on your blinkers and stay put in the driver's seat; you don't want to run the risk of being hit by passing traffic. Use the supplies in your emergency kit, stay warm and periodically check your exhaust pipe—if it's clogged with snow and ice, you could pass out from carbon monoxide poisoning. If you're hopelessly stranded with nary a cell phone signal, you'll be forced to flag down another vehicle or walk to the nearest service station for assistance.

Experts, including law enforcement, agree that the key to safe winter driving is twofold: advance planning and awareness. Start your preparations now, pay attention to weather conditions and you can overcome cranky Old Man Winter.

Adam’s 7 Tips for Winterizing Your Car

Replacing My Wipers for Cold Weather

With the unusually warm weather in January, I felt a bit odd posting a list of tips for winterizing your car.  Now that there is actually snow on the ground in Baltimore, and it is cold, it makes more sense posting this list.  No sense in posting a list in the Spring!

“Adam's 7 Tips for Winterizing Your Car.”

  1. Hey, Your Car is Dirty:  This is something that is a good idea to do before it gets cold and there is snow on the ground.  (Ok, maybe I should have posted this earlier.)  It's good to clean your car of all the road grime and dirt, because during the winter cars tend to attract more dirt.  Clean the interior of the car as well.  If you don't have rubber floormats, I would consider buying them as it will help keep your car's interior cleaner.  Most people don't clean their cars during the winter, so that is why I suggest this.
  2. Ohh, My Battery Is Dead: It is a very good idea to get your battery checked or take a look yourself.  Low temperatures make it hard for the chemical reactions inside your battery to operate normally, meaning it has reduced power to get your car started.  Most auto parts stores do Free battery checks using specialized testers, and they can usually test your whole electrical system too.  If you have had trouble starting your car in the past due to the battery going dead or it has given you problems, you probably should just get a new battery.  If it is more than 3-4 years old, replace it.
  3. Get Rid Of That Battery Corrosion: Even if your battery is not that old, servicing it might be a good idea.  By that I mean making sure there is no corrosion on the terminals or cables.  If you are comfortable cleaning the terminals and battery, it is a good idea to do that yourself.  (Remember undo the negative cable first, then the positive cable.)  A quick way to get all the corrosion off is to pour warm water on top of the battery, which quickly washes away all that white sulfate deposit.  You can then take wire brush and clean the terminals and cables, ensuring you battery has a good connection.
  4. Can You See The Light?:  Having a Headlight or Taillight bulb out is an easy thing to miss. Hey, I understand!  Since the days are shorter and the nights longer in winter, it is good to make sure they are functioning properly.  Turn on your cars lights and walk around to make sure all are in working order.  Don't forgot to check those blinkers too!  If any are out or very dim, replace it.  Then you don't need to worry about it later.
  5. Keep Your Coolant:  You want to make sure you have a 50:50 mix of anti-freeze and water inside your radiator. If there isn’t enough anti-freeze in the mix, it could potentially freeze in the cold weather.  How do you know if you have a 50/50 coolant or anti-freeze mixture?  There are test strips and special tools to test the mixture and pH level of coolant.  I rarely see many shops using them, but you can buy them at auto parts stores.  You might want to consider doing a coolant flush if you have never done it, or if it has been 4+ years since you have flushed your coolant.  Don't forgot to also check your hoses.  If they are bulging hard, brittle, deformed, squishy, or have hairline cracks, replace the hose.
  6. Is Your Tread Dead?: When is the last time you checked you tire pressure?  Mmm… better check it, since tires lose about 1psi for every 10 degree change in temperature.   You gas mileage will improve and your car will handle better.  Also make sure you have adequate tread and your tires are not worn-out.  If you live in climate that gets heavy snow, switching to snow tires for the winter might not be bad idea.
  7. Can You See the Road?: Wipers are very easy to overlook, but very important for inclement weather.  Check your wipers are not streaking or has rubber falling off.  If they are old and aren't doing the job, replace them.  I recommend Bosch frame-less wipers, which last longer and work better.  I have Bosch wipers installed on my Honda Accord.  Remember to also make sure you have washer fluid.

I hope you enjoyed Adam's Auto Advice tips!  If you have a suggestion or comment about winterizing your vehicle  leave a comment below.  Keep warm this winter and please drive safely.  You never know what's on the road, so be prepared.

How to Jump Start a Car

Today I had to go over to my brother's apartment to help him get his Mazda3 started.  The culprit?  A dead battery!  It had been awhile since I had actually done a jumpstart with a car, since I usually use a “jumpbox” when a car has a dead battery.  It was a good refresher for my brother and me.

First thing you want to do is make sure the car with the good battery has sufficient gas.  My 96 Honda Accord had plenty of gas before going over to my brother's.  Also you want to make sure you have jumper cables.  This is embarrassing to admit, especially since I have an auto blog, but I did not have jumper cables in my car.  I had to get a set out of another car before going over to my brother's apartment.  I will buy jumper cables for my Accord though!  I promise!

When I got over to my brother's apartment, I parked my Accord as close to his car as possible.  Obviously leave enough room for you to get between the cars.  Hook up the cables in this order:

  1. Red Positive Cable onto Positive Terminal to Dead Battery
  2. Attach the other Red Positive Cable onto Positive Terminal to Good Battery
  3. Black Negative Cable onto Negative Terminal of Good Battery
  4. Attach the other Black Negative Cable of the Engine Block, Alternator, or Some Ground
Here is a good picture on the jumper cable bag, if you feel my instruction don't cut it!
How to Setup Jumper Cables!

After you have the cables hooked up start the car with the good battery and let it run for about 5-10 minutes.  It's important to make sure the cables have a good connection or you will be wasting your time.  (I know this from experience, but got a reminder about it today.)  After letting you car run for awhile, therefore letting the good battery charge the dead battery, try to start the car with the dead battery.  If it starts, let it run with the other car with the good battery for 2 minutes.  If not, keep the car with the good battery running since the dead battery needs more time to charge.

Once you have the dead battery car running keep it running for awhile to let the alternator charge the battery, shut off the car with the good battery.  Remove the cables in the REVERSE of how you put them on.  Refer to the instructions above.  I would drive around the car that had the dead battery to bring up the charge.  It might even be good to head over to an auto parts store that will test your battery for free.  You could wait a day, drive it around, and then see if it gives you trouble.  Most likely if you do go to an auto parts store after having to jump it you will be told the voltage will be low.  My brother and I still did this today to see if what the voltage of the battery was.  I would recommend driving it around to give it a chance to bring the change back up.  If the battery has been giving you trouble and been dying on you a lot, I would recommend changing it, since that battery will only continue to give you trouble.

I hope this post helps people who do not know how to Jump-Start their car.

Jumper Cables

Stranded by AAA

Last Tuesday I was driving home, on a busy city street, when my engine suddenly shut-off…. in the middle of the road. None of the car electronics were working.   I tried to start the car many times, but to no avail.  Unfortunately…. it was a dead battery!

It's good to try to avoid this situation.  You should get your battery tested every so often. Your mechanic or local auto parts store should have specialized testing equipment to determine whether a battery is good or bad.  How can you determine whether you have a bad battery?  Usually when your battery starts to produce white corrosive material around the battery terminals and contacts, it tends to be a sign the battery is starting to go. My battery was producing white corrosion a lot, and no amount of cleaning was keeping it from coming back.  Batteries also tend to smell pungent.  If it smells like rotten-eggs around your battery or when your hood is open, you have a bad battery.  Batteries tend to last about 3-5 years.  If your battery is over 3 years old, definitely get it tested every couple months to ensure you don't get stranded.

The annoying thing is AAA tested this battery tested 2 weeks earlier, and said it was “Fine.” Since it was an AAA branded battery with a 3-year warranty, you can get a replacement if defective.  While questioning a representative on what criteria is needed to replace a battery the statement was “We will replace a battery if it has a bad cell or is defective.” They gave me the usual corporate runaround about policies and procedures, but provided no real information.  It seems AAA doesn't want to give you a new battery unless it's absolutely necessary.

I got my car towed to where I work.  We promptly tested the battery, and obviously it was no good.  So I put in a new one and was back on the road.

Don't listen to AAA for advice about vehicle maintenance.  It’s better to be cautious, and change a battery when it shows signs of wear.  I learned this the hard way by getting stranded in busy traffic.  These roadside assistance clubs are for towing, not auto repair advice.