With the current global situation, many people are under lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic and this rings true for us in SA. This means that many people are not using their cars as frequently and are simply left sitting in the garage and this gives rise to a very important question.
Can a car battery go dead if it remains unused for an extended period?
The short answer to this question is yes. A new car battery can indeed die if it remains unused. A car battery will discharge in as short a times as two to three weeks if not used or at least charged on an external charger.
Most modern vehicles today have an array of electronic equipment all requiring power to keep them running. The small current loads are known as parasitic loads and could potentially cause the most damage to a battery in the long term. The reason for this is that when a battery discharges slowly because of the low current, the sulphation process (the normal chemical process when a battery is discharged) happens gradually and perfectly. Sulphation – the formation of a white paste comprising sulphate crystals forms perfectly on the positive and negative plates. Should these not be removed adequately in the subsequent charging process, either by the alternator or an external charger, then damage can become permanent and will lead to the early demise of the battery.
Most people are under the misapprehension that one needs only run the vehicle for a few minutes to recharge a battery. Short term charging only produces what is termed “surface charge “which dissipates very quickly and has no long-term advantage. Even those short trips to the shops two to three times per week is NOT sufficient to fully recharge a battery. Once a battery is completely discharged it could require at least ten to twelve hours to recharge it fully. A quick jump start and a drive around the block is not sufficient.
It is strongly recommended to charge your battery with an intelligent battery charger such as the CTEK range from time to time – even if the vehicle is used every day. This will prolong the life of the battery.
For those vehicles that are seldom used, like off road vehicles, caravans, boats, motorcycles, camper vans etc. …. Then it is critically important that the battery must either be charged very frequently (e.g. every three weeks) or better still, connect an intelligent battery charger (such as CTEK) to the battery and leave it connected permanently. Should one wish to leave a battery charger connected permanently to the battery, ensure that it has a “float mode” where once the normal charge cycle is completed, the charger will maintain the battery within the range of 13.6 – 13,8 volts. The battery need not be disconnected from the vehicles electronics when charged with an Intelligent battery charger.
Extreme weather can also contribute to a dead battery. Both extreme hot and cold weather can adversely affect a battery's performance. Extreme temperatures can lower a batteries ability to retain charge and / or capacity. The effect being more pronounced with extreme cold.
When the car is not being used, the impact on the battery's ability to hold a charge becomes more prominent. With extreme cold, it takes longer to recharge the battery as well. In other words, a battery can fail much quicker due to inactivity during cold winters.
There are different precautions one can take to avoid a dead battery due to non-usage as explained previously. One can regularly monitor the battery voltage and if one does not have the permanent use of an intelligent battery charger it is better to recharge the battery fully and then disconnect one of the battery terminals – preferably the positive terminal until the battery is required to be used again.
If you do find yourself with a dead battery, you may need to charge the battery first before you can use your car. Give your battery a boost by either using jumper cables, another battery, or an alternate power source.
Battery Power Zone also stock a nice range of mini jumper packs which can be stored in the glove compartment. These can be recharged by means of a mains AC charger or by means of the cigarette lighter socket. These packs can retain full capacity for months before they require re-charging. They are highly effective and take up very little space. Aside from their battery jump start capability they may also be used to recharge cellular telephones, tablets, cameras etc…
For all your battery needs, visit your nearest BatteryPower Zone.