One of the most important parts of your car is your battery. It gives life to your car and ensures that you aren’t left stranded by the side of the road. So, when your battery dies, it can lead to a lot of worry, stress, and expense. While every battery will have a certain life span and will need to be replaced eventually, there are regular maintenance steps you can take to help improve its performance and extend its life.

1. Keep it Corrosion-Free

The first step is to keep your battery free from corrosion. You can easily do this by using a wire brush or other small brush dipped in a solution of baking soda (one tablespoon) and water (one cup). After you’ve brushed off the top of the battery and rinsed it off with cool water, disconnect the cables (starting with the negative one), and clean around the battery terminals with a post cleaner (available at any auto store).

2. Check the Voltage

Once your battery is clean, take the time to check the open-cell voltage. You can do this with a battery tester, a voltmeter, or by asking your auto mechanic to test it for you. Most batteries, when fully charged, should fall in the 12.5-12.6 voltage range. If your battery falls below 12.0, then you should check the levels of the water and sulfuric acid inside the battery cells. If you have a non-sealed battery, check to make sure that the electrolyte level inside the cells reaches the bottom of the fill port. If the levels are low, add distilled water to the cells until the proper level is reached.

3. Check the Fluids

Once all your cells are filled to the proper level, use a hydrometer to test the electrolyte (water/acid mix) level in your battery. While the reading can fluctuate with temperature, you want to make sure that the reading comes in at least 1.265. If the reading is any lower, then it is time to give you battery a recharge.

By keeping your battery free of corrosion, keeping the fluid levels correct, and paying attention to the voltage level, you can help extend the life of your battery. If you’re uncomfortable caring for your battery yourself, or have any questions about general maintenance tips, contact your local auto mechanic. They’ll be able to assist you in treating your battery with the care it needs.