[Last updated: November 2022]
During lockdown millions of cars were forced to come to a standstill. The problem is, when your vehicle isn’t used often, it can lose charge which may result in you not being able to start your car the next time you need to use it. Thankfully, lockdown is now behind us, but there may still be times when your car is not used as often as normal, such as during a two-week holiday away. There’s nothing worse than coming back to your car, firing up the engine, only to find the battery is completely flat.
Endsleigh’s partner, the RAC, has written a useful article about what to do if you have a flat battery and how to check if the reason your engine is not starting is in fact a fault with the battery. They’ve shared some helpful information with us so we can help you keep your car battery healthy throughout the year.
Why is my battery affecting my car starting?
There are lots of components that contribute to your vehicle’s engine starting, your battery being one of them. Here are a few reasons your car battery may impact your car starting:
• Your car’s battery is old and doesn’t hold its charge as well as it used to.
• You’ve only used your car for short runs during the last few months. For example, a weekly trip to the supermarket. This can mean you car’s battery hasn’t had enough time to charge.
• Your vehicle’s battery is drained. Accessories such as dash cams can drain your battery if they’re left plugged in. Likewise with immobilisers, your radio and interior lights.
Tips for preventing a flat car battery
Here are some things you can do to save your car battery when your car is not in use.
1) Use a trickle charger or battery conditioner
Trickle chargers or battery conditioners are great for preserving your battery for long periods of time if you’re not using your car. They can also prevent things that are known for draining your car’s battery like immobilisers/dash cams.
2) Avoid turning your car on and then off again
You may think it’s helping to power up your engine for a few minutes and then turn it off again immediately every few days, but it actually does more harm than good.
3) Avoid short journeys
Along with switching your car on and off again, taking short trips in your vehicle could drain your battery if it’s already weak.
4) Drive your car for 15-20 minutes at a time
Using your essential journeys to drive your car for 15-20 minutes at a time should hopefully be enough to top up your car’s battery charge.
5) Alternate trips if your household has more than one vehicle
If you have more than one car at home, it’s a good idea to switch cars each time you make an essential journey to make sure each vehicle is getting a decent run.
6) Check electric vehicle (EV) and plugin hybrid (PHEV) manuals
EVs and PHEVs still rely on batteries which can drain when your vehicle is not in use. Advice will vary depending on the car’s manufacturer, but could include putting your EV in ‘ready mode’ for some time every few weeks to charge the battery.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t leave the main high voltage battery on charge. It’s normally suggested to maintain these batteries at around 50% charge (but never below 30% if you’re not using your car).
7) Make sure a new battery meets/surpasses your vehicle’s specifications
If your battery has died and attempts have been made to recover it but it’s not holding charge anymore, you’ll probably need to purchase a new battery. It’s important to make sure the new battery meets/exceeds your vehicle’s specifications.
This is to make sure that your new battery has enough power to start a vehicle which may not have been driven for a while. There are two reasons for this:
Manufacturers carry out standard tests to make sure their batteries can restart a car which hasn’t been used for a few weeks. However, things that may drain a car’s battery (such as plugged-in dash cams) aren’t considered in this test.
New batteries only tend to be half charged when they’re purchased, so you may have difficulty starting your car with one. This is why it’s important to do your research before purchasing.
8) Unplug unnecessary accessories
While you’re not using your car, it may be a good idea to unplug anything which may cause your battery to drain such as dash cams.
How to start a car with a flat battery
If you’ve only just come across these tips for how to keep your car battery from dying when it’s not in use, you may need help with how to start your car again. If so, here are some things you can do:
1) Jump-start your car
Jump-starting your car is usually one of the go-to options when your battery goes flat. For this, you’ll need:
• A 2nd vehicle with a charged battery nearby
• A handy guide on how to jump-start your car (if you don’t already know how)
• To take your car for a long (20-30 minutes) run afterwards to make sure the battery is able to charge.
2) Get professional assistance
If jump-starting your car hasn’t worked, or you don’t have the equipment needed to do so, call the RAC (on 0333 2000 999) who will happily assist you.
Car insurance with Endsleigh
If you’ve found yourself ready to take out new car insurance, you’re in the right place. To compare prices from over 60 providers and get all your quotes in one place, check out Endsleigh Compare today.
For more driving tips, travel guides, car reviews and money saving tips visit RAC Drive.
This post was contributed by RAC. The RAC is one of the UK's most progressive motoring organisations, providing services for both private and business motorists and are committed to making motoring easier, safer, more affordable and more enjoyable for drivers and road users.