13th May 2020

Battery Advice from the RAC

The RAC has reported that their patrols are currently dealing with more at home flat battery breakdowns than ever before. As some of us haven’t used our cars, and especially our classics, for weeks, the RAC have compiled some tips to help keep your car battery healthy.

Without being used regularly, car batteries can lose charge meaning they may not have enough power to start the engine. This is also more likely to be the case with cars with older, weaker batteries, but even newer or brand-new batteries can fail if they haven’t been used for long periods.

Why might my battery not start my car?

  • The battery might be old and no longer holding its charge that well
  • The car has only been used occasionally for very short runs – as has probably been the case for many people during lockdown – so the battery hasn’t had a chance to charge
  • The battery has been drained – this could happen because accessories like dash cams have been left plugged in, or perhaps while washing your car you’ve had the radio and interior lights on. While even immobilisers draw some charge from a battery, the important thing to remember here is that any extra drain reduces the chances of your battery starting your car when you need it to, so always disconnect everything you can if it’s not going to be driven for a long period. For the time being, it might be best to unplug your accessories.


Using a trickle charger or battery conditioner

To reduce the chances of your battery failing you, especially if you don’t drive very often in normal conditions, you should consider using a ‘trickle’ charger or battery conditioner. This is the most effective way to keep your battery healthy for long periods with little or no use. It will also keep immobilisers and other energy-sapping components from draining your battery completely.

Just starting your car may do more harm than good

Simply starting a car occasionally and leaving it running for only a few minutes isn’t likely to help, in fact, this may end up draining a weak battery. Driving the vehicle for 15-20 minutes would, in most cases, be sufficient to top up the battery charge. You should also be mindful that repeated short journeys will flatten your battery faster than usual, which is even more reason to follow the Government’s guidance to shop for necessities as infrequently as possible.

Do I need a new battery?

If your battery’s reached the end of its life and you need to buy a new one, always make sure you choose one that meets or exceeds the specification for your vehicle. One of the tests carried out by manufacturers is to ensure batteries have enough storage capacity to be able to start a car which hasn’t been used for a number of weeks. But it’s important to note this test doesn’t take account of extra plugged in devices, like a dash cam, that might drain a battery and affect its ability to start a car.

Even brand-new batteries can have difficulty starting a car if they’ve not been charged up and discharged several times. This is because most new batteries don’t leave the factory fully charged – they only reach their full charging potential by being driven regularly which is, of course, not the case during the coronavirus pandemic.

My battery is flat and my car won’t start. What can I do?

If you have another car with a charged battery parked close by the one with the failed battery, jump-starting is an option for you. Be sure to take the car that you’ve jump-started immediately out for a decent run of at least 20-30 minutes to charge its battery back up again.

If jump-starting isn’t an option for you or you’re still having trouble, you can call RAC for assistance if you have the relevant FJ Rescue policy addon.

The information contained in this blog post is based on sources that we believe are reliable and should be understood as general risk management and insurance information only. It is not intended to be taken as advice with respect to any specific or individual situation and cannot be relied upon as such. If you wish to discuss your specific requirements, please do not hesitate to contact your Footman James advisor.