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Irregular vehicle use: Long term effects on batteries

By autotech-nic on January 21, 2021

The battery experts at VARTA are recommending for technicians to check the status of all car’s batteries entering the workshop. This is now more important than ever as so many cars have not been used as regularly as they normally would have, over the last year. Most private vehicles clocked up fewer miles in 2020, due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and a drop in commuter journeys, as a result, batteries faced major challenges last year. With the new 2021 lockdown implemented, this looks set to continue.

To add to this, there was some extensive warmer weather early in 2020, and then some very hot temperatures in August. This warm weather accelerates the degradation of the battery’s health, and so there are lots of cars out there with a weak battery.

Andy Cook, Technical Representative at VARTA, explains: “Lots of cars have been stood still for months on end, therefore the alternator has not had chance to re-charge the battery. This, along with a hot spring/summer, has led to many batteries failing and leaving people stranded, particularly over the winter months where cold weather means the battery has to work harder to start the engine.”

VARTA is therefore advising that technicians should use a battery tester to determine if the battery is in a good state of health, or needs attention. With over a third of vehicles now having a start-stop system, it’s vital that a workshop has an up-to-date tester, that can also accurately test Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) and Enhanced Flooded Batteries (EFB). If it’s an older tester that doesn’t have the capabilities to test AGM or EFB batteries, then it’s worth upgrading the tester; otherwise, the test results are likely to be inaccurate.

Andy Cook continues: “It shouldn’t take long to complete a battery test, not much longer than 5 minutes, but by explaining the results to the customer, you are giving them peace of mind that the battery is in working order, or advising that it might be time for a replacement. By doing this you’re ensuring they have a functioning battery and will not be left stuck out in the cold due to battery failure.”

Batteries face greater demands than ever before, as they have to serve increasingly complex and power-hungry car electronics. Whereas digital dashboards, inbuilt screens and parking cameras used to be limited to high-end vehicles, they are now commonplace on even entry-level models, all placing additional strain on the battery. Andy comments: “Many drivers are also plugging in their mobile devices to charge them whilst on-the-move, again drawing power from the vehicle. This is why it’s paramount to ensure the battery is in a condition to support all the comfort and safety features; it’s the heart of the car.”

As highlighted by a recent GiPA study, the UK is seeing an ageing car parc; there is now a greater number of cars over 13 years old on UK roads, in which the battery has either never been changed or was changed a long time ago. It is unlikely this will change in the short term, as more car owners are postponing plans to buy a new car because of the uncertain economic situation. As reported by BBC news in early January, new car registrations fell to their lowest in 30 years in 2020, which was due to a combination of closed showrooms and lack of buyer confidence due to the pandemic and Brexit.

VARTA has been highlighting as part of their Back To Better campaign that now is the time for a workshop to implement a test-every-battery process if they haven’t before. It’s been a challenging year for batteries, and with this ageing car parc, there is no better time for garages to generate revenue by ensuring batteries that need replacing are done so, whilst also keeping customers happy the service they received was thorough and keeps them on the road. Andy adds: “Testing batteries isn’t all about profiteering, it’s about offering great customer satisfaction and ensuring their car will start when they most need it to. This then adds to customer retention.”

The VARTA Partner Portal provides assistance to technicians; the industry leading online platform uses Original Equipment information to help identify the correct battery for every vehicle, and also includes step-by-step fitting instructions.

Access to the VARTA Partner Portal is available via all internet-enabled devices: after a quick one-off registration, each workshop employee has FREE and unlimited access, so you can ensure the correct battery is recommended and installed in the quickest time possible.



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