Removing the car battery when on vacation is the wisest thing to do if you don’t want to come home to a dead battery. I found this out the hard way. That’s why I am writing this article so that other car owners won’t commit the same mistake I made.
Should I disconnect my battery when I go on vacation? The answer to your question is Yes, definitely “YES”. Disconnect your car battery if you’re planning to be away for a period of time for that long-awaited family vacation.
Batteries lose their charges even when it is in storage. This occurrence is called a natural self-discharge, a characteristic common to all batteries. The explanation for this is a small electrochemical leakage within the battery.
As your battery grows older, the self-discharge rate also increases. Poor cycling practice, high temperature and the length of time the battery is in storage also increase the self-discharge rate.
If you do not disconnect your battery, it will sellf-discharge even faster because there are electronic accessories in your car that draw power even when the car is parked. Such accessories include the climate control settings, clock, alarm system, memories for seat positions, on-board computer and more.
This could be a very expensive mistake. When you come home from your vacation, you might find your battery totally drained or dead and is in need of a replacement. A new battery cost somewhere around $100 to $400 depending on the type, size, and brand.
Of course, jump starting your battery is an immediate remedy. But, the damage done to the battery is irreversible It has shortened the life of your battery and in no time at all, you will be needing to replace it.
Jump-starting also has a negative effect on the alternator since it has to work double time to power the battery. Such a practice could also shorten the life of the alternator.
Drawbacks to Disconnecting the Battery
Merely disconnecting the cables of the battery, but leaving the battery still within the car could create some complications such as a ground or even the risk of a fire.
To avoid this, when you disconnect the cable of the battery, make sure that it is in a secured position where it does not touch the ground or any of the terminals. Better yet, take out the negative post and wrap the end with a cloth so that it won’t get in contact with anything.
If the cable gets in contact with the negative terminal or even in a position somewhere close to it, it could generate a spark that could cause a fire.
Another precautionary measure is to wrap the cable in a Ziploc bag so that it is kept in check and is prevented from making physical contact with anything.
But, the best option is to disconnect the battery and store it in indoors where it is dry and cool.
Disconnecting the battery also results in resetting the electronic settings and systems in the car such as the clock and the navigational system. Before disconnecting, therefore, be familiar with the settings so that you can reset it once you’re back.
Alternative to Unplugging the Battery
If you have qualms about disconnecting the battery, the alternative is to acquire a battery maintainer or trickle charger that will charge the battery very slowly. This will be an added expense, but at least you are assured that you have a car ready for driving when you get back from your vacation.
To prevent a battery from becoming damaged, its voltage has to be maintained not lower than 12.4 volts. A trickle charger or battery maintainer monitors the voltage of the battery and maintain its charge at full potential while it is in storage. You can choose from any of the following two types of battery maintainer.
● A conventional float charger which supplies a consistent voltage to the battery at the same rate as the self-discharge. Normally, a float charger provides a voltage ranging from 13.0 – 2.8 volts.
● A multi-step or multi-stage fully automatic charger which keeps track of the battery’s voltage and charges the battery when needed. The voltage supplied by this device varies according to need.
It is a must to disconnect the battery of your car when you go on vacation or when you’ll be away for a longer period of time. Doing so would prevent the battery from being drained and from having an untimely death. The natural self-discharge characteristic of a battery could completely drain your battery if left connected to the car.