Car battery © iStock

Dear Driving for Dollars,

My car battery was having problems recently, and a car parts store replaced it for me. The guy there told me to make sure I do the “regular maintenance” twice a year, and I said I would without really thinking much about it. Later on, I was looking at my paperwork for the new battery and it says it is “maintenance-free.”

Was the guy just giving me a line to get me back to his shop, or am I missing something?

— Nicole

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Dear Nicole,

You raise an interesting point, Nicole. It’s true that today’s car batteries are considered to be maintenance-free, but it is recommended that they be cleaned occasionally. Some car batteries may need maintenance if they overheat.

Car batteries should be cleaned periodically at their terminals with a mixture of baking soda and water to remove any corrosion. If the terminals are corroded, you can use a wire brush with the baking soda mixture to remove it.

Once cleaned, they should be coated with sealant or grease designed for high temperatures. How often you do this depends on the climate you live in and your driving habits, but a good rule of thumb is once in spring and once in fall.

Should your car battery get exceptionally hot, it may lose water, so get it checked if you find yourself in this situation. You can check it yourself by consulting the website for the brand of your car battery for instructions on how to determine the water level, or just ask your mechanic to check when he is doing any other repairs associated with this car problem.

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