Off to School With a Car Battery Plan

June 25, 2021 | Casey Johnson

Father getting daughter ready to head off to school.

As you wipe a tear away and help your child pack for college, you go through the parental checklist to ensure they’re as ready as possible to venture out for their first dose of independence: be aware of your surroundings (check), always keep your phone on you (check), have fun – but not too much fun (check), remember to change your oil (check), don’t let your gas tank reach empty (check). However, one thing that may escape your list is the car battery. While under your roof, you likely handled your teen’s routine car maintenance. Now it’s time to pass the baton. Whether your young adult is headed across town – or across the country – make sure they’re aware of the signs of a failing battery, and what to do if they find themselves stranded with a car that won’t start.

Hit the Road

If your child is living on or near their college campus, they may go long periods without driving. With many campuses built like small cities, everything a student needs is likely within walking distance. Remind your college student to take a drive. They may assume that letting their car sit will extend the car battery’s life, when in fact, the opposite is true. If a car sits unused for a long period of time, the battery is more likely to fail. Your child should drive their car for at least 30 minutes per week, preferably on the highway without stop-and-go traffic.

Turn Off the Lights

With friends hopping in and out of the car, remind your teen to check for doors that may not shut completely. These can cause parasitic draws such as interior lights to drain the battery. They should also be mindful to turn off any interior lights and headlights before powering down the car, and make sure the trunk is closed completely. Many new cars don’t charge accessories, such as a cell phone, when the vehicle isn’t running. However, if they have an older model, these features may not be disabled, so your child should not leave accessories plugged in when they aren’t driving the car.

Signs the Battery Is Failing

Your college student doesn’t have to be a seasoned mechanic to identify a car battery in its demise. Before they end up stranded in a parking lot, help them understand the warning signs of a declining battery. If they notice a rotten egg smell (not from old fast-food orders), the battery is likely near the end of its lifespan. Headlights and interior lights may also appear dim or flicker. The horn may sound funny, the vehicle crank may sound weak, and features like the radio or other accessories may not run as expected. If you or your child can’t remember the last time the battery was replaced, that probably means it has been too long. The average battery lifespan is three to five years. Keep in mind, this number may vary, especially if you live in regions with extreme hot or cold temperatures. A simple look under the hood can be just as telling: if the battery case is bulging or cracking, it’s time to call in the professionals.

The CAA Mobile Battery Service Program

The CAA Mobile Battery Service Program has been there for you, and we’ll be there for your college student, too. Rest easier at night knowing that if your child is stranded, whether at school, a parking lot, or a friend’s house, CAA is only a phone call away. A CAA Mobile Battery Service Technician comes to them to test and replace the battery if needed. Responsible recycling is also included. Before your teen heads to school, have them download the CAA Mobile app and save *222 in their phone. They can also visit for service. With one less thing off your plate, you and your teen can enjoy the moment and focus on their exciting school year to come.

Tags: driving tips, automotive, CAA Battery

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