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I have a 2015 Honda Civic and I got a new battery for it about six months ago. Recently the car hasn't been starting and required jumps every morning to run. I took it to the dealership and they let me know that the battery and alternator were both fine, but I'm not driving the car enough and the battery voltage is dropping below the minimum needed to start. They recommended that I drive the car more.

I'm privileged enough to be in a position where my work is only 2 miles away, so I only drive about 5 miles a day on average (maybe 35 miles a week). My question is, what's the minimum I should be driving per week to keep my battery in good condition and properly charged? Does it matter how fast I drive (should I take my car on highway joyrides every weekend?) to keep the battery charged?

Are there any other solutions to this problem? Thanks!

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We always said about 7 to 10 miles of "good" driving after starting the car ie for that trip, not idle stop start in traffic.

I use a battery tender or charger set on low during the winter for mine.

  • Thanks for your response. Is that 7-10 miles per day or per week? Most of my day-to-day driving is in traffic, so are you recommending a good amount of highway driving on weekends to compensate? – hchc1992 May 12 at 18:49
  • That is per trip, so once the car is started you should do 7 to 10 miles. Otherwise you run the risk of the battery getting low and it won't start the car - as you have proved. – Solar Mike May 12 at 18:52
  • I see. That would be a difficult lifestyle change for me to make since rerouting my commute to work would add a significant amount of time in traffic. Is it possible for me to drive to/from work for the 2 miles, as usual, and compensate for the battery drainage by driving on the highway on the weekend? If that would work, would it also affect the lifespan of my battery? – hchc1992 May 12 at 18:54
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    @hchc1992 if the answer has been useful, then please upvote it using the tick top left as it then marks the question as closed so it does not continuously get flagged up by the system. – Solar Mike May 12 at 19:15
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    It's also good to let the car engine warm up completely. Just wondering...is a bicycle an option for you? I commuted by bike for 4 years before taking a job farther from home, and I really enjoyed it. It's great exercise, I noticed a lot more local businesses, and I was never stuck in traffic. A 2 mile ride would take even an inexperienced rider about 10 minutes. – Spivonious May 13 at 20:48
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How long and at what RPM you'd need to drive depends on the type of alternator (how much power, in excess of what the car consumes, can it provide at a certain RPM?) and the battery (how much charging current can it accept?).

So, how long and how fast you'd need to drive at least is hard to tell.

Besides, burning fuel in the engine only to charge the battery is extremely inefficient, as in costly and bad for the environment and pretty much for everybody else. So, if you can, you should consider using a dedicated charger to top off the battery from time to time. This will save you money and time, and everything else.

One valid point remains however that a car should be driven to/at operating temperature at least from time to time. Operating temperature here means coolant and engine oil at at least 80-90C, catalytic converter(s) at a few hundred degrees C. You cannot rely on the coolant temp gauge in the dashboard, but a drive of at least 15-20km at moderate speed should do the trick, charging the battery as a side effect.

Note that common car batteries may need 10-20 hours for a full charge, so don't expect a 15 minute drive to fully charge your previously almost empty battery.

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