Electric Car Battery Maintenance: Everything You Need To Know


When it comes to maintenance, it is no secret that electric vehicles require much less regular maintenance work. Without engine oil to change, it seems like a dream to own an electric vehicle. Even parts like brakes wear out much less. However, owning an electric vehicle is not purely hands-off, just mostly hands-off.

How do you maintain an electric car’s battery? An electric vehicle’s battery requires very little maintenance. Changing the battery’s coolant system every 100,000 – 150,000 miles (depending on manufacturer recommendations) is the most important maintenance step to remember. If a battery maintenance light does show up on the screen be sure to have a mechanic diagnose the car quickly.

Proper electric vehicle ownership requires a proactive maintenance schedule. This is particularly helpful in maintaining the high-voltage battery’s longevity. This article will cover basic electric vehicle battery maintenance schedules, costs, and how this helps the battery life. Also, we will look at some DIY maintenance versus when to have the pros take a look.

Maintenance Schedule For EV Battery

The battery specifically only needs a bit of maintenance. That being said, any issues that might arise should be repaired immediately. Not only will a bad battery affect driveability, but it may also lead to other serious issues. The high-voltage system is not to be messed with. If dealt with improperly, serious electrocution can occur resulting in severe burning or even death.

On a lighter note, most of the maintenance a battery needs has to do with the coolant. That’s right, electric vehicles still use coolant similar to how a regular car uses coolant. The battery coolant absorbs excess heat from the battery pack and radiates it elsewhere, keeping the battery at a good working temperature. The coolant needs regular checking and occasional replacing.

For example, according to Chevrolet Certified service, the coolant flush on their electric vehicles, such as the Volt, needs to be flushed at 150,000 miles. Of course, the fluid and condition should be checked more frequently, but that is all there is to it.

Similarly, maintenance on a Ford Mach-E (the electric Mustang) requires a 6-month fluid check. At 12 months, a Ford Certified technician should perform a multi-point inspection, which includes checking and topping up any fluids including coolant. The coolant will not need to be flushed until 200,000 miles, then it should be redone every 5 years or 100,000 miles. 

Finally, the fan favorite Tesla, does not recommend ever replacing the battery coolant on any new model. Maybe their systems are built better or maybe they just do not foresee this ever being an issue, who is to say? Either way, if you own a Tesla you may never have to worry about battery coolant.

This is of course excluding other regular maintenance points, such as rotating tires, replacing cabin air filters, checking and replacing brakes or brake fluid, and so on. The best resource for finding this information is the owner’s manual specific to the make/model/year of the vehicle. 

Since the coolant travels through intricate passages throughout the battery pack, a coolant fluid replacement is more than just a drain and fill process. It likely involves specialized equipment that can flush all the old coolant out and replace it with brand new fluid. It also takes a tech trained to perform such a procedure, but it is still relatively straight forward.

Cost Of Regular Battery Maintenance

The cost of battery-specific maintenance is quite negligible. Most manufacturers are recommending service at wide intervals, meaning the yearly cost is next to nothing. There is the possibility that some of these services have never been performed in the real world, meaning the vehicle model is new enough that it is nowhere near the service interval. There also is not as much competition between service centers to have a real market yet. Most of the services will be done by dealerships, as opposed to independent shops, and the price may change over the years.

The cost of replacing the battery is dependent on the make and model and year of the vehicle as well as the type of battery. An estimate albeit a vague one is between $2,000 and $10,000. It is really difficult to put a definite price on it because not all batteries are the same. Likewise, a refurbished battery may cost less than a new one. The catch is not all makes/models will have refurbished batteries available. 

Likewise, it is difficult to price out batteries because most of them are covered under warranty. The battery is designed to last the life of the vehicle and most warranties are quite extensive. Unfortunately, it seems that problems will likely show their heads right after the warranty expires. 

If you are an electric vehicle owner and are concerned about the cost, the best option is to contact the dealership or service center for your vehicle and get a quote. And again, assuming there are no unexpected issues, getting this service done is not a huge issue because it occurs so infrequently.

An extra thought: most electric vehicles have higher insurance rates due to the high cost to replace parts. This is something important to remember when looking into buying an electric vehicle. While it is not really a repair or maintenance cost, it is related and should taken into account.

Will The Battery Last Longer With Maintenance

Any vehicle ever built anywhere requires some maintenance. While electric vehicles do not need much, the battery will last as long as possible with proper maintenance. Following the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule will keep your electric vehicle in the best condition.

One way to think about it is to think about an electric vehicle as any other electronic device, like a laptop, cell phone, tablets, and so on. You would not go without charging your phone or computer. Likewise, letting our devices get too hot or too cold can drain the battery. Taking care of our devices keeps them working longer, requiring fewer replacements.

As previously mentioned, the maintenance specific to the batteries is quite infrequent. It can be really easy to forget about something that does not happen very often. Should the regular recommended maintenance be skipped or forgotten, it probably will not have a drastic effect on the condition of the battery. That being said, the recommended service should be done as close to the interval as possible. This provides documented peace of mind that your vehicle is in the best condition.

Can Anyone Perform Battery Maintenance At Home Or Does It Have To Be Done By A Professional

With all this discussion of how important maintenance is, it begs the question of whether or not any of this is a do-it-yourself situation. Or is it always best to have a professional touch? The short answer is “Both.” There are things the owner can do in order to maintain the battery and there are certain projects best left to a trained pro.

DIY

There is actually a lot that a driver can do to prolong the battery life, but it does not necessarily require major modifications or any “life hacks.” A driver can do a lot for their electric vehicle battery by having good charging habits and limiting deep cycling. 

  • Keeping a battery at around 80% charge and never letting it get to below 10% will keep the battery at optimal health. 
  • Along those lines, it is smarter to slowly charge instead of always rapidly charging. This may take longer, but it is better in the long run.
  • Aggressive driving drains the battery quicker which harms the overall health of the battery
  • Avoid extremely hot or cold conditions, which degrade the battery’s health over time. 
  • If the vehicle is ever parked for an extended period (i.e. 2+ weeks), make sure to keep a small but constant flow of charge to keep the battery healthy while not in use.
  • regularly check the battery coolant fill level according to the owner’s manual

Pros

The things best left to a certified trained technician are:

  • Diagnosing and replacing failed components. Techs have access to software that assists in pinpointing the issue. They also have the know-how to replace parts correctly.
  • Refurbishing batteries. Batteries are commonly rebuilt as replacements and the process requires knowledge and precision to minimize issues.
  • High Voltage work. The high voltage system in an electric vehicle is extremely dangerous to work on. Shops and technicians have to undergo specialized training to qualify to work on HV systems. A person can be extremely injured or even killed if the high voltage is mishandled.
  • Dealerships and certified service centers are able to source replacement parts easier. This can be a big deal due to supply and demand.

Conclusion

The high-voltage battery is the heart of an electric vehicle and properly maintaining it over time makes a difference. Manufacturers publish recommended service intervals for their cars which are designed to keep the battery healthy. Of course, there are good habits to follow to help, such as having good charging habits, avoiding extreme hot/cold, and performing regular checks of the coolant. For the bigger jobs, it is best to take it in and let a trained professional work their magic. This is the best way to ensure that the job is done right and have someone to bring it back to if any other issues show up. 

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