How often do you have to drive your car to keep your battery and alternator in good condition?

We recently had to have a less than 2 year old battery replaced in our car due to a bad cell. While I believe it may have just been a faulty battery (I think the car had to be jumped at least 4 times over 2 years for leaving any small light on for a short amount of time, etc.). However, the guy who replaced the battery said the problem was that we weren’t driving the car enough. The first 1.5 years, I communted 45 minutes each way to work three times a week. However, in the past 6 months I have been working from home and only drive the car 2-3 times a week for short errands with a lot of stopping/starting within about a 1 mile radius. Probably once a week the car gets driven on the freeway for 20 minutes. And some weeks, like over Christmas break, which was just a week before the battery died, we drove it several times 20+ minutes on the freeway in the week. It is our large car, so we do take it on long vacations, etc. as well. I think that is plenty of driving, but he disagreed. We are now alternating cars for my husband’s daily 20 minute commute, but it’s a pain because we have car seats that have to be taken in/out. Is this really necessary or was it just a bad battery? He also insisted that a local campaign “Turn the Key and Be Idle Free” was terrible for cars and that we should let them run. We live in an area (Salt Lake City) with terrible winter inversion air. We are trying NOT to run our cars as much as possible to help with the air quality problem, but now we are being told if we don’t run them quite a bit we’ll be spending a lot of money for new batteries, alternators, and starters. Is this really true?

A battery maintainer seems to be the best recommendation, Many cars would do fine under your schedule but it is evident yours does not, You could spend bocu bucks tracing down possibilities, so a maintainer is my recommendation.

If your battery truly had “A Dead Cell” then it was the batteries problem, not your driving habits…You could ask a service shop that a “parasitic load test” be performed to see if something is draining your battery…

I agree…you should be fine. What brand of battery are we talking about? The money you spend on a Battery is usually equal to the lifetime and or robustness of the unit. DEKA…makes a FANTASTIC Battery…so does Optima… You will notice the prices are higher, but the batteries are definitely better. Your schedule of driving should be just fine.


You drive enough to keep the battery in good shape.

The guy’s statement that “you don’t drive enough” can be disregarded. It is similar to those claims that certain mysterious automotive problems are due to “you got bad gas.”

There is no need for you to schedule extra trips merely to humor your battery. Your current driving habits are adequate.

I have 2 cars that if I don’t drive them much over a month they might get a “run down” battery and need a jump. One is an '01 Toyota Sequoia, the other an '04 Ford T’bird. What works for me is I bought a battery jumper box. This can quickly start either car. I do try to drive each car once a month for 30+ minutes, and if I can’t do that (don’t drive the T’bird much in the winter) I have a “battery tender” brand charger. These chargers can be hooked up the battery and left in place for days, weeks, months, without overcharging (damaging) the battery.

If your battery is run down a lot that can put a stress on the alternator and shorten the life an expensive part. I think the OP had a bad battery. But also drives the big car infrequently enough for it to not start after a few weeks. Rather than switch car seats, which can be a royal pain, I’d recommend they get a jumper box (about $80) and a battery tender charger.

I drive my 79 twice a year.
o.e. alternator and 6 year old battery.