Miles Cook
April 24, 2006
Kragen Auto Parts stocks Autolite batteries, although they don't have the correct vintage-Mustang appearance. They're now made by Exide Technologies with no association to Ford Motor Company.

You probably don't think about your Mustang's battery very often. In fact, many of us don't think about it at all--until, of course, you turn the key and the engine won't start.

Maybe the starter turns over for a few seconds or maybe there's only silence. In any case, you're going nowhere fast, and that Saturday-afternoon cruise you planned a few days ago isn't happening until you schlep down to the local auto-parts store and buy a new battery.

But wait, didn't you buy a new battery for your car less than a year ago? Often that doesn't matter, and that's where this overview comes in. In a general sense, we're going to discuss how to help a battery last as long as possible, but note you might not have much control over battery longevity. Some batteries take a final exit sooner than expected or sooner than they should.

We'll also offer a few tips on choosing the proper battery for a vintage Mustang, both a show-oriented car as well as on a daily-driver where appearances are less of an issue. Of course, maintenance suggestions apply to the battery in any car, not just vintage or late-model Mustangs.

CTEK's Multi US 330 battery charger is an ideal trickle-type charger for stored batteries because it has a dedicated maintenance-charge mode. Additionally, it's impossible to cause damage to a battery or charger (or start a fire) by hooking it up backwards. The CTEK charger comes with a separate connector with eyelets on the wire ends that can be permanently connected to a battery in the car, allowing a quick connection to the charger by plugging the connector into the charger. The CTEK is available from Mustangs Unlimited and Year One.

While in one sense a battery is a relatively sophisticated component with various bits and pieces, it's also a simple piece of equipment that must provide enough cranking amperage to start a car. Once the car is running, the electrical system provides the current to operate the car while the alternator keeps the battery charged. However, the alternator only charges the battery when the car is running. When a car is stored for any extended period of time, the battery is just sitting with it. Over time, a battery's ability to maintain a charge adequate to start the car will diminish. In fact, for any battery, even a brand new one, there will come a time when it will simply die and must either be recharged or replaced.

That's where a proper charger comes in. In short, the best way to maintain a battery in a car that isn't driven on a daily basis is to keep it connected to a charger that has a "trickle" setting. In other words, you ideally want to have a charger that not only charges a battery, but also one that maintains the charge. The idea is to have a battery fully charged, and once it's there, the charger keeps it in a fully-charged state.

An excellent general purpose charger that also doubles as a top-notch maintenance-type trickle charger is the CTEK Multi US 3300. This Swedish-developed charger does both the recharging and maintenance processes. It's an ideal choice for any 12-volt automotive battery.

The CTEK uses "switch-mode" technology, a four-cycle process for optimum battery charging and maintenance. The CTEK "recovers" or "wakes" a discharged battery.

The bulk charge mode is a standard charging circuit that ranges from 0.8-3.3 amps, which is where about 80 percent of the battery's energy is returned. The charger delivers an almost-constant current until the battery voltage reaches a set level.