While their owners are flying off to visit friends and family, tens of thousands of automobiles will be left waiting in airport parking lots. Some of these travelers will return to discover their cars’ batteries are dead. Welcome home. Here’s a set of jumper cables.
Modern cars consume electricity even when they are seemingly dormant: GPS systems, proximity sensors, antitheft systems, data links and automatic vehicle-condition “polling” all draw on the battery. The question: How long can you leave a tech-heavy car parked before the battery dies?
One reader of this column left his 2017 Mercedes-Benz S550 Cabriolet at the airport for nine days. When he returned, the battery was completely dead, not even enough juice to activate the door locks.
“There was no surprise at the dealership,” he writes. “This happens,” he was informed, due to “electronic activity that happens passively and constantly.” He was further advised to keep the car on a “trickle” charger that plugs into a wall outlet—hard to do at airports—or disconnect the negative battery terminal, which is buried in the ass-crack of the S-Class’s rear seats.
Before he bought the Benz, our correspondent considered purchasing a Ford Expedition and Toyota Sequoia SUV. Out of curiosity, he called the Ford dealer to ask how long one could leave an Expedition parked before the battery died. “No more than five days, maybe nine if the battery is new,” he was told. A Toyota dealer said the Sequoia could go two weeks before the battery goes flat.
At this point in his story, I’m reeling. First, I feel like an idiot for not observing this sooner. Of course: A Mercedes-Benz S-Class has more than 60 microprocessor control units and more than 100 motor servos. I’m stunned at the stationary equivalent of range anxiety: the fear of being stranded in an electric car with a dead battery.
As for how long you can leave a car sitting, estimates vary. “I am in charge of a fleet of 130 Lexus and Toyota cars,” said Leo Santamaria, a Toyota fleet administrator. “I can usually leave them outside for two to three weeks and the battery is fine.” Much depends on the battery’s condition—newer and bigger is always better—and the elements. Extreme heat and cold can dim the lights in a matter of days.
A 2006 Corvette and my 2012 Mini Cooper are dead after one week of sitting, as are my Ducati motorcycles, if not put on a trickle charger,” said car photographer Jim Gianatsis, who lives in sunny Los Angeles. Mr. Gianatsis’s pet peeve is that if a dry-cell battery is totally dead, even the most sophisticated chargers can’t establish the battery’s polarity. That means you have to jump a dead battery with another battery before connecting the smart charger. Oy.
Most luxury car makers offer smart battery chargers as standard equipment, a plug-in charger that both maintains and “conditions” the inflowing current, to avoid overheating the battery or frying delicate electronics. Mercedes-Benz has a remote-starting feature on a mobile app, allowing owners to start and run the engine sufficient to charge up the battery, though preferably not in an enclosed space like a garage.
But that doesn’t solve the long-term airport-parking-lot dilemma. Aftermarket solar chargers, with foldable, dashboard-sized photovoltaic panels, plug into cars’ cigarette-lighter sockets. These devices can help keep the car alive, provided it’s sitting somewhere sunning itself. However, not all cars’ accessory outlets remain active when the vehicle is in Park. And a solar charger cannot crank a dead battery unless attached to panels the size of a football field.
Owner’s manuals sometimes recommend disconnecting the negative battery terminal (the black one!), but this operation requires unusual forbearance for pampered drivers. And depending on where the car’s 12V battery or batteries are—the S-Class has two, under the rear seats—it may be nearly impossible.
The worst-case scenarios are grim. If the roadside-assistance truck can’t get it going again, the car will have to be dragged on locked wheels up a flatbed trailer and unloaded at the service center the same way. And if a lead-acid battery is repeatedly exhausted, it will no longer hold a charge.
The answer at the Clinton Little Rock National airport in Little Rock, AR, is to park at Expressway Airport Parking! All buses are equipped with 30’ ft. of jumper cables that just plug into the front of the bus. But better than that! If you are traveling for a long period of time park in the Reserved Electric car charging spaces located on 1st floor East and we will provide you with a “Battery Tender” that will provide a trickle charge for the entire time you are gone. Tenders are available for only $10 per transaction.
Go to www.expresswayparking.com and click on the “Make a Reservation” link at the top of the page. After you choose covered parking and your dates, the next screen will give you vehicle service options to choose from such as;
- Basic Wash
- Glass repair
- Oil change
- Tire rotation
- Battery Trickle Charger
Select Battery Trickle Charger and click continue and your reservation is made. Just park in the Reserved Electric car / Charging spaces on 1st floor East and your car will start when you return from long trip ( 5 days or more ).