Car batteries and recharging after starting

I am working from home for the foreseeable future and I no longer have a commute to work.
So now when I use my car, its for very short trips, like 10 minutes is a long trip for me now, so most trips are under that time.

I am wondering if my car battery has time to charge properly due to these short trips. That is 2x car starts per trip.

If not, how long does my car need to run to recover from these starts and what should I do about it if anything at all?

I was thinking of just starting my car and letting it run in my garage (with the door open of course) for like an hour, but I really have no idea how long is needed.

I suspect it may depend on how old your car is. Mine has that God-forsaken auto stop/start function, so every trip in traffic is a short one! But seriously, modern starters/battery set ups are pretty robust, as long as you drive it a bit every few days you should be ok I’d think. It’s always good to make sure it moves about so the tires don’t get flat spots and all that as well.

I do make trips every day. But like a 7 minuite trip with 2x starts per day, is that enough to keep my battery going or will I run it out of charge?

Back in the day I was told, 10 miles to keep it charged, and drive it at least once a week. This was in the late 90’s, when I had a POS car. :p

I don’t drive much in my current job and I was curious about this myself. I did some research about a year ago, so I do not have any links, but the consensus was you should get on the freeway for 20 minutes or so every couple of weeks. This will help the battery and do things like clear out any water sitting in your exhaust system. So I just go the really long way to get to the grocery store every weekend.

Probably a good idea to just take one day a week and go out for a drive - freeway, if possible. Get everything up to normal operating temp, get the water out of the exhaust, etc.

disclaimer: most of what I know about cars is from Car Talk

Lots of factors. Age of your battery also plays a role. Think of how your phone’s battery gets really flaky the older it gets; it takes longer to charge, it drains really fast, etc.

Temperature will also play a role. We just hit spring, but it’s still cold at night.

Turn off everything before you start the car. I mean stuff like radio, AC, heater, wipers. They all add an additional draw on the battery when starting cold. I live on a small island and drive less than 3 miles to work, and have had issues with my Honda’s tiny battery, so I try to drive at least once a week from one end to the other (12 miles each way! Tiny island.) I keep a battery booster in the car, and hook a charger up to it if it sits too long, like maybe 3 or 4 days. This will be an issue if we in Washington State shut down for a few weeks due to the virus.

Also, a fresh quality battery helps. I’ve had no issues with my fairly new Interstate battery.

Dude tell me more about your tiny island life. If I could work 100% in tech or own a few local businesses perhaps, that’s my dream life.

If there is a tiny hill/mountain to climb, even better.

Some cars are also worse than others about draining the battery while sitting idle. Our M3 abs Cayman are much worse than our Hondas or Toyotas ever were. We eventually got fed up with dead batteries on those and just bought battery tenders that we keep them plugged into when we know they’ll be idle a few weeks or more.


It’s pretty great if you can work on the island (I do, in a medical training equipment manufacturer: Sawbones) but we are constricted by the ferry system, and have very little access to quality health care on the island. Most people commute to the mainland for their work, or are retired. The big fear here is that the virus hits us, because we are like a cruise ship, albeit more spread out from each other. It would be pretty easy to isolate us (stop running the ferry boats), but people are a little freaked.

And sorry, no hills or mountains to climb, but plenty of beaches to walk.

Most vehicles you’re fine (unless very old). Giant SUV you might want to drive a few extra miles once a week.

I don’t think that is true. When I lived in Florida and had a really short commute and I started to have battery issues in my VW Golf. When I finally got the battery replaced, the parts guy said I needed to drive it more, because due to my short drive and the FL heat, it was hard on batteries.

Maybe because of the air conditioning? That takes a lot of electrical. Temps below 0 are also very bad for electrical charge.

I drive my car every day, its just that I drive it for like 5 to 10 minutes. Is just that I wanted to know if the cost of starting my car was keeping up with the ability to recharge my battery.

The short answer, based on my looking at similar questions on quora, etc, for you is that you’re probably OK. 10 minutes of greater than idle should probably be enough to keep you fully charged.

I would still worry more about rusting out the exhaust system - but I don’t know how long a sustained time of short drives it takes to cause major problems.

One thing I learned the hard way after leaving our lights on in an airport parking lot and needing a jump.

Hybrid starter batteries only charge in park, and not while driving. Basically the reverse of non hybrid cars.

We drove the hour home from the airport, and I figured the batteries would be all charged.

The next morning I needed to call for a jump again.

You may also be interested in this thread I started in January, in much less pandemicky times:

I use a battery tender on mine. The car has a voltmeter so I know when the battery is fully charged. If you take a lot of short trips, as I did, it just means your battery will die sooner. I had to replace mine after 4 years.

The key is to sell your car every three years. That way, no battery issues!