You're rushing to leave the house, finally making it to the car, you turn the key, but the car won't start. Were there signs your battery was dying? How can you prevent this from happening again?
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The general car battery lasts between three to four years, but this number is very dependent on several factors. Things like weather conditions, extreme temperatures, or the way you drive your car plays a significant role in the lifespan of your car battery. The battery of a car plays an indispensable part in a reliable vehicle. It provides electricity to the electrical components within the vehicle and powers the car starter. You should expect at least three years out of a car battery with the proper knowledge and maintenance. Warning signs, daily operations, and general maintenance can help extend the lifespan of a car battery.
Warning signs of a dying battery are essential to acknowledge, as they keep you from being stranded with a car that won't start. Warning signs for a weak car battery can be very minimal, but with the proper knowledge and awareness, it is easy to prolong and gauge the life of your battery.
Warning signs of a dying battery can manifest themselves in electrical errors. It can be minor, like headlights dimming when the car is idling, the dashboard lights flickering, the windows rolling slowly, or taking on a more notable presence with a slow engine crank. A slow engine crank, meaning your car is slow to start, is a sign that you are not creating enough RPMs to turn over successfully. Additionally, the check engine light, or a dash light resembling a battery on newer vehicles, will notify you when your car's battery needs replacing.
There can also be physical signs of a weak battery. For example, if the battery connectors are very corroded, this can also be a warning sign that your battery requires replacement. In addition, sometimes, a bad battery can exude a smell of rot. All of these things provide a clear indication that it is time to replace your battery.
Overall the most significant indicator of your batteries' need for renewal can be directly drawn from the age of the battery itself. Most car batteries typically come with a two-year warranty. You must take the proper steps to maintain your battery's health and strength by following daily precautions, weather advice, and scheduled maintenance to increase the number of years.
Taking short trips within your car frequently can also harm the battery life. Within short drives, the alternator does not have the chance to fully recharge the battery, weakening the efficacy of the rechargeable battery. Turning on the engine is the most draining part of driving, and without the full recharge, that is only attainable through long drives. With a higher RPM, the battery will be fully charged more quickly by the alternator, generally about 30 minutes of highway driving to charge the battery fully. City driving, because of the lower speeds and lower RPM, will take longer, in the range of an hour or more. The battery life can be extended by actively working to reduce short-distance driving.
When the engine of a car is off, the power usage within the car is drawn directly from the battery itself. Things like headlights, phone chargers, GPS, and interior lights can all continue to drain the battery even when the car is off. Making a conscious effort to unplug devices when the car is off helps extend your battery life.
Extreme cold temperatures can negatively affect battery life, as the cold temperatures affect the chemical process within the battery that produces electricity and can slow or even stop this process. Additionally, it can reduce the battery's ability to hold a charge and, in some cases, make the battery unusable. The overall temperature under the hood is raised within a car in sweltering weather, accelerating battery failure. Other important factors for driving within high temperatures can be located here.
A car battery can be protected from freezing temperatures by parking under a covered space or within a garage. A covered area would protect the car from snow or ice, and the garage, even if poorly insulated, may provide a slightly warmer environment. Another way to protect your battery from the cold is by wrapping it in an electric battery blanket. These blankets go by many different names like insulators, battery warmers, or thermal wraps, which are corrosion-resistant heat blankets intended for car batteries. These blankets prevent the battery fluid from freezing and allow the battery, even within cold temperatures, to operate within its ideal performance.
Protecting your car battery from extreme heat, as it can cause corrosion and shorten the battery's life, is very similar to the precautions for extreme cold. It is important to park the car in a garage or covered environment to avoid direct sunlight on the car. Proper insulation can also regulate the battery's temperature, extending the lifespan. Other tips for maintaining a car within the winter are also important and can be found here.
Letting a car sit for an extended period of time, or letting your car idle, also can be harmful to the battery. For example, allowing a car to sit for two to three months can cause the battery to drain, as cars are designed to be driven. In addition, if you let a car sit idle for extended periods, a battery will begin to lose charge, and once the car is started again, that will drain the battery even further. For this reason, it is critical to extend the first drive after leaving a car idle for an extended period to allow the alternator to recharge the battery fully.
When might this happen? Maybe you are planning a trip abroad! If you are planning on leaving your car in the same place for an extended period of time, click here to read more of our tips to ensure your car is healthy when you return.
Checking and maintaining your car's alternator is vital in extending your car's battery life. The current of your car's alternator is what charges the battery. If the alternator requires replacement, the vehicle will not start and further drain the battery. Alternators generally need replacement around 6 to 10 years or 80,000 to 150,000 miles.
In addition to alternator maintenance, the battery itself should be cleaned regularly. If apparent corrosion is noticeable on the battery, cleaning and removing the corrosion will prolong the battery's life. Cleaning the battery is very simple. When corrosion is present, you will see a white powder on the battery resulting from the acid inside the battery reacting with the metal on the outside. The corrosion can be easily cleaned with baking soda, water, and a non-wire brush, like a toothbrush. You can scrub the battery and the clamps to return your battery to pristine condition. Checking and maintaining a clean battery helps neutralize the battery acid.
Like any other part of your car, maintenance and service allow a battery to remain strong and perform properly. Although many batteries do come with a warranty, the warranty does not guarantee the number of years you should expect out of a properly cared for the battery. Minor changes to daily habits and the way you operate your car can quickly boost your battery's lifespan, health, and reliability.
With help from Wrench's online automotive technicians, servicing and maintaining your car and its battery has never been more accessible. Wrench's mobile mechanics will come to you, making the process one step simpler. Wrench also provides many answers to commonly asked questions about cars, maintenance and provides diagnostic services to help you out.
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