The issue of car battery life is an important one for all car owners. Keep in mind, this isn't about hybrids and electrical vehicles — this is for cars that have internal combustion engines. These engines are still as much of a necessity for most vehicles as they were 80 years ago, and they depend heavily on a robust car battery. Thankfully, modern day car batteries last longer, need less maintenance and malfunction less frequently. Just remember, though, that any battery that goes through multiple charge/discharge cycles (like the battery in your laptop or phone) will begin to weaken and degrade with time. With this in mind, it's extremely important to remain aware of the average life span of your car battery and take all the necessary precautions to extend its life as much as possible. Learn which battery is right for your vehicle.
YOUR BATTERY MIGHT NOT BE DEAD
Car battery life can be extended for years. If your battery is less than two to three years old and seems to have failed, then it might not actually be dead. Car batteries can lose their charge due to reasons like infrequent driving or only making short drives, which doesn't provide enough time for the battery to fully recharge. Corrosion on the case and terminals — especially the negative terminal — also increases electrical resistance and prevents the battery from delivering full voltage. Cold weather can also be a factor, since most car batteries are less capable of maintaining their charge in cooler conditions. At a temperature of 20 degrees, a battery can only deliver about 50-60 percent of its rated cold cranking amperage.
Make sure you check your battery for damage and corrosion around the terminals. Also, measure voltage by placing the leads on the case and a post, and then from the post to the cable. These measurements should not exceed .3 volts — if they do, clean the battery case, terminal ends and posts to remove any corrosion or film. Jump starting or using a car battery charger can be the best option if your battery is still in good shape. The best battery chargers are the kind that deliver a regulated trickle charge overnight for a good, deep charge.
Take a look at some popular battery accessories.
WHAT CAN MAKE BATTERY LIFE SHORTER?
Using your car's electronics with the engine off can lead to a significant drain in charge and a shorter overall car battery life. Blasting the A/C and heating system, keeping the lights on or using the audio system at its highest setting can all lead to your battery draining faster. Normally, a typical car battery will last between two and five years, and some experts recommend that you replace it every four years to avoid any unwanted problems. In addition, try to never let your battery become completely discharged – even one complete discharge can shorten battery life.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR CAR BATTERY LAST LONGER
Good maintenance is the key to a longer car battery life. If your battery drains faster, it can be because of a faulty alternator or other car components that are not working properly. Corrosion and sulfur deposits can also severely impair your battery's functional capacity. Corrosion generally appears as a fluffy green-blue-white deposit around the positive terminal and clamp. This corrosion creates resistance to the flow of electricity and will prevent the battery from accepting or delivering a full charge. Check your car battery twice a year for damage and corrosion to avoid having to replace your battery prematurely. Light to moderate corrosion can be cleaned, but heavy corrosion usually requires replacement of the battery and the positive terminal end.
Securing your car battery is also important to the battery's longevity. Batteries that are not secure or that aren't held in place with a bracket are subject to more movement and vibration during driving, which can damage the plates inside. Investing in a battery hold down bracket can help you get the most out of your battery.
Advance Auto Parts stores offer free battery testing and installation*.
UNDERSTANDING CAR BATTERY COST
Cranking power, the materials used, the warranty and many other factors contribute to longer car battery life. But should you spend more than $100 for a battery that might last longer or look for a cheaper alternative? In most cases, the first option is the best. As is the case with other car products, you usually get what you pay for. Even though most car batteries typically last for two to five years, a better quality one that is maintained properly can last even more than six years in certain conditions. If that is the case, then your extended car battery life will be well worth the additional expense, especially if you live in a cold climate.
*Car battery testing and installation available on most automotive vehicles, at most locations, unless prohibited by law.