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What Every Driver Should Know About Their Car Battery

car batteryThe average life expectancy for a car battery is 3-7 years.  Some batteries have been known to fail sooner if they are in areas with extreme climates (warm or cold).  Many automotive repair shops will be willing to perform a battery test free of charge.  Some can provide a print out of the measurement of cold cranking amps (CCA’s) in relation to the battery’s rating and how many volts the battery is maintaining compared to the voltage it should have.

Should I have my car battery tested or replaced?

  • Check the date on the battery- is it original to the vehicle?  Does it look like it has been in the vehicle for three or more years?
  • Have the battery-cable ends been replaced?  Is there corrosion forming on the battery cable connections?
  • Are there jumper cable marks on the battery terminals?
  • Do you run a lot of “gadgets” in the vehicle which makes the battery work harder?

If you said “yes” to any of the above, then it would be wise to have the battery tested and possibly replaced.

Common causes of premature car battery failures:

  • Deep discharges (leaving your lights on)
  • Using an undersized battery
  • Loss of electrolyte due to under-hood heat or overcharging
  • Undercharging or loose alternator belt
  • Excessive vibration
  • Corrosion
  • Freezing (any fully-charged vehicle battery will not freeze until the temperature is -75 degrees F.  Frozen batteries are not warrantable.
  • Failure to charge a battery during a timeframe of 6 months or more
  • Misapplication

On rare occasions, you may have a defective battery which would then be warrantable.

Should I replace the car battery myself or not?

That depends- do you know how?  Not all vehicles have the battery in an accessible location (there is one vehicle where the battery is under the back seat!).  Do you have the correct tools for the job?  If the battery fails, will you be able to locate your original sales receipt and return it to the place of purchase for a replacement?  Do you have a way to recycle the old battery? (batteries should not be thrown out in the trash due to the acid in them).

Most reputable automotive repair shops keep good quality car batteries in stock, provide a lengthy warranty, and will recycle the old battery for you.  If the battery fails, some will even tow your vehicle for free.  If these conveniences are of high importance to you, then do not do it yourself.

If you are stranded, it may be very comforting to call for help.

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