When it comes to automobiles, there are many different parts that are necessary for the vehicle to function. While vehicles are made up of many different parts that all work in harmony, there are a select few which are directly necessary for the vehicle to operate at all. If any of these parts are not functioning properly, the vehicle will be unable to start at all, rendering it useless. One of these extremely vital parts is the car battery and is necessary for the engine to start and for certain electronics to work.
A car battery is a large battery that is designed specifically for vehicles. It is located under the vehicle’s hood in the engine bay and is usually off to the side of the engine. Its primary function is for powering the vehicle’s electronic starter, which starts the vehicle’s engine. While the vehicle is running, power for most of the parts and devices that require electricity is supplied from the vehicle’s alternator; however, the battery is still responsible for smaller things like the lights and radio.
The battery is actually able to be recharged and does so while the engine is on. Car batteries have a fixed lifespan, and will eventually die and need to be replaced. There are a few different tips and tricks that vehicle owners can perform which will help get the most out of a car’s battery, which will save you money over time as you will not have to keep paying to replace them.
What is a Car’s Normal Lifespan?
To maximize the lifespan of your car’s battery, you need to understand what the typical lifespan of a car battery is. Car batteries have a fixed lifespan, meaning there is really no way to extend your car battery’s life necessarily. That lifespan can be shortened over time by typical wear and tear, but by taking care of your car’s battery, you can maximize its life and prevent an early death.
There are a number of different factors which can affect the lifespan of a battery, like weather, driving habits, and the vehicle’s charging system. Under normal conditions, a car battery should last anywhere between 3-5 years. Normal in this context refers to it always being driven to a full charge, limited electronic device usage, and neutral non-extreme weather. Driving in America, these conditions are rarely achieved, so the lesser side is usually the common case. But when it does come time for a new battery, get to know which battery is the best for your car from this list on Consumer Reports.
Things That Can Decrease Your Car Battery’s Lifespan
Lack of Maintenance: This is a very common theme when drivers find their batteries dying prematurely. Not many people think of the health of their car battery, as it is a much smaller and quieter component. Batteries contain plates of metal such as lead and lead dioxide, which are inside the plastic casing. These plates are submerged in a mixture of water and sulfuric acid. This creates an electrolytic solution, which is necessary for the battery to create electricity. Over time, these reactions take a toll on the battery and affect the rate and the amount of charge the battery can hold. By performing regular maintenance on the battery, you can be sure the battery will fully recharge.
Short Trips: The length of the trip you take in your car can actually impact your battery’s health. Starting the vehicle requires a lot of power from the battery, which is replenished as you drive. If you consistently take short trips with your vehicle, the battery will not have enough time to charge back up fully. Over time, the battery will lose charging ability as the battery is constantly under-charged.
Temperature the Battery is Operating In: The outside temperature can actually impact the battery’s health as well, which is tough for anyone as no one can control the weather. The ideal operating range for a car battery is around 80° F (26.7° C). Scorching weather can cause a dramatic decrease in the battery’s usage cycle, which will limit its ability to recharge. Conversely, extremely cold weather can also cause the battery to lose some usage rate, however not quite as severely as extreme hot climates.
Ways to Maximize Your Car Battery’s Life
As stated prior, you cannot increase a car battery’s lifespan, as it is a fixed amount. You can prevent your car battery from prematurely dying by performing a few simple steps, such as:
Regularly Checking Your Car Battery: One of the most effective ways you can maximize your car battery’s lifespan is by being proactive and keeping an eye on your car battery. You should inspect it at least once a month. Over time, the battery could build up corrosion near the nodes of the battery. This corrosion could negatively impact the battery’s ability to charge and should be removed whenever it begins to form. This can be done by mixing a combination of hot water and baking soda into a spray bottle. You can even use an old toothbrush or some other small brush if it does not initially get sprayed-off.
Avoid Using Electronics for Extended Periods While the Engine is Off: A car battery’s primary function is to supply a quick burst of power for the vehicle to start; however, it can also be used to supply power for things like the lights and the radio while the engine is off. This should be limited, and avoided if possible, as it adds an unnecessary amount of strain on the battery. While it can supply energy for these things, the alternator is what is responsible for powering most electrical components for the vehicle while the battery charges. By using these electrical components while the engine is off, the battery does not have a chance to recharge at all. Over time, this can reduce the overall battery lifespan. If used for too long without the engine on, the battery could lose so much power that it is unable to start the vehicle, which would then require the battery to be recharged by an outside source.
Avoid Short Trips as Much as Possible: Taking constant short trips can seriously limit your car battery’s lifespan, and can lead to it dying if it goes too long without being fully charged. This can be an issue, especially if people require short trips for work or schooling. If you find yourself needing to take short trips with your car consistently, it may be a good idea to keep a mobile battery charger in your vehicle. Modern chargers can be handheld in size, and able to fully charge a battery from dead to full.
While you cannot technically extend your car battery’s life, you can do things to maximize its lifespan, which will prevent an early death. Car batteries are extremely vital for the vehicle’s overall operation. Their primary role is supplying a quick jolt of electricity for the engine to start, but they can also supply electricity for some of the minor electrical components. If the battery is not operating properly, the engine will be unable to start, rendering the vehicle useless. There are many different components which are necessary for a vehicle to operate. The battery is very easy to forget about, but also very easy to properly maintain. By following these few simple steps, you can maximize your battery’s lifespan, and save some money in the long-run.