Fair warning: car battery replacement is an unavoidable fact of life for anyone who owns a car.
We all know that old adage “they don’t make things like they used to”. While we won’t comment on manufactured goods in general, we will at least partly come to the defense of battery manufacturers.
Much as we’d like to think that batteries are a durable item like the engine or transmission, they are actually a consumable item more like tires or engine oil.
Why Batteries Don’t Last Like They Used To
Modern cars put a heavy strain on their batteries. No longer is it just starting the engine and powering the lights. Here are just a few things we expect our batteries to do:
- Start the engine
- Lights, including sometimes add-ons like ground-effect and interior “mood lighting”
- Audio systems
- DVD and video systems
- Phone, tablet, and device charging
- Rear window defrosters
- Heated seats, steering wheel, mirrors, and other components
- Power seats
- The car’s own on-board diagnostic systems
- Power sliding doors
- Power windows and sunroof
- Power mirrors
- Remote start
- Alarm systems
- Home integration systems (i.e. built-in garage door openers, etc.)
- On-board concierge systems, such as OnStar
All these things and more drain power from the battery. The engine has a generator to replenish and recharge your car’s battery but it has its limitations.
For one thing, your engine’s charging system was not designed to fully charge a completely dead battery. So if you need a jump start, that may be good to get you going and keep you from being stranded somewhere but you should get your battery properly charged as soon as possible afterward.
How Batteries Work
With the exception of hybrid and electric cars, which use different types of batteries, a standard gasoline or diesel car has what’s broadly known as a “lead-acid battery”. These batteries contain two types of metal, usually lead and zinc, along with an acidic electrolyte solution.
(Side note: the electrolyte in a car’s battery is extremely corrosive. If spilled or even splattered, it will eat through clothing and burn skin. It can cause permanent blindness if gotten in your eyes. Always handle your battery with care or get a professional mechanic to do it for you.)
Batteries generate electricity through a chemical reaction, with the electrolyte stripping electrons off one metal and transferring them onto the other.
Over time, some of the components in that process become depleted. That’s when your battery dies and must be replaced.
Extending the Life of Your Battery
Estimates of typical battery life vary widely with most sources saying 3-7 years.
Many things may shorten your battery’s life including:
- Temperature extremes, especially large fluctuations
- Taking many short trips and not letting your battery fully recharge
- A large number of components contributing to battery drain
- A battery of the wrong size or type for your car (make sure you replace your battery with the correct one, based on manufacturer recommendations)
While you’re probably not going to move to a completely different climate just to maximize battery life, there are some things you can do to extend the life of your car’s battery. The most important one is to avoid taking short trips where your engine runs for less than 10 minutes.
If you start experiencing electrical system problems such as slow starting or dim lights, that could mean it’s about time to replace your battery. Or it could point to other things instead.
It may be that your alternator or generator aren’t properly recharging your battery. It could even be something as simple as a dirty, loose, or corroded wire.
Summing It All Up
The experts at The Auto Warehouse are passionate about cars. We don’t just want to sell you a car, we want you to be happy with the car you’re driving.
That’s why we share these tips for getting the most out of the car you have.
When it’s time to think about getting another car, come talk to us. We may ask a lot of questions, because we want to see you in a car you’ll love. The only way we can do that is by getting to know you first.
Give us a call and let us show you how pleasant the car buying experience can be.