The lowly battery. One of the simplest and most reliable parts of your vehicle’s engine can also be one of the most overlooked. Today we’re talking about when to change your battery, what affects battery life and recognizing the signs of a dying battery. We’ll even talk about some specialized batteries too. Let’s go (after we’re fully charged)!
What Affects My Battery’s Life?
According to most automotive authorities, the typical lead-acid vehicle battery will, generally, last between 3-5 years. There are four major factors that will play a part in shortening your battery life: heat, vibration, time, and your charging system.
Heat – Heat is one of the factors that makes the chemical reaction in your battery work. However, heat is one of the major factors in degrading a battery. In fact, vehicle batteries in cooler northern climates can last 1-2 years longer (!) than batteries in warmer southern areas.
Vibration – Like many parts of a car or truck, vibrations can and will eventually wear down a battery’s life. If you’ve changed a vehicle battery, you’ve probably noticed that they are, generally, secured in one way or another. Checking periodically to make sure your battery is secured tightly is an easy way to make your battery last
Time – Time comes for us all. Even batteries. It is unavoidable that over time your battery will gradually lose its capability. But there are things you can do to maximize that timeframe. Routinely driving a vehicle actually will help extend its life. A battery that sits unused will lose its life faster than one that has a chance to occasionally recharge.
Charging System – To put it simply, a vehicle’s charging system keeps a charge in the battery to keep electrical systems running smoothly. In most modern vehicles this system consists of a battery, an alternator, and an electronic control unit. A well-maintained charging system is crucial to sustaining and even extending your battery life.
Other things like corrosion on charging points, using your vehicle’s electronics while the vehicle is not on, and letting a battery completely die (even if it’s recharged) will also work to shorten a battery’s lifespan.
How Do I Know My Battery is Dying?
In newer vehicles, especially in cars made in the last few years, you will likely be greeted with numerous warnings, lights, and noises letting you know that you’re having a battery or charging system issue. For a full recap of what those warning lights might look like, check out our blog from last January!
However, in older vehicles, you may have to be a little more observant and cautious. Things like dim (incandescent) headlights when idling, and a slow cranking engine will be dead giveaways. If you have an older vehicle, it’s a good idea to keep close tabs on your battery, just to be safe. And make sure technicians are inspecting your battery during routine maintenance checks and oil changes.
Save it to say, whether you’re seeing dim headlights or seeing warning lights on your dashboard, it might be time to start thinking about a new battery.
So I Can Just Buy Any Battery, Right?
Not necessarily. Someone who drives a full-size SUV, won’t need the same battery as someone driving a small hatchback. Simply from a size standpoint, you’ll need to do a bit of research to make sure you’re finding a battery that is appropriate for your vehicle.
It gets a little more complicated if you have a car with the start/stop function. These are vehicles whose engines shut off when not needed to increase efficiency and save fuel. These vehicles use AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) batteries that may actually have a secondary battery attached which needs to be removed to prevent the chance of an accidental shock.
It’s also important to note that in some cases, simply replacing a battery might not be enough. Let’s hear it from Eustis Body Shop’s own, Ryan Clark:
“In some newer cars, the process of replacing a battery might involve more than just putting in a new battery and calling it good. In some cases, computers, safety systems, and other electronics may need to be reprogrammed.”
In the end, your battery is one of the most important parts of your car. Appropriately maintaining your battery will not only (hopefully) extend your battery life, but may keep you from getting stranded as well. If you ever have questions about your battery, stop into any one of the six Eustis Body Shop locations across Central and Eastern Nebraska, or drop us a line!