When you want to buy a new car, which features do you pay the most attention to? Most of us judge a car based on its engine capacity, its fuel efficiency, its size or the level of comfort it offers.
Few of us, on the other hand, pay much attention to our car’s battery. As one of the most important parts of any modern vehicle, your car’s battery manages a massive range of tasks and devices, from starting the engine to powering in-car computers.
The proper functioning of a car is based on various elements and one of it is the battery. The main function of a car battery is to start your car. Today, most cars have a single maintenance-free 12-volt acid battery. The car battery is rechargeable. It uses its charge to power the vehicle systems while it’s parked and to turn over the engine when you want to start it.
The battery working mechanism includes starting a car, this involves turning a key or pressing a button while your battery is doing all the heavy lifting. Starting the ignition sends a signal to the battery that kicks off a chemical reaction inside the little black box. The reaction turns into electrical energy that gets the starter motor running and the engine cranking. If your battery is dead, your lights might flicker but your engine won’t have the energy to turn over.Although batteries can last for five years or more when properly cared for, most car batteries will become worn down and inefficient within three years of everyday use in normal conditions. Just like your computer or smartphone’s battery becomes less efficient with every charge, your car’s battery gradually deteriorates every time it’s charged up by the vehicle’s engine. After three years, it’s normally time to install a replacement.
This is because the average car battery has a lifespan of three years and it is advised to get it replaced every two and a half years. If your battery has reached its peak lifespan, you might run into problems if the battery isn’t replaced anytime soon. Even if your car is running well after the three year mark, it’s probably wise to have the battery checked as a precaution.
Here are some other telltale signs that a car battery needs replacement
DIM LIGHTS AND ELECTRICAL ISSUES
Even a car with a highly defective battery will function properly once it’s running, since much of the charge for the battery will come from the engine. This makes the best time to test your car’s battery is shortly after you switch your vehicle on.
Your car can still start quickly, even with a failing battery. However, features that have significant power demands, from your lights to your radio to your dashboard computer that are powered by the battery, may not function as well as they should.
If the battery is losing its charge it will have a harder time running these things at full power. The more things you plug into your car while driving — like your phone charger — the faster your battery will die.
This is a great way to check if your battery is starting to fail. A completely broken battery is even easier to spot: when you turn the key in the ignition or push your car’s ignition switch, it won’t start at all.
A SLOW STARTING ENGINE
Over time, the components inside your battery will wear out and become less effective. When this happens it takes the battery longer to create a charge for the starter and you’ll have to wait a few extra seconds for the engine to turn over. A slow start is usually the last gasp before a battery kicks the bucket.
THE CHECK ENGINE LIGHT IS ON
In most vehicles, the check engine light can mean just about anything and it may come on when your battery is running out of juice. Check your manual and get your battery tested by a mechanic to see if it’s working at full capacity. If not, you should get it replaced.
A BAD SMELL AND CORRODED CONNECTORS
Do you detect a pungent, rotten egg smell from your vehicle? If you do, there’s a high possibility that your car battery is leaking. Another indication of a leaking or faulty battery is corrosion around the battery terminal. Usually found on the + and – cable connectors, corrosion affects the current flow of the battery to the rest of the vehicle. Although the corrosion can be cleaned, it’s only a temporary solution to the problem.
Another thing to take note about a leaking battery is that the acid can actually eat away at other engine parts, which will cost you more money to replace. If you suspect your car battery is leaking, it’s best to get it checked out as soon as possible.
SWELLING OR BLOATING BATTERY CASE
If your battery casing looks like it is pregnant, this could indicate a battery gone bad. You can blame excessive heat for causing your battery case to swell, decreasing your battery life.
LOW BATTERY FLUID LEVEL
Car batteries typically have a part of the casing that’s translucent so you can always keep an eye on your battery’s fluid level. You can also inspect it by removing the red and black caps if they are not sealed (most modern car batteries now permanently seal these parts).
Bottom line: If the fluid level is below the lead plates (energy conductor) inside, it’s time to have the battery and charging system tested. When fluid levels drop, it’s typically caused by overcharging (heat).
AN OLD BATTERY
Your battery can last well beyond three years but, at the very least, have its current condition inspected on a yearly basis when it reaches the three-year mark. Battery life cycles range from three-to-five years depending on the battery. However, driving habits, weather and frequent short trips (under 20 minutes) can drastically shorten the actual life of your car battery.