News Blog from Autospark

Signs Your Car Needs a New Battery

JANUARY 2015

Did you know that a car battery replacement isn't required for three years? This is due to the fact that an average battery lasts for that period of time under normal circumstances. However, this is a purely theoretical estimate because for that kind of shelf life, there shouldn't be any temperature change the battery is subjected to, it should complete full charge cycles without interruptions, power shouldn't be distributed among other accessories, and it has to be hooked up to a consistent charging system. This article talks through factors affecting car battery life and signs it is time to have yours replaced before you break down!

Standard battery life

It is impossible for the above mentioned factors to occur seamlessly – temperature extremes, short trips, Mp3 players and sensitive electronics, plus electronic fuel injection systems play a major role in draining the life of a car battery. Let us consider a lead-acid maintenance-free car battery. The plates inside the plastic box are made up of lead and lead dioxide, which are immersed in an electrolytic solution of water and sulfuric acid. This solution aids in the flow of electrons, thus providing the electricity. If the chemical reaction is disturbed, the battery life is compromised.

Factors affecting battery life
  • Extreme heat causes the chemicals to react faster, which shortens the life, while extreme cold does the opposite. This switch between extreme temperatures causes the battery to drain out quickly.
  • Your driving style also plays a role in lessening the battery life. When you start a car, it consumes an enormous amount of electricity at once, which is why the charging system has to provide sufficient power to the battery. If you go for short trips or cover a brief distance, the battery is never fully charged. When this is repeated for some time, the undercharge leads to acid stratification. The electrolytic solution inside splits into two layers - the upper part comprising a light acid and the bottom consisting of a heavy acid. The upper portion corrodes the plates, while the heavy acids undergo tremendous pressure as they have to provide for the electrical requirements. During routine tests, the battery will not indicate any problems, but the life is shortened.
Signs your battery is dying

There are quite a few ways to identify that there is something wrong and a car battery replacement might be needed. These indications are:

  • Slow/Struggles to Start: When the battery is weak, you will face difficulties while starting the car since it can't muster enough power for all components in the engine. Signs like cranking slower than usual when the ignition is switched to the start position, means you need to check your battery. A critically low battery can be identified if a fast clicking sound is heard when you turn the key to start.
  • Dim Headlights: Check your headlights – if they seem dim, then your battery has problems. You can ask a friend to help you by carrying out a simple test when it is dark outside. Tell the person to stand at a distance in front of the car, while you turn on the headlights from inside. Start the car and ask your friend to note if the headlights fade during or after the car is turned on. If yes, a car battery replacement is required.
  • Accessories Sluggish: Turn the key in the ignition and check the accessories. If they are sluggish, then the battery is low – dashboard lights are dim, power windows don't operate fast, and the radio doesn't emit proper sound.
Tips to extend the battery life

Although we can't stop external circumstances that adversely affect the life of a battery, we can take precautions to prolong optimum performance as much as possible:

  • Check your car battery at regular intervals to see if corrosive deposits have formed around the battery terminals. Corrosion causes problems during cranking, so clean it up right away. Afterwards, you should apply dielectric grease around the terminals to prevent oxidation. Put felt washers under the terminals.
  • Cover batteries in insulated sleeves so that they are not subjected to extreme temperatures.
  • The battery has to be fixed securely under the hood. If it is loose, it will bump against engine components and lead to short circuits. A missing bracket for the battery shouldn't be neglected – replace it without delay.
  • Quite a few vehicle owners tend to purchase a cheap battery to cut costs. Each car has a certain number of cold cranking amps for starting the engine – if you use a weak battery, the life is reduced to half, especially when the mercury drops sharply. Follow the amperage mentioned in the owner's manual.
  • Don't leave the lights on – it lessens battery life drastically. Forgetting a couple of times is fine, but if it becomes a habit, you will need a car battery replacement quite often.
Thus you know how to stop your car battery from draining away – follow them diligently and you will be able to enjoy uninterrupted performance for the optimal life of the battery. You should get your battery checked out at regular intervals by a qualified auto electrician.

Mark Williamson is a guest writer for Autospark.

"The next day I picked up my car and everything was fixed. I was very thankful it was done so quickly, as I am lost without my car...."

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