Nothing is quite as frustrating as waking up in the morning, getting in the car, turning the key, and… nothing happens. Your battery died again, and now you’re going to be late to work. While there are multiple auto electrical problems that can contribute to start-up problems with your vehicle, the most common cause is a dead battery. Here are a few things every motorist should understand about their car battery.
Your car’s battery provides the electricity needed to crank the engine. When you turn the key (or push the “Start” button), the battery receives a signal. Then the battery converts chemical energy into electrical energy, which it sends to the starter. The battery also regulates the voltage of the vehicle’s electrical system, which powers the lights and other accessories such as the radio.
Car batteries typically last three to five years. However, your driving habits and climate affect how long the battery lasts. Motorists who use their vehicles for short distances (meaning they crank their car often for short trips) tend to wear their batteries faster than drivers who crank their cars less often and drive for longer distances. If you’re concerned about your car battery, reputable auto repair shops often provide battery inspections to determine how much longer the battery will be useful.
Take your vehicle into an auto repair shop and ask for them to test the battery. Load testing and testing with an electronic battery tester both help determine the condition of your car battery. If the battery fails a load test, it’s time to replace it.
Don’t ever throw away an old car battery. Car batteries contain heavy metals such as lead, which is toxic. They also contain acid. Typically, if you buy a new car battery, the retail outlet or auto repair shop will recycle the old battery for you. Some establishments may charge a deposit fee if you do not give them your old battery to encourage you to recycle it.
Disconnect the positive and negative cables from the old battery. Then, loosen the bracket or clamps that hold the battery on its tray. Then, place the new battery on the tray, tighten it down, and reconnect the positive and negative cables. While replacing a battery is technically simple, we recommend that you bring your vehicle into an auto repair shop or another retail outlet to have the battery replaced by a trained technician. If you have a hybrid vehicle, you definitely need to take your vehicle into a professional shop because your battery is high voltage, and you need a battery saver during the process to preserve your car’s memory settings.
Most car batteries are twelve volts. However, some older vehicles from the mid-20th century such as 1950s muscle cars may have 6-volt batteries. Hybrid vehicles have high-voltage batteries from 48 volts up to 300 volts or more. A trained technician can tell you what type of battery you need for your car.
While car batteries aren’t necessarily dangerous, you should take care when handling them. While charging, car batteries release hydrogen gas, which is extremely explosive. Whenever you jump start your car, you should carefully connect the jumper cables for this reason. Do not ever jump start a frozen battery, and always wear gloves and eye protection whenever handling a leaky battery.
Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) batteries use paste rather than liquid acid for chemical energy. The main difference is that AGM batteries cannot leak liquid because there’s no liquid to leak! Additionally, AGM batteries tend to last longer and charge faster.
While you technically can replace an AGM battery with a conventional battery, you shouldn’t. AGM batteries are typically installed in vehicles with idle stop-start systems.
The price of a new car battery depends on plenty of factors, including the cranking capacity of the battery, the type of battery, and the battery’s warranty. Most conventional car batteries retail anywhere between $70 and $200. AGM batteries tend to cost a bit more than conventional batteries.
Both AGM and conventional batteries at 12 volts usually contain lead-acid. However, some batteries installed in racing cars may be made from lithium-ion. Hybrid batteries are a different beast and are usually nickel-metal hydride or high voltage lithium-ion.
Here are a few ways to prolong your car battery’s life.
Short car rides make it so your car battery cannot charge fully. Make sure to drive your vehicle frequently and for extended periods to maintain the battery’s power.
Make sure you have the battery terminal checked often to ensure it’s tightly fastened to the mounting bracket.
Accidentally leaving lights on can kill your battery. If you often forget to turn off your headlights, attach a reminder to your dashboard.
Extended idling wears a battery down. Turn off accessories when the engine isn’t running to preserve battery power.
Have a professional test your battery often to ensure it’s not time to replace it.
If your battery terminals corrode, make sure to address the problem promptly by cleaning them and removing any buildup.
If you’re having problems starting your vehicle, bring it into Federal Way Automotive & Radiator to have a highly-trained technician diagnose and repair the problem. Call today!