How to Extend Car Battery Life Q&A

Nothing will ruin a road trip or start a day off wrong like a dead battery. Can you prevent that failure? How can you know if your battery is dying before it has lived a full life span? How should you get rid of the old battery once you find a replacement? We’ll answer these questions and more in this car battery Q&A. Get to know your battery and reduce the chances of a ruined commute or failed road trip.

What Are the Warning Signs That My Battery Is Failing?

Preserve the Life of your Car BatteriesImage via Flickr by Janos Kerekes

You don’t have to wait until you’re stranded on the side of the road to know that there’s a problem with your battery. Most of the time, your vehicle will give you some warning signs that your battery is about to bite the dust. Here are a few of those signs:

  • Check engine light: The universal warning sign. Your check engine light may come on when your battery power is dropping.
  • Slow engine crank: If your engine is sluggish when you turn the key and the vehicle takes longer than usual to start, you could be losing power.
  • Swelling battery case: Your battery could be going bad if it suddenly looks bloated. Heat can also cause this swelling, but you’ll be losing battery life either way.
  • Low battery fluid level: If your battery has a translucent casing, you can keep an eye on the battery’s fluid level. Once that fluid level drops below the energy conductor, then it’s time for a new battery.
  • Rotten-egg odor: Out-of-the-ordinary smells are never a good sign. If you can smell a rotten-egg sulfur odor near your battery, then it may be leaking.
  • Age: While car batteries can last longer, most start to decline after three years. Other factors, however, which we’ll discuss next, can reduce that life span.

Keep an eye out for these warning signs and you can replace the battery before you’re stranded, which can save you money on potential towing costs.

What Factors Affect the Life of My Battery?

Your car battery is built to last between three and five years, but by being aware of factors that reduce that time, you can get the most out of your battery, and even extend its life by a few years. These factors significantly impact your battery’s life span:

  • Trip length: Short trips may save gas, but they won’t necessarily save your battery. Frequent trips of less than 20 minutes won’t be long enough to fully recharge your battery and will reduce its longevity.
  • Temperature: Car batteries don’t like extreme temperatures, especially heat. Batteries work harder in the heat, and enough time in the sun can even evaporate your battery’s fluid, which can lead to other damage. Try to keep your car in the shade as much as possible to keep your battery from baking.
  • Faulty charging: If your alternator isn’t charging your battery at the correct voltage, it can serve an opposite function and cause your battery to drain more quickly than is normal. Having your alternator regularly checked can prevent failure that will reduce your battery’s life span.
  • Dirt and grease: Any dirt that makes it under the hood or grease that collects around your battery can drain the battery’s power. Harsh particles can also corrode the battery, which reduces current flow and cuts battery life.
  • Driving habits: How you use your battery can chip away at its effectiveness. Frequently starting and killing your engine over and over again can drain your battery, and of course, constantly using your radio and other vehicle devices without the engine running will also drain your power.

What Is the Charging Voltage for a Car Battery?

The voltage at which your battery is charged is essential to efficient use and to preserve your battery. Charging your battery at the wrong voltage can permanently damage it and reduce its life. Most 12-volt batteries can be charged across a range of voltages but need at least 12.9 volts to reach a full charge, though they will charge slowly at this voltage.

A battery can be charged more quickly at higher voltages, and an alternator, as well as some chargers, can go over 15 volts as long as the battery is monitored to ensure it isn’t overcharged. When possible, have a professional service technician charge your battery instead of charging it on your own.

Can a Battery Drain Overnight?

Have you ever tried to start your car for your morning commute to be answered with only the dreaded click click click? How was the battery working just the night before? Can it really drain overnight? A battery can drain overnight if you accidentally leave a light on, but it can also be drained by power adapters that you leave plugged in. A battery can also drain overnight if there’s faulty wiring somewhere in the system.

How Should I Dispose of My Old Battery?

Since car batteries contain lead and acid, you should be careful about how you dispose of them. Don’t just toss them into a trash can. Instead, recycle the old battery. Many stores that sell batteries will also safely recycle your old one. If you have a battery professionally replaced, then your service technician will likely take care of the old battery’s disposal.

Are Car Batteries Dangerous?

Car batteries can be dangerous if they are used unsafely or disposed of incorrectly. For example, while charging, car batteries release hydrogen gas, which can explode with a simple spark. To mitigate that danger, be careful when jumping a dead battery and make sure you connect only the positive jumper cable to the bad battery and the negative cable to a grounded surface. It’s also best to wear gloves and eye protection while jumping a battery. You should also wear protective gear when handling a battery just in case acid leaks or spills out.

Understanding your battery better will allow you to better care for your vehicle and save money on frequent battery replacements. To have your battery checked or replaced, come down to Freedom Chevrolet Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram for safe, professional, and personal service.

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