When was the last time you drove your car?
For most of us, that question would have been comical a few short months ago. But moving past a month of stay in place, that question now may take some thought. A week ago? A month ago?
Your wallet may be thanking you for not spending a lot on gas these days. But if you don’t pay attention to caring for your car the proper way right now, you may pay for that as we come out of lockdown. Cars are meant to be driven. The more they sit, the more problems can arise.
Which is why we’ve put together a series of questions and answers about one of the first things that can happen to your vehicle the longer it sits: problems with your car battery.
How long can a car sit before a car battery dies?
A car battery isn’t like a battery you put into your phone or your remote control. It isn’t fully charged, dropping down ever so slowly as it sits or is used.
Instead, a car battery is typically a lead acid cell battery made up of 6x 2V cells or piles. A lead acid battery is bigger and heavier than other batteries, and is designed to produce high current over short durations. Alkaline batteries produce low current over longer durations, and are in general safer even when leaking, as they won’t eat through what’s around it the way the sulfuric acid from a lead acid battery will.
With this set up, a car battery is designed for short spurts of energy. It’s designed to jolt the car engine to life as the key is turned or button is pushed. This charges the alternator, which is what continually powers a variety of things in your car, such as the lights or radio.
To stay in good function, the car battery needs that jolt periodically to recharge the cells. Without it, the power continues to drain until the battery no longer works.
How long a car can sit before the car battery dies depends on a variety of things:
- How old the battery is
- Under what circumstances the car battery has been used
- Temperatures and road conditions
- The make and model of the battery
- Driving conditions
Predicting how long a car battery will last if it isn’t used is difficult at best. A month? Two months? Longer?
Your best takeaway is to realize the importance of operating your car regularly, even when you’re staying in place.
How do you change a car battery without losing your settings?
What’s one of the most frustrating things that can happen when you replace a battery? Having all of your presets disappear. And in today’s modern cars, that can be a wide variety of details.
That’s why it pays to watch your battery carefully, and change it for a new one long before it dies and leaves you stranded. If you replace a battery while it’s still holding a charge, you can do so and keep all of your presets in place.
To do so, you’ll need a secondary power source. You can use a secondary battery, or a jumper/booster pack. After attaching the secondary battery to your car, you can disconnect and replace the main battery. This will hold the charge in place during the process. With the new power supply in place, test the system and make sure it’s working.
You can also attach a memory saver, which is a small device you can plug in that will provide just enough power to hold your presets in place while the battery is changed.
How long can you play the radio before the car battery dies?
Have you ever sat with the engine off and the radio on, listening to your favorite tunes? Of course. We’ve all done it.
Did you know that’s one of the heaviest drains on your car battery?
How long you can play depends on a variety of things. How old your battery is. Temperatures. The power of your radio.
We Googled this question to find out what some of the answers were, and had to laugh. Some were very specific – how would anyone know you can get exactly 125 minutes of radio time before your car dies? The general consensus is: it depends.
Is your radio standard equipment? Does your radio have a digital screen – this will require more power from the battery.
The bottom line is, if you aren’t using your car regularly, find another way to play your tunes. Keep all listening to a minimum if you aren’t operating your car.
How do you reconnect a car battery safely?
If your car battery is dead, you’ll have to replace it. For safety’s sake, remember that this is an electrical device. “Dead” isn’t really dead, and it can still be harmful – fatal – if not handled properly.
Even if a car battery is dead, you should never let any metal object touch both the negative and positive posts on the battery at the same time. This can cause a current to spark, even to explode.
When removing a battery, identify the positive and negative posts – the positive will have a red plastic cover, while the negative will have black markings. Remove the black/negative cable first, followed by the red. When you reattach, reverse the order – attach the red first, followed by the black. It’s always in this order for safety.
Remove the battery carefully to ensure you don’t spill acid from the battery. They can weigh between 40 and 60 pounds.
Clean all the connections before you insert the new battery. Then reinstall the cables, red/positive before black/negative. Carefully double check all connections and ensure the battery is secure.
Of course, to ensure this process runs smoothly, we recommend never doing this as a DIY project unless you have been trained in auto mechanics. Because you’re dealing with dangerous chemicals and electrical current, it’s important to know what you’re doing before you try it.
What else happens to the car if the battery dies and isn’t replaced right away?
Car batteries die for a variety of reasons. And in some cases, it might not have to be replaced right away.
When you jump a car battery, be sure to keep it running for 10 to 15 minutes to ensure it regains its charge. Don’t take it far from home; remain in a location where you can have access to another jump if you need it.
If it holds its charge, you should have nothing to worry about. If it needs a second charge, it’s time to replace the battery.
The key to good car maintenance is being aware. Watch for signs. Evaluate how well your car is working.
How long a car battery lasts is all about knowledge. Knowing how old your battery is, the conditions it’s operated in, and how well it’s been treated since it was installed.
Do you have any questions about replacing your car battery? We’re here to help.