On average, you can expect your car battery to last anywhere from two to five years. Of course, that depends on the battery you install, driving conditions, and the environment in which you drive.
Here in Colorado, a lot can impact your car battery even if all you do is drive to work and run a few errands each day. Your vehicle is subjected to:
- Intense summer heat
- Bitter cold winters
- Ice, snow, and slush
- High altitude driving
- Short distance driving
And those are just for a start. Every time you take your car out, it impacts your car battery. Even leaving it at home and not starting your car can take its toll over time.
How a car battery works
Our lives are filled with devices that run off of batteries. Take a fully charged battery, pop it into your device, and you’ll have hours, days, or even weeks of use.
Some batteries you must replace every so often; when they die, it’s time for a new one. Other batteries you can charge over and over again.
A car battery is the latter. When you turn the key or press the button to start your car, that process sends a signal to the battery that starts a chemical reaction inside the battery box. This reaction creates electrical energy that activates the motor running and the engine cranking.
Car batteries are designed for starting, lighting, and ignition. It sends short bursts of energy to your lights, accessories, and engine. The energy is transferred to the alternator once the battery powers up the engine. As it runs, it will fill up the car battery and ready it for the next use.
How long a car battery will last
Think about how often this process occurs throughout your day. You start the vehicle to take the kids to school, drive to work, head out for lunch. You stop and start your car over and over again.
While the average car battery will last between 2 to 7 years, there are several ways you can increase the likelihood your battery will have a long life:
Short rides – when you start your car, the battery drains power as it provides energy to kick everything into action. As you drive, that energy is replaced, so the battery will be ready to operate when you start the car up again. If you limit your driving to short rides, it never has a chance to build power back up. Plan longer drives periodically to ensure your battery receives the full charge.
Turn off lights – do you flip on interior lights frequently? Do your headlamps stay on even after you turn off the engine? Lights can be a big drain on the battery, especially if they stay on for hours or days at a time. Build a habit of checking to ensure lights are off before walking away from your car.
Battery check – what does your daily drive look like? Do you take rough roads? Do you navigate potholes and speed bumps that can jar anything loose? It’s a good idea to check underneath the hood from time to time to ensure everything is in its place. The battery might come unfastened, which can cause damage or short circuit. Watch for corrosion around the battery terminals; you can clean it with a simple mixture of baking soda and water.
Turn off electronics when the engine isn’t running – you wait for the kids after practice. You’re early for a meeting. There are a lot of reasons we sit inside our vehicles and wait – why not use things like the radio, lights, or air conditioning while we do so? Because it adds wear and tear to your battery. If you find yourself doing this regularly, look for ways to change your patterns. It’ll help extend the life of your car battery.
Signs your car battery may be dying
No matter how well you take care of your car battery, it will need replacing every few years to keep your vehicle running well. Luckily, a weak car battery alerts you with a few telltale signs before it dies.
Trouble starting – as the components of the battery begin to wear, they won’t operate at the same level as when the battery was new. You’ll notice it as your car has trouble turning over.
Electrical problems – because it’s the battery’s job to power the vehicle’s electronics, you’ll notice a change in the way they function. If your headlamps seem dim, it could be a sign of a weak battery.
Check engine light – the check engine light is one of the most frequent dashboard icons to light up. If you pay attention to how your car operates, you can usually deduct what might be wrong and make the necessary adjustments. When in doubt, bring it in, and we can help pinpoint the problem.
Bad smell – when a battery is damaged or not functioning correctly, it can cause the battery to leak. If you smell rotten eggs, a leaking battery may be the culprit. Replace it as soon as you can.
Corrosion around the connectors – pop the hood and glance over the various components from time to time. A white substance on the metal parts of the battery is a sign of corrosion. Corrosion can lead to voltage issues, which means you’ll have trouble starting your car.
Damaged battery case – Colorado’s weather can do funny things to a battery case. Intense heat, bitter cold, and everything in between can sometimes cause a battery case to swell and crack. This can lead to a variety of harmful effects. If you notice anything unusual, bring it in for us to inspect.
Age – when did you last replace your battery? Pay attention to dates, and you can start recognizing weaknesses in the way your battery is operating. If it’s been three or four years, it might be worth replacing your battery before it leaves you stranded.
Is it time to replace the battery in your vehicle?