The car battery starts a motor vehicle, so needless to say, it is never a good situation when the battery dies. Anyone who has experienced a car battery understands how unfortunate it is to ask a stranger to jump your car or inconvenience a friend or family member to come to help you. You can reduce the risk of a battery by understanding how long a one lasts, what the warning signs are for a soon to be dead battery and what you can do to make yours last longer.
The average lifespan of a car battery
The average lifespan of a car battery is between three to five years. However, many batteries last less than this and others last for much longer. The life of car batteries is unpredictable. Many present warning signs that they may fail, but many others can fail without any warning signs, especially if they are more than three years old. Most mechanics recommend replacing your battery every five years, although certain vehicles may require a battery change more often, depending on their risk of failing early.
The reasons your car battery may die
It can be important to identify the reason for the death of your battery, particularly so you can ensure that there are no concerns with other parts of the car. A battery dies when it cannot supply the proper current to start the car. They may also die if they do not retain their charge. There are certain reasons why this may occur, including:
- A slow discharge/recharge
- Internal structural failure
- Failure of the alternator
There is nothing that can often be done to save a dead battery long-term. You can get the battery to start with jumper cables, but it will most likely not work the next time you try and start the car. If jumper cables do not work, then the problem is most likely due to something else other than the batter (i.e. the alternator).
Factors that affect the lifespan of your car battery
Once again, your battery can die for seemingly no reason and with little warning. However, there are certain indicators that your car battery will not last as long as a normal car battery. The three factors that affect your battery’s lifespan the most are:
- Weather – car batteries do not last as long in warm weather climates
- Corrosion – corrosion can form over the years and kill the battery
- Time – long time in between car starts can cause a battery to die faster
To combat these issues, consider using a battery maintainer if you plan to go a long time in between car starts. Also, check the battery for corrosion regularly and use corrosion washers if any signs of corrosion develop.
Signs when it is time to replace your battery
Of course, the number one sign that your battery may die in the near future is age. If your battery is more than five years old, then there is a good chance the battery does not see another year. There are other signs that indicate your battery does not have much time left. These signs include:
- The engine starts slow
- Dim lights
- Electrical issues
- A bad smell
You should also not ignore the check engine light if it comes on. This could be another sign that your battery is about to die. Not all signs are a battery issue, of course. If your lights are dim, then it could be contributed to other issues as well, such as worn-down, damaged or oxidized headlights.
How to make your car battery last longer
There is only so much that you can do to extend the life of your battery. Once the battery dies, then you cannot save it. However, there are some things that you can do to lengthen the lifespan of your battery. For instance, you can sometimes lengthen your car battery’s life by ensuring it does not develop corrosion. Dielectric gas and battery corrosion washers should do the trick.
Also, using your car accessories for extended periods of time could damage the battery, so try not to use it to listen to the radio, as a source of light when not driving, etc. You can also have your battery tested regularly. This lets you know the condition it is in and approximately how long you can expect it to last. This is particularly important if you are unaware of when you last purchased your battery (as many are).
What to do if your battery dies?
You should keep a set of jumper cables in your car at all times in case of a dead battery. If your battery fails to start the car due to a dead battery, then you will need to find another vehicle to use to jump-start the car. This could be another vehicle at your home, or if you are not at home, then you will need to find a friend, family member, co-worker or a friend nearby stranger to help you.
When jump-starting the car, make sure your car is off and attach the cables, matching the positive and negative to the appropriate places. You should then be able to start your car. You will need to drive directly to an auto store that sells car batteries or drive home and order a new battery.
The lifespan of your battery is ultimately unpredictable. Some batteries die within a couple of years, whereas others may last for closer to ten years. In general, you can expect your car battery to last for between three and five years. After five years, it is important to change your battery.
As discussed, there are also many factors that affect the likelihood of your battery dying, namely the temperature where you live and battery corrosion. Through routine battery checks and preventive measures, you can ensure you get the most out of your battery.