Car Battery Maintenance - How to maintain and maximise battery life?

29 June,2022

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The car battery is the backbone of your car; they provide the necessary power to get your engine running. However, car batteries do not last forever and will need to be replaced in a few years.

How long does a car battery last?

The lifespan of a car battery depends on how long it can hold its charge and its capacity to recharge.

There are various car batteries, and the average lifespan depends on their chemical composition.

  1. Lead Acid Battery - Lasts 3-5 years on average.

  2. AGM and Gel Battery - Lasts up to 7 years on average.

  3. Lithium-Ion Battery - These are electric car batteries and have a reasonably long lifespan. EV batteries come with a 5-8 year warranty, but they are expected to last 10-20 years.

  4. NiMH Battery - Commonly used as a hybrid car battery, this has a lifespan of 8 years.

However, the chemical composition of the car battery is not the only deciding factor for its long lifespan.

Factors that affect the car battery lifespan

  1. Time - The battery degrades over time due to wear and tear as the alternator charges it up every time. As you continue to drive your car, the battery capacity decreases. Despite the battery capacity reducing, battery cells do not stop working suddenly. You run the risk of sudden battery failure only if you push it beyond five years.

  2. Temperature - Heat aids the chemical reaction needed to generate electricity, which explains why it is easier to start your car in summer than winter. However, heat can also accelerate battery degradation. In extremely hot conditions or an extremely hot engine, the battery fluid can evaporate, which damages the internal cells, reducing the battery life.

  3. Vibration - Vehicle movement creates vibrations that can affect the battery life and performance. Ensure that your car battery is securely mounted to minimise unnecessary shaking.

  4. Charging - The car battery runs with the help of an alternator, charging the battery when the engine is running. Undercharging accelerates battery damage, while overcharging can cause battery fluid leakage. Allowing the battery to drain completely can shave a chunk off its lifespan, even if you recharge it after. A few choose to charge their car batteries with external systems that offer rapid charging. However, too much power all at once can cause problems and reduce your battery’s lifespan. Problems with the alternator can also reduce the lifespan of a battery. If you find an issue with your alternator, it is a good idea to get your car checked out by a mechanic to ensure that your car battery does not deteriorate further.

  5. Usage - The car battery charges while you drive; leaving your car stationary for long periods of time will deplete its charge. The more electronics installed in the car, the faster the battery will drain to support these electronics. Driving short distances is an added strain on the car’s battery. The battery drains faster than the charging system can recharge it.

Signs that your car battery is low

Here is how you can check:

  1. Your car takes too long to start - If your car takes a few tries to turn over and start the engine, this is a sure sign that your car battery is close to its end. You may get a few more starts before you need to replace the battery.

  2. Dim interior lights and electrical problems - The car battery powers all the electrical components in your car, including the headlights, interior lighting, air conditioning and onboard computer. When the battery is weak, the first apparent sign is dim headlights and interior lights.

    • Start your car at night and turn on your headlights.
    • If they are dim, shift your car into park or neutral and rev the engine.
    • The headlights should brighten as you accelerate if the car battery is weak.
  3. Check engine light is on - The check engine indicator light on the dashboard does not always mean a failing battery. It can also indicate problems with the alternator. If your check engine light remains switched on after the initial checks, get your car checked with your mechanic and conduct a battery test.

  4. Unpleasant odour - A damaged or leaky car battery can release an unpleasant smell from the sulphuric acid present in the lead-acid battery. In case you smell something unpleasant from the engine, get your engine checked out. Do NOT drive around with a leaking battery pack.

  5. Corroded connectors - As the battery ages, it is common to notice corrosion on the battery terminals. This can lead to starting problems and terminal failure. To maintain the health of your battery, clean off any corrosion.

  6. Out of shape car battery - Your car battery should never look disfigured; this is a no-brainer. Exposure to extreme temperatures can cause the battery casing to crack, bloat or swell. In case your car battery looks deformed in any way, get it checked by your mechanic and replace the battery if necessary.

  7. Old battery - If your car battery is nearing or has crossed the 3-year mark, it is natural for the battery life to deteriorate. It is ideal to have your car battery checked regularly for performance.

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