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How to extend car battery lifespan?

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How Long Do Car Batteries Last?

On average, car batteries last between 3 and 5 years. One of the most important factors that affects how long a car battery will last is the weather. A running engine under the hood is already producing high levels of heat. Throw in a scorching hot day and you have a severe drain on your car battery, which can lead to an increased chance of a dead battery if you don’t take proper summer driving precautions.

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Quality of Car Batteries

As with many items, some batteries are better than others. In the case of car batteries, some of that has to do with the battery’s quality, which we’ll get into in a bit, as well as its cold crank amps rating.

Batteries lose quite a bit of their power as the temperature drops, so their CCA rating is important because it’s measured at 0 degrees Fahrenheit (where a battery typically has lost about 60% of its peak starting power) and thus represents sort of a worst-case scenario for the battery. Since batteries also tend to lose power over time, one offering more CCA when new can lose some and still have the power to start your car, whereas one purchased at the same time but carrying a lower CCA rating may have deteriorated to a point where it can’t do its job.

Also, as batteries lose some of their life just by sitting, it’s possible the battery you bought “new” had actually been built months before and spent the intervening time degrading on a shelf.

Types of Car Batteries

The common car battery has long been what’s called a lead-acid battery, which primarily contains lead plates immersed in sulphuric acid. But in recent years, another type that has come into use is called an absorbed (or absorbent) glass mat battery. It works on the same principle, but instead of being in liquid form, the acid is contained in fiberglass mats that surround the lead plates. These batteries are more expensive, but they tend to have a higher power density, can go through more charge and discharge cycles, aren’t as sensitive to being deeply discharged, don’t leak, charge faster and are less vulnerable to vibration.

AGM batteries are often found as original equipment in cars that use stop-start technology to save fuel, in which the engine automatically shuts off when you come to a stop, then automatically starts when you release the brake. Since starting the engine requires an extremely high power draw and wear on a battery, these frequent engine starts would likely kill a normal battery in rather short order.

If your car doesn’t have stop-start technology — or didn’t come with an AGM battery — you might be able to upgrade to one. However, it will cost more, and you have to make sure your car is compatible; for instance, your alternator might be putting out too much power, which can kill an AGM battery. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have the battery professionally installed by someone who acknowledges that they need to check such things as alternator output first.

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Battery Usage

As hard as starting an engine is, letting the car sit isn’t good for the battery, either. Part of that is because a battery will naturally discharge over time, and starting the car activates the alternator, which recharges the battery as you drive. (Note that the alternator also has to power all the devices used when your car is running, and as the alternator doesn’t put out much, if any, power when the engine is idling, it won’t recharge the battery much on a short drive.) But on modern cars, there’s another problem.

There are many computers and electronic devices in newer cars that require battery power to keep their memories alive, and they draw power even when the car is “off.” For instance, for in-car equipped with remote locks, there’s a little receiver that’s constantly “listening” for a radio signal from your key fob, and that receiver draws its power from the battery. All of this is why the battery can go dead just from the car sitting — as has happened in recent years when people have suddenly been working from home and rarely going out.

Common reasons a car battery dies

1. Lights left on

This is the most common reason for a dead battery. Even a small light such as a glove box or rear reading light can drain your battery dry if left on long enough. Luckily, most modern cars are programmed to turn off interior lights after a certain time with the engine off.

2. Hidden power drains

Most batteries are designed to handle a constant power draw for things like anti-theft systems and remote keyless entry systems. However, there could be something drawing power from somewhere deep in the electrical system of your car, such as a poorly installed aftermarket stereo.

3. Corrosion or loose connections

Something could be preventing your battery from being properly recharged while you’re driving. Check that the positive and negative terminals on the battery are clean and in good shape. If they are full of corrosion (it can look like blue-green fuzz) or clogged with debris, they won’t be able to conduct electricity from the battery to your car’s electrical system. Loose connections can also cause problems.

4. Parked too long

Leaving your car parked for the winter while you go to Florida? It may well have a dead battery when you return. A small but steady stream of power is used for the keyless entry or anti-theft systems. With no opportunity to recharge, the battery may simply run out of juice.

Tips to Extend Your Car Battery Life

1. Limit Short Rides

Quick car rides prevent your car’s battery from fully charging. Maintain your car’s battery power by driving it frequently and for extended periods. If you don’t use your car often, consider investing in a portable car battery charger. These portable chargers can jump start your battery without another vehicle in case you’re ever stranded.

2. Keep Your Battery Tightly Fastened

A battery that’s not securely fastened could vibrate, potentially resulting in internal damage and short circuits. Have your battery terminal checked regularly – especially if you frequently drive on bumpy roads – to ensure it is tightly and properly positioned in the mounting bracket.

3. Turn Off All the Lights When You Exit

Accidentally keeping your headlights and car door lights on can put a heavy toll on your vehicle’s battery. To keep yourself from forgetting, post a note on your dashboard, attach a sticker reminder on your car remote or park in a direction where you must walk past your headlights to get to your destination.

4. Control the Corrosion

Battery terminals corrode over time but keeping them clean from buildup is a great way to extend the life of your car battery. Scrub the terminals with a toothbrush dipped in a baking soda and water mixture. Then, using a spray bottle with cold water, rinse the mixture off and follow up with a thorough drying with a clean cloth.

5. Test Your Battery Often

Knowing the condition of your car battery matters when you want to maximize its life. Test your battery’s output voltage level with a car battery tester to keep track of how well you’re maintaining it and if you’re due for a new one.

6. Don’t Use Electronics While Idling

Turn off functions like the radio or air conditioner when your engine isn’t running to put less wear and tear on your battery power. Extended periods of idling also can wear a battery down.

7. Care for Your Whole Car

Your car is comprised of many parts working together. Making sure you are taking your car in for routine tune ups, as well as properly storing your vehicle are also simple ways to ensure your battery’s lifespan can reach its full capacity. The battery is just one component of a well-running car, so make sure to properly maintain all parts of your car to extend its life and the life of your battery.

No matter how well you maintain your car battery, you can’t always foresee when it may die. Learn more about roadside assistance and how it can help you in the event of an emergency.

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