(Updated on July 28, 2022)
To start the engine and drive your vehicle, you need to crank it first. This requires the assistance of the ignition system and starter motor. However, they will need their own electrical current before they can begin to function. This is where the battery comes into play.
The function of the battery is to create this necessary electrical current for the ignition system and the motor. The electrical current gets sent from the battery as soon as you turn the key in the ignition system.
In rare cases, the battery will serve as a backup power supply if the alternator fails. But the battery won’t be able to supply the necessary amount of power needed for very long because it cannot handle this kind of energy demand.
Common Symptoms of a Bad Car Battery
Most car batteries will last between 2 to 5 years, depending on how often you drive your vehicle. If you use a lot of extra electronic accessories like the radio with subwoofer or air conditioner, they will also drain the power of the battery quicker.
Eventually, your battery will start to weaken and hold less of a charge and then finally go completely dead. It is best to replace your battery before it goes completely dead or else you could find yourself stranded somewhere.
Below are the top 5 symptoms letting you know if your car battery is going bad. Let these be warning signs that you need to get your battery replaced soon.
1) Flickering or Dimming Lights
The battery supplies the power for all the lights in your dashboard and the accessories in your vehicle. Even your headlights will require battery power too.
If any of these lights start to flicker, dim, or shut off completely, this is a warning sign that your battery is low on power. Replace it soon before all the lights stay off for good.
See Also: Are Xenon Headlights Worth It?
2) Car Doesn’t Start
You may turn the key in your ignition and get the engine to crank over, but that doesn’t always mean it will start the car. If you have a failing battery, your car will slowly crank the engine to try to start it but without success.
This problem will just occur randomly, and you probably won’t even see it coming until you’re faced with it. Cold temperatures will affect this even more.
How often do you check your battery terminals? One clear sign of an old battery is when corrosion can be found on these terminals. When a car battery has been used for a while, the battery acids will release hydrogen gas that seeps onto the terminals and causes this corrosion to form.
Some people will just say that you need to clean the corrosion off and that’s it. What they don’t tell you is the corrosion problem will continue to reappear if you keep using the same battery. That is why you need to think about replacement soon.
4) Warning Light
Most cars have a battery warning light on the dashboard. If you see your battery warning light illuminating, then you should obviously investigate the situation by using a car battery tester to see how much power the battery has left.
Keep in mind that the problem may actually be a bad alternator so proper diagnostics is necessary.
5) Engine Shuts Off
Your battery may have enough power to turn over the engine but then your engine will simply die shortly afterwards. If you find yourself having to get a jump start on a regular basis, then you really need to consider getting your battery replaced soon.
However, you may want to have a mechanic look over your vehicle and see if another component may be draining your battery power too.
Car Battery Replacement Cost
The good news is that car batteries do not cost a fortune to replace. However, gone are the days of going to Walmart and spending $40 on a new battery.
Today, expect to pay to pay about $60 minimum on a car battery but more likely $100-$150. Those who want (or require) an AGM type car battery can easily spend $200 to $300 (or more!).
The battery is also one of the few components of a vehicle that is easy enough for anyone to replace. This way, you don’t have to spend an extra $45 on labor costs just to have someone take out your old battery and put in a new one. It shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes to do this yourself.
Many auto parts stores will install a car battery for free if you purchase it from them. Keep in mind that while all car batteries come with warranties (ie: 48 month, 60 month, 96 month), they almost never last that long.
Fortunately, most car battery brands will replace a faulty battery until about the 2 year mark and then give you a partial credit if it doesn’t make it until the warranty time frame.
5 Tips to Extend the Life of Your Car Battery
Car manufacturers and auto repair shops will all tell you something different when it comes to the lifespan of your battery. The makers of the batteries will often say that you’ll get 5 years out of them, while mechanics will claim that you’ll get only 3 years.
If you live in a hot temperature environment, then they may even say 2 years. So, what is the real answer?
To get the longest life out of your car battery that is possible, there are certain things you can do to accomplish this. It doesn’t even require you to go to a mechanic as all these are things that any driver can do.
1) Secure the Battery
The battery must be tightly secured in place before turning on the car. Otherwise, the battery will vibrate and jiggle around which could cause damage to the car’s internal components and the electrical system.
If you’re someone who usually drives on rough or uneven roads, then you should frequently inspect your battery to ensure that it is still tightly fastened.
2) Limit Accessory Usage
Modern cars have so many extra accessories attached to them which drain the battery power greatly. There are CD players, air conditioners, DVDs, USB ports, and radios now in vehicles.
If you can, try to only use the accessories that you need, like the air conditioner. Avoid using too many accessories at once because that will reduce your battery’s lifespan considerably.
3) Fewer Short Trips
It is better to drive your vehicle for longer periods of time after you start the engine. This will allow your alternator to do its job and charge the battery.
If you’re frequently driving around town or just making frequently making short trips every day, then your battery won’t have a chance to completely charge. As a result, you’re more likely going to have battery problems sooner rather than later.
4) Test the Battery
A car battery tester is essential to have when trying to preserve your battery’s lifespan. This tester will determine the level of the output voltage of your car battery.
This will help inform you of how good a job you’re alternator is doing of charging it. It will also let you know when you’re just about ready for a new one. If the voltage starts getting lower than normal, you may need to hook up a battery charger before you get a chance to buy a new battery.
5) Clean the Terminals
Corrosion will form on battery terminals after a while. That is why you should get into the habit of cleaning the battery posts and terminals regularly.
Mix water with baking soda and dip a toothbrush into it. Use the terminals to scrub down the terminals until they are clean. Wipe off with a rag and use a clean towel or cloth to dry the area. Doing this will extend your battery’s life and make it easier to start your car.