How long should your battery last?
Despite running on gasoline or diesel fuel, all internal combustion car engines require a battery to run. Our vehicles rely on batteries to both start and stay running, and a dead or defective battery means you and your car aren’t driving anywhere. The average lifespan of a car battery is typically around three to five years, depending on the conditions it’s operating in.
Purpose of a Car Battery
The primary purpose of a car battery is to power the electric starter that turns over the engine and brings it to life. Long gone are the days of cranking the engine by hand in order to start it. You can thank your battery for that!
In addition to powering the starter, car batteries also provide the power for a number of electric components. These range from the engine control unit (ECU) or engine control module (ECM) to the radio to your power windows to your cell phone charger. The more electrically powered features and accessories that your vehicle has, the greater the draw on its battery’s energy.
How Your Car Battery Works
The majority of gas and diesel powered vehicles today have 12 volt lead acid batteries. Inside the plastic housing of the battery are cells, and each cell contains a cathode and an anode along with an acid solution to store the electricity your car or truck needs to start and run properly.
Basically, as your car battery discharges, electrons move from one end to the other. To recharge your battery, the electrons are sent in the opposite direction, back to the other end of the battery. This recharging is the work of your car’s alternator.
If the alternator malfunctions, then your car will only start or run as long as there is sufficient power left in the battery. Eventually, the power will run out and there won’t be any electricity left for the starter or ECM or ECU. Without any battery power, not only will your car no longer start, but it won’t run either. Even if you put a fresh battery in your vehicle, it will quickly run out of power without a functioning alternator refueling it.
Why Batteries Wear Out or “Go Flat”
Even if you have a working alternator, batteries will eventually stop working. Over time, the chemical reactants that produce the electricity will be used up, and it will no longer be possible to produce enough voltage for all your car’s needs. This depletion is primarily the result of the metal plates within the battery oxidizing. You can’t avoid it; eventually, the oxidation gets to the point where the battery will no longer take a charge.
There are several factors that can influence how long your battery will last. If you live in an area where the temperature regularly drops beneath 20° Fahrenheit, then your car’s battery lifespan will typically be shorter. Similarly, extreme heat can also limit the lifespan. Car batteries simply don’t do great when it comes to very high or very low temperatures.
Driving habits also play a role in battery lifespan. If you do a lot of start and stop driving or make a lot of trips under 20 minutes, then most likely the battery has not had sufficient time to fully recharge after starting the engine. Repeatedly draining the battery without letting it return to a full charge can shorten its lifespan.
Replacing Your Car Battery
We demand a lot of our batteries today. Modern cars have more and more accessories and we plug more and more devices in to charge them. Before replacing your car’s battery, the first step is to ensure your electrical problems are the result of it and not your alternator or something else. Once you determine the problem is with your battery, all you have to do is pick out a new one and you should be good to drive.
If your car is having electrical problems or won’t stay started, bring it into one of HEART Certified Auto Care’s three Chicago area locations, HEART Wilmette, HEART Northbrook, or HEART Evanston. Our certified technicians will determine if your car needs a new battery and will help you decide on the best replacement.