There are many factors that affect the useful life of a car battery. It can be as long as six years or as short as two years depending on maintenance, weather conditions (temperature and humidity) and car usage, among other factors. A good car battery is one that is able to recharge and can hold charge without self-draining when not in use. This article highlights important signs of impending battery failure and a few maintenance tips that will extend your battery life as long as possible.
Signs of battery failure
Sluggish ignition – if the vehicle is taking longer than usual to start, this could be because your battery isn't supplying enough power.
Check engine – the light can come on for many reasons, one of which is a weak battery.
Swollen case – if the battery case is swollen (often occurs when temperatures have been consistently high), your battery is near the end of its useful life.
Low fluid levels – you should regularly check that the battery fluid levels don't go below the lead plates. The casing is usually translucent to help you see this easily. If the fluid goes below the plates, take the car to a mechanic for battery testing and service. Replacement may be recommended.
Leaking – if you notice corrosion around the terminals, this indicates that your battery could be leaking. Even a little corrosion will affect the charging of the battery and how your car starts. Corrosion should be removed immediately when you notice it, and the leak sealed or battery replaced if necessary.
Age – after the three years of use, have your battery tested every six months, especially if you live in cold climates. You can schedule the tests just before winter and just before summer if you live in places with such climates.
It's important to be prepared with an action plan in case your battery fails mid-journey. First, have a set of jumper cables in your car at all times. Also, it's important to have contacts for roadside assistance, which includes mobile battery replacement in case the battery has failed and won't recharge.
How to extend your battery life
There are simple things you can do to make sure your battery lasts for as long as possible:
- Don't leave things on – double check to make sure lights are off and power cables are disconnected before turning in for the night. Otherwise, you could wake up to a flat battery.
Try to make longer trips every so often so that the battery has a chance to recharge fully. If the battery keeps half-charging and discharging, its lifespan will be shortened.
In extreme weather (high/low temperatures, high humidity), protect your car battery by trying to park your car in a climate-controlled environment such as an insulated garage or parking lot. Never leave your car outside when it's freezing or under direct sunlight in summer. Talk to your mechanic about preparing your car battery for winter weather (this is very important because your car uses up more power to start during cold weather because the cold slows down chemical reactions that charge the battery).
Maintain your alternator – the alternator provides power to run electrical components in the car and to charge the battery while your engine is running. If it isn't running properly, or the belt is damaged, this will mean your battery has to work harder to supply the power deficit and will last a shorter time.