Unfortunately, like anything else which runs on batteries, occasionally your car will eventually require its battery to be replaced. While car batteries are rechargeable and can last a number of years, eventually they will stop charging properly and will need to be removed and a new one put in its place.
Flat batteries are a common cause of car breakdowns, and if your car battery is no longer charging properly, it’s probably time to look into getting a replacement. Here, we look at everything you need to know when it comes to car batteries.
How Does A Car Battery Work?
The majority of car batteries use a lead-acid chemical reaction and are SLI batteries (starting, lighting and ignition). This battery type gives a short energy burst to power the engine, accessories and lights and once it has started the engine, the car’s power is actually supplied via its alternator.
Usually, SLI batteries have 6 cells, each one having 2 grids or plates, one made out of lead dioxide and the other made from lead. Each cell produces around 2V of energy, adding up to 12V in total. Those plates are submerged in sulphuric acid to trigger a chemical reaction, causing lead sulphate and ions to be formed.
Electrons are then produced which generate electricity that flows from the battery terminals to start up the engine, switch the headlights on and to operate the radio. The chemical reaction which is formed is also reversible and therefore allows the battery to be jump-started and recharged using a charger. When you apply current to the car battery at the correct voltage, lead dioxide will form and the battery can be used repeatedly.
How Often Does A Car Battery Need Replacing?
A car battery will usually require replacement every three years, and after around 5 years it will probably be very unreliable. There are variations in how long different car batteries last, but in almost every case it will last a maximum of 7 years overall.
How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Car Battery?
There will again be variations in how much it will cost to replace your car’s battery, with the price ranging from as low as $50 up to as much as $200 for a premium battery. On average you should expect the cost to be somewhere between $75 and $120.
How Can I Get The Most Out Of My Battery’s Life?
Although no car battery will last forever, it will still need to be cared for properly to maximise its lifespan. Here are some tips to make sure your lasts as long as possible:
- Limit the number of short rides you do as short journeys stop your battery from charging fully. Drive your car frequently and take it out for longer journeys to keep its power levels up. If you only use your car infrequently, buy a battery charger so you can jumpstart the battery should you get stranded.
- Keep the battery fastened tightly – any battery which is not fastened securely could vibrate and this could damage it internally, leading to short circuits. Always check the battery terminal regularly, especially when you’ve been travelling on a bumpy road to make sure it is properly positioned and secure in its mounting bracket.
- Turn off your lights when you get out of the car – accidentally leaving the lights on when you get out of the car may end up draining the car’s battery. If necessary put a note onto your dashboard or a sticker on your key fob so you remember to do this every time you park.
- Controlling corrosion – over time, it’s normal for your battery terminals to start to corrode, however if you keep them clean and remove any build-up you will extend its life exponentially. Scrub the battery terminals using an old toothbrush which has been dipped into a mix of water and baking soda and then spray cold water onto the terminals to rinse off the mixture before drying thoroughly using a clean cloth.
- Test the battery frequently – knowing how good a condition your battery is in is important to getting the longest lifespan out of it. Check the output voltage regularly with a tester to keep on track of when it may need to be replaced.
- Don’t use the radio if you aren’t driving – this goes for all electronic functions such as the air conditioning. Using any electronics when the car is not running will wear down your battery’s power. A battery can also be worn down if you idle excessively.
- Maintain your whole car – your car is a whole lot of pieces that work in tandem, and caring for all of its key components will ensure that its life is preserved and your battery has a longer lifespan.
Can I Replace My Own Car Battery?
Most people can replace their own car battery as long as they have a few tools and take a few basic precautions. If you want to save some money by installing your own replacement battery you need to stay safe by protecting your eyes and hands from any accidental splashes of battery acid. You can do this by using gloves and wearing goggles or safety glasses while changing the battery.
You can replace the battery by following these steps:
- Turn the car engine off and make sure it is in Park.
- Open its hood and put a pad or blanket over its fender to protect it from battery acid.
- Remove the battery cables from its terminals. Remove the positive ground cable first.
- Take off the screw or bolt which holds the battery in position.
- Take out the battery.
- Clean the tray if necessary and dry the tray.
- Put the new battery onto the tray facing the same way as the previous battery.
- Replace the screw or bolt which held your old battery in position.
- Replace your cables to the terminals in the reverse order that you removed them.
- Recycle your old battery.
Alternatively, you could get a garage to replace the battery for you at a cost of around $10 to $100 depending on the workshop you choose and the awkwardness of the battery location.
If you’ve found this guide helpful, great! We hope we’ve answered all your key questions about car batteries. Let us know if we’ve missed anything out by leaving a comment below.
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