This article is dedicated to answering some of the most common car battery questions and answers.
The battery is a vital part of the car and having some basic knowledge will certainly come in handy sooner or later.
For instance, it may mean the difference between starting your car successfully and being left stranded somewhere.
Besides car battery questions and answers, you can also find some useful advice on this topic.
COMMON CAR BATTERY QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
HOW LONG DO CAR BATTERIES LAST?
To get to the point: 3 to 5 years when installed brand new.
This is a pretty rough estimate and depends on a lot of factors that are stated in the next part of the article.
But, this is the average. To tell you the truth, I’ve seen a couple of cases where batteries even get to seven years before going under.
WHAT AFFECTS HOW LONG WILL THE CAR BATTERY LAST?
Here are some of the main factors that affect the longevity of the car battery:
A very important factor. The best recommendation, if possible, is to always buy a car battery from a renowned manufacturer. Otherwise, you may just be throwing money away in the long run.
Proper alternator voltage output (the alternator has to work properly)
The alternator recharges the battery and gives electricity to the car while driving. The proper voltage is from 14 to 14.5 volts. Anything under 13,5 V or over 14.5 volts is not good and is a sign that you may have an alternator problem.
Power surges and short circuits (for instance improper jump starting).
Accidentally short-circuiting the battery terminals or cross-connecting the jumper cables will damage the car battery and seriously shorten its life-span.
Ground connection from the car battery to the car
One factor that is mostly overseen but has a huge role in the proper functioning of the car electrics and electronics and thus recharging of the battery.
How much the battery is used
The more the battery is used (under correct circumstances) the longer it will last. Car batteries are made to be used on the car, not to sit on the shelf.
Mild climates are better friends to car batteries. Warmer temperatures help them last longer for sure.
In colder or very cold climates, regular batteries have a significantly lower life-span. In these circumstances, batteries are made especially for this kind of climate.
Needled to say that any kind of dropping or improper installation may cause physical damage. The damage may appear in form of damage inside the battery, a cracked casing, damaged terminal, or else.
Most of today’s batteries are maintenance-free, meaning that you can’t add or check the battery acid level.
In my opinion, it’s better if you can maintain it as it can seriously prolong the battery life-span. A serious enemy of battery longevity is when the battery cells go dry like in the case of a serious discharge.
If you can add some distilled water or battery acid, you can successfully revive it. Otherwise, it may only be good for the junkyard.
Shelf life before installing
Car batteries are not installed the moment they come of the production line. Manufacturers have this in mind so they make the batteries in such a way that they can sit for a certain period of time before they are sold.
But it’s best to buy one that’s younger and hasn’t sat that long. It will probably do better in the long run.
This is why a good warranty is important but more on that lower in the article.
Bad engine condition (heavy cranking)
Even the best car battery will be ruined if the engine doesn’t start properly.
Low compression, ignition system problems, fuel intake problems, or else will all cause a lot of cranking.
Lots of cranking means extra strain and constant discharge of the battery. After a couple of sessions of long cranking, the battery will be depleted and possibly damaged.
Simply put, never try to compensate for a bad engine that needs a lot of cranking with a new car battery.
For more info on why the car won’t start, click here for a separate article on that topic.
HOW DO YOU RECOGNIZE THAT THE CAR BATTERY IS GOING TO DIE?
This is very important in the car battery questions and answers topic. If you pay attention, you can recognize the first tell-tale symptoms and spare yourself from bigger problems in the future.
The most common symptoms are:
Slow turnover accompanied by the dashboard lights and the interior lighting going dim.
Occasional weak cranking
One time the car cranks perfectly, the next not at all. If this happens in the summer, know that the battery will let you down in the winter for sure.
When you turn on the headlights without starting the engine they will be dim
Pulsating headlights when the engine is running
Because the battery is weak, the alternator is under extra strain. This is best seen at night when you turn on the headlights and press the accelerator pedal. The headlights pulsate as you rev up the engine.
Electronics starting to act strange
When the battery is weak, there may be a fluctuation in the electric input. Today’s cars are packed with electronic components that are highly sensitive to this. You may get unexpected check lights, dashboard lights that go berserk, and other weird electrical or electronic symptoms.
For the replacement procedure, you can also check out our YouTube video on this topic.
WHAT IF THE CAR BATTERY DIDN’T LAST 3-5 YEARS BUT LESS?
This a more rare topic when talking about car battery questions and answers.
Simply, if you buy a good quality battery and if everything is OK with the car, it shouldn’t happen.
But although it’s rare, it’s not unheard of.
A most common reason for this is that the battery has some sort of flaw in production or that it was shelved for a long time. Once again, quality control and checking the manufacturing date keeps this a rare event, but it does happen.
Whatever the case may be, to protect you from this kind of mishap, there is one solid barrier in your favor and that is the WARRANTY.
On it, you have a guarantee that the battery is going to uphold its function for a certain period of time provided that there are no physical or electrical damages to the battery caused by you.
By physical damage I mean that you don’t accidentally damage the battery housing (improper installing or dropping it); by electrical damage-short circuiting the battery terminals, improper jump-starting (reversing the cable clamps), etc.
If you’ve done any of this, don’t try and return the battery saying nothing happened. Damage can be easily recognized. Besides this, most car parts shops have battery testers that can easily tell if the battery itself is faulty or if it’s been damaged by external causes.
The most important thing to remember on this part: when buying a car battery ALWAYS get a properly filled out warranty sheet for the battery. Even ask for a stamp, if the system is old-school.
Keep the warranty at hand, best in the car. Some batteries have small plastic pockets on them so you can even keep the warranty there. Also, if you plan to sell the car, the new owner can keep the warranty and you can perhaps get a few bucks more when you sell the car.
Remember, having a good battery warranty may mean the difference between a free battery replacement with zero money spent and a couple of hundred Euros or Dollars of unwanted expense.
HOW CAN YOU KEEP YOUR CAR BATTERY IN THE BEST CONDITION?
Another question that’s commonly asked within the car battery questions and answers topic.
In my opinion, the best way to keep your battery in a good condition is to use it.
The truth is that a battery that’s running on the car every day will probably outrun the one on the shelf.
A car battery that is constantly used is always recharged. This is an important factor because of the sulfation process that naturally happens inside the battery and which is the main enemy for battery longevity.
When constantly recharged, the sulfation has less effect on the cells inside the battery.
The one that sits on the shelf, even if you buy it brand new, if not used for a long time, will go flat. For instance, you may have a separate battery for an off-road vehicle, boat, or simply as a spare if the one on your car goes flat.
Don’t be surprised if the spare battery is flat despite the fact that you haven’t used it much or that you bought it brand new.
The best remedy for this problem is recharging it from time to time. I would recommend at least two or three times a year if you don’t use the battery much.
Also, if it can be maintained (you can check the level and add battery acid or distilled water), do so from time to time. It will increase the life of the battery dramatically.
HOW LONG DOES A CAR BATTERY CHARGE LAST?
It all depends on the condition of the battery.
If the car battery is damaged in some way and it can’t ¨hold˝ electricity, every charging will be short-lived, especially in low temperatures.
In more drastic cases, the charge will last only maybe one cranking and it’s finished.
With less severe cases, it may last a few crankings or even longer in warmer temperatures.
When the battery is OK but discharged (like the headlights were left on, the radio perhaps, etc) the charge may last a long time. If the discharge wasn’t severe the charging will probably return the battery to its original state and you won’t have any problems.
But if the battery wasn’t in its prime condition in the first place and is severely discharged then you might have problems and you might want to think about replacement.
For batteries that aren’t on the car all the time: if the battery is in good condition, one recharge should last for a couple of months without any problems. If you have to recharge it every now and then, you should replace it.
HOW LONG DOES A CAR BATTERY LAST AFTER YOU JUMP IT?
When talking about car battery questions and answers, lots of drivers ask about jump-starting and its effect on the car battery.
Well, from my own experience, it again boils down to the battery itself. If it’s in good condition, after you’ve jump-started the car, the alternator will recharge it and return it pretty much to its original state.
If the battery is in bad condition, the first time you turn off the car, it’s finished since it can’t ¨hold˝electricity.
Worth mentioning is that even the best battery will be ruined when the car is improperly jump-started. Not to mention car batteries that are on their last legs.
By bad jump-starting, I mean things like cross-connecting the jumper cables or when an accidental short circuit happens.
This can damage the battery (both yours and of the other car) without a doubt. Besides this, other vital electric and electronic components may be damaged also.
To recap on this part: a properly done jump start on a good battery will not influence how long do car batteries last. It’s all up to the battery condition and proper knowledge of jump-starting.
HOW LONG DOES A CAR BATTERY LAST WITHOUT CHARGING?
This question mostly applies to car batteries that aren’t used that much.
A loose estimate is 3 years, provided that the storage is good, that the battery is occasionally used and that it comes from a quality manufacturer.
With classic batteries, the main problem is sulfation. It naturally happens in the battery and is inevitable. Have in mind that all manufacturers make car batteries with proper exploitation in mind, not to sit on the shelf.
As previously mentioned, recharging the battery a few times a year and doing some maintenance (if possible) will dramatically prolong the lifespan of the battery.
One more good option if the battery is not frequently used, is to buy one that has gel inside of it instead of liquid battery acid.
These can be seen on boats for instance.
They are much more expensive but are, in most cases, maintenance-free and are very resistant to the sulfation process. If you can, buy one of these, especially if you don’t plan to use it much. It will be well-invested money for sure.
HOW LONG DOES A CAR BATTERY LAST WITH THE RADIO ON?
When mentioning car battery questions and answers, one of the most asked questions is what happens if you leave the radio on?
This problem is as old as the first radio installed. Although car manufacturers have solved this problem by cutting the power source of the radio when pulling out the ignition key, it still does happen today.
Still, some car manufacturers allow the radio to be turned on without the ignition key. Besides this, there are aftermarket radios that may be installed this way by choice.
More on the car radio topic in this article.
To answer the question: if you have a classic radio so to say, without any special equipment and if the battery is in good condition, it can last for hours. In the winter much less.
When the battery is in bad condition, you maybe have an hour, in winter even less.
But if you have other audio equipment hooked up (like bigger speakers, amplifiers, or else) even the best battery will uphold maybe an hour.
The most important thing on this part is to try and remember to always turn off the radio. Best, if possible re-install it so it doesn’t have power all the time. This way, once you pull out the ignition key your safe.
Just like with other cases, if the radio totally discharges the battery you may experience future problems, especially if the battery wasn’t in good condition in the first place.
Once you’ve bought a new car battery, it shouldn’t cause any problems for the next 3 to 5 years.
But make sure that all the other systems are also working properly (the alternator, electrics, electronics, and else).
If these are not in order, the battery won’t last that long and you’ll soon be visiting the dealership or car parts shop again.
This is why it’s very good to make checking the alternator a regular habit. You can notice a fault before it starts causing serious problems or perhaps damages a new battery.
Also, buy car batteries from renowned manufacturers and with a good warranty. They usually cost more money but are well worth it over the years through less maintenance and problems.
If you have a spare battery sitting around the garage, know that has to be checked or recharged from time to time. Car batteries are not fine china that can sit on the shelf forever.
Remember this also, if you take a bit more care and add some extra attention to your car battery it can last more than average and serve you well.
Written by: Sibin Spasojevic
Former car technician, life-long car and DIY enthusiast, author for Despairrepair.com