How Long Do Car Batteries Last?

With the cold weather well on its way, you need to prepare for all eventualities, especially if you are travelling. Aside from a flat tyre, there is nothing quite as frustrating as a dead battery first thing in the morning. While there are several estimates of how long a car battery should last, the short answer is about four years. Bear in mind that driving style, weather conditions and battery quality all play a big part.

There is no denying that a car battery is one of the most integral parts on your vehicle but it is often difficult to estimate longevity, especially maintenance-free lead-acid car batteries. They don’t always show signs of imminent failure, like tyres do, and often let us down at the most inconvenient times. Regularly checking your battery and making sure you look after your car can go a long way in extending the life of your battery.

Signs Your Battery May Be Failing

Although car batteries don’t always give drivers a clear indication that they might fail soon, there are a few things to keep an eye on. Any good mechanic will confirm that some of these signs include:

  • dimming headlights
  • more frequent need for revving
  • regular jump starting
  • struggling to start in cold weather
  • unusual power fluctuations

These are indicative of a faulty battery or one that is draining power faster than it should. While these are signs many of us have become accustomed to over the years, newer batteries often fail without warning.

Another crucial element is to choose the right battery for your car. Overworking a car battery by using one that is not suited for your vehicle’s power requirements may cause premature failure. Many battery centres or service garages will be able to help you find the perfect fit for your car whatever car you own.

The best way to test a car battery is with electronic testers which are available at most auto parts stores. A technician will connect the tester to the battery in your car and take a snapshot of its overall condition indicating whether or not you need a replacement. In fact, you should add this check as part of your routine vehicle maintenance whenever you have an oil change.

Tips To Improve Battery Life

Like the battery in your cell phone or laptop, a car battery is also rechargeable and can only withstand so many charge/discharge cycles before it starts showing signs of failing. The good news is that you can improve the lifespan of your battery in the long run. Take a look at these simple but effective tips.

1. Regular Visual Inspections
A major concern for your battery is corrosion – that’s the metallic gunk that builds up around the terminals and battery cables. While there are numerous over-the-counter products that can help clear corrosion, homemade alternatives are cheaper and work relatively well. Among others, baking soda and vinegar are prime examples.

Another important visual check is to ensure that the battery is tightly fixed into place. If a battery in a car wobbles too much, vibrations and impact could lead to internal damage. It can even come loose from the mountings which cause even more trouble, something that could have easily been avoided.

Lastly, if your car battery is covered in a special casing or insulating sleeve, remove it occasionally to see what is going on underneath. Pay attention to any smells coming from the battery. If you smell rotten egg odours (sulphur) or the smell of the battery overheating, it’s time for a new car battery.

2. Avoid Too Many Short Journeys

Every time you start the car, it takes a large jolt of electricity which is when the charging system steps in to replenish the battery. If you only drive short distances, the battery never gets fully charged which leads to a constant state of undercharging which can significantly reduce the lifespan.

Regularly driving shorter journeys can often deplete the battery so much that it can’t start the engine. At this point, your battery may seem healthy but you’ll need a jumpstart to be on your way again. If you only use your car to drive a few miles, there really isn’t much you can do besides accepting the fact that you’ll need to replace your car battery sooner.

3. Never Use The Car’s Electronics While The Engine Is Switched Off

When using the car’s electronics while the alternator is not charging could reduce battery life. As far as possible, avoid using the infotainment system, climate control or the lights while the car is switched off. Older cars tend to drain even more power from the battery than you might think. In addition, although modern cars fitted with ‘stop-start’ technology have special batteries that offer better fuel efficiency and other benefits, it can still take a toll on the battery.

4. Ensure That The Entire Electrical System Works

While the most obvious signs of a battery problem is a dead battery, it is connected to a larger system of car parts which could indicate a much deeper problem. A dead battery could also be a sign of something else going wrong within the electrical system such as a weak alternator or a worn starter motor.

Malfunctioning alternators and other components that drain your battery often cause trouble when starting your car in the morning. Before jumping the gun and replacing your car battery, check with your mechanic as it could be the alternator.

When your battery is more than five years old and your car struggles to start, it’s time to get it checked or replaced. Rather have it done in your own time than breaking down on the side of the road while on holiday. All things considered, car batteries are relatively inexpensive especially if you think about all the work they perform on a daily basis.

If you need a new car battery, call Elite Garages where our expert and friendly staff are ready to help. We provide expertise and services for all makes and models and offer better value than dealerships. You can also book a free battery check at any of our branches for added peace of mind.

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