When you’re running late, very few unpredictable circumstances prove to be beneficial because, as we all know, if something can go wrong, it usually does. Think about it: you wake up late, maybe forget your lunch, hit every red light on the way, maybe you get caught in a sudden torrential downpour. Or maybe you don’t even make it that far. Maybe when you get to your car, close the door, and put the key in to start it, nothing happens. Of course, you think. The battery chose today to die on me. What now?
If you live in the city, maybe you can use a ride-sharing app to get to where you need to in a pinch, but what if that isn’t a possibility for you? The best way to avoid a situation like this from happening is to prevent it from being a possibility in the first place. And the best way to do that is to stay updated on the current state of your battery and to take the proper measures so it will perk right up – perfect for those days when you can’t quite manage to do the same.
Battery Lifespan and What Affects It
To understand how to make a battery last longer, it’s useful to know some of the basics about them. Batteries work with a combination of water (about 2/3) and sulfuric acid (about 1/3), and a new one should last anywhere between 4 to 6 years, depending on your driving habits, the type of car you own, and various weather conditions.
Batteries tend to last a bit longer if your car is in a cold environment more often than a very warm environment. This is because the heat affects the chemicals in the battery and starts to put it into a state of partial discharge, which happens after around 24 hours (it takes a few days in cold weather). Once the battery begins to discharge and stays there for long periods of time, the discharged areas start to die. Once they die, they cannot be repaired through recharging.
It’s useful to know that, even when you’re not driving your car, the battery can still be drained from electronic devices that don’t power down with the car – things like the security system, the clock, the keyless entry, and radio systems, among other things. This means that if you go long periods of time without driving your car and your battery is on the older side, there’s a good chance that it won’t start for you when you do need it.
How to Lengthen Its Life
The good news is that car batteries charge while the car is being driven. But it’s important to note that this only happens with fairly long trips – usually 20 minutes or so – without any stops in between. The battery’s most useful role is to help start the car. It’s also the time when the most amount of juice is zapped from the battery, too. So if you continue to zapped the battery without letting it fully charge, you’re soon working at a deficit.
Even if you drive your car consistently for long periods of time, it is still a good idea to periodically charge your battery. The frequency depends on the climate you live in, but most experts recommend it happen once a month in warm climates and once every three months in colder climates. There are several ways to do this, but it is a process that requires some care and knowledge. Automatic, computer-controlled chargers are usually a better bet for the layman, as it requires less knowledge and determines the correct rate of charge for your battery.
Additionally, if you’re in the habit of running electronic items on your car while the engine is off, you should quickly break that habit. Every time that you leave the headlights or the radio on, for example, you can lose a few months of your battery life.
It’s also wise to get into the habit of keeping the battery clean. As explained earlier, warmth is sort of the natural enemy of a battery’s lifespan. The more debris surrounding it, the warmer it will become. You can use an old rag or a paper towel to wipe it down, or contact Pro Auto Care to have us do it for you. We can also test your battery’s strength and determine if it’s time to get it replaced.
When Batteries Die
Of course, car batteries won’t last forever. Sometimes they die, and when that happens, you have to determine if it can be jump-started, or if it should be replaced entirely.
Strictly speaking, the car battery can be jump-started if it isn’t frozen, cracked, leaking, or damaged in any capacity. Exercise caution if you decide to jump-start it, of course, as any poor-quality battery can catch fire or explode.
If you decide to replace your battery, you should make an appointment with Pro Auto Care to ensure that your replacement meets your car’s factory specifications. You don’t want to get a battery with a higher capacity than what your car is capable of handling, as that is another way to shorten a battery’s lifespan.
And if you decide to replace the battery yourself, ensure that the battery is properly recycled – car batteries are banned from disposal in landfills. If you aren’t sure where to bring it, contact us and we will be glad to help you dispose of it properly.