Car Battery - vital to proper vehicle operation

Your Battery’s Importance

The battery in your car is responsible for providing the electrical current needed to start the car as well as to power the electrical system while the engine is off.  While the engine is running, an electrical charging system takes over to manage the car’s electrical requirements as well as charge the battery for future use.  Over time, batteries begin to lose this ability to hold a charge, which is why they ultimately weaken and fail after 3 to 6 years. 

Car batteries are usually a lead-acid battery with six galvanic cells combined that result in a 12-volt system.  The battery has plates of lead and plates of lead dioxide.  The lead dioxide plates are submerged in an acid/water combination that causes them to release electrons that flow through the conductors to create electricity.  This process is reversed when the battery is being charged.  These lead plates must always stay submerged so if your battery is NOT maintenance free, you should check the fluid level in all cells periodically.

The more you know about your battery and electrical system, the less likely it is that you will end up broken down with a dead battery.   On average batteries last between 3 and 6 years but extreme conditions and driving habits can shorten your battery’s life.  A weak battery puts unnecessary stress on the rest of your car’s electrical system and can lead to poor overall car performance.

-        If you sense a battery problem, first check to make sure the connections are clean and tight. Many auto repair and auto parts stores will perform a free battery test to determine whether your battery needs replacement.

Symptoms That Suggest Your Battery May Need To Be Replaced

-        Slow Engine Crank – Cranking of the engine is sluggish or takes longer than normal to start.  Best described as the “rur rur rur” sound.

-        Check Engine Light – can go on for a multitude of problems and should be diagnosed to determine the issue.  Many auto repair and auto parts stores will perform a free diagnostic so you should inquire.

-        Low Battery Fluid Level – Many batteries are maintenance-free however some batteries require you to check the fluid level. You can check the fluid level by either gently removing the caps or by looking at the clear fluid indicator on your battery.  If the fluid is below the lead plates your battery may need to be replaced

-        A Swelling, Bloating Battery Case – This may indicate your battery is going bad and can be caused by excessive heat

-        Rotten Egg Smell – This sulfur odor may be caused by a battery leak.  Battery leaks can also lead to corrosion around the posts or around the battery housing.

-        If Your Battery Is Over 50% of its Warranty Life – If you suspect or recognize any issues with your battery, especially if its age is over 50% of the warranty life, you should have it checked.

 Getting The Right Battery

-        Check your vehicle manual to understand the specifics to your car battery:

o   Battery Group Size (most vehicles accommodate many sizes, usually listed as groups)

o   Cold Cranking Amps (“CCA”) (the number of amps your battery can support for 30 seconds at a temperature of 17.8 degrees Celsius / 64º Fahrenheit)

o   Reserve Capacity (“RC”) (staying power- how many minutes your battery can supply ample power without falling below the minimal voltage to power your vehicle)

-        In general the higher the CCA and RC, the better.

Warranties

o   Most battery warranties are between 24-72 months long

o   Generally the shorter the warranty, the shorter the battery life

o   Keep your battery receipt to protect a possible warranty claim.  Record the information in your Electronic Glove Box for easy retrieval. 

Cold Weather

o   In cold weather the chemical reaction moves more slowly (that generates the electrical current) which makes starting the car take longer and shortens your battery’s life so try to keep your battery “warm” in cold weather

o   Don’t be surprised if your battery may be sluggish in the cold but fine in warmer temperatures

o   Be sure to park in the garage whenever possible, insulated garages are even better

o   If you cannot park inside, battery insulators can be purchased for your car

o   Unplug cell phones, GPS and other devices when the engine is off  as these devices may drain current from the battery.

If leaving the vehicle for an extended period of time (such as in a garage for a month), disconnect the battery.

Don't be intimidated by an auto service technician that is "trying to SELL you a service". 

Prepare and educate yourself to have an informed discussion at the Auto Service Shop.

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