When does a car battery need to be replaced?
The most important function of a battery is to start your car. A car won't start if a battery is low on charge. When can a low battery be re-charged and when should it be replaced? How can a battery be tested? How long does an average car battery last? Are there any early signs that the battery is failing?
The main characteristic of a battery is its capacity or ability to hold charge. When discussing the battery capacity, your mechanic or service advisor may use the term CCA or Cold Cranking Amps. The higher the CCA rating
of the battery, the higher is the capacity.
Over time, the battery loses some of its capacity. Your mechanic can test your battery with a battery tester. Car dealers and many repair shops use a computerized battery tester to not only test the battery, but also the starting and charging system. A battery test printout will show if the battery needs to be re-charged or replaced.
For example, this battery tester printout
shows that the battery is good, measured at 528 CCA with the factory rating of 550 CCA. A battery and charging system test costs from $35 to $50. Often the dealerships and repair shops offer a free battery test as a part of larger service or seasonal promotion.
How can a battery be recharged? When an engine is running, the alternator supplies the electric power and the battery is recharged automatically. A 25-30 minute drive should be enough to recharge a good battery to a sufficient level.
Are there any telltale signs that the battery is failing? Yes, when the battery loses some of its capacity, you may notice that the starter motor turns the engine over slower than usual, even if the battery is fully charged. Another sign is the dash lights that are getting dim or flicker when starting the engine.
Does the battery need any maintenance? No, modern car batteries are maintenance-free. Typically, the battery is checked visually during your regular services.
Your mechanic may recommend servicing battery terminals if they become corroded as in this photo. The battery terminal service costs from $25 to $50. It includes cleaning the battery posts and terminals, as well as applying a protective spray or grease.
How long does a car battery last? An average car battery lasts from 5 to 7 years. The battery lasts longer if the vehicle is driven daily and the battery is kept fully charged. When the vehicle is parked for extended periods of time, the battery deteriorates sooner. Often an old battery fails after the lights that were left on completely drain the battery charge.
When is the best time to replace a battery? Most battery-related problems happen during cold winter months, so if you feel that your battery is getting weak, replace it before the winter. A bad battery can leave you stranded in the middle of the road. If you are planning to take a long road trip, replace an old battery beforehand.
How much does the battery replacement cost? A new car battery costs from $60 to $140 and your dealer may charge another $30-$50 to have it replaced. Replacing a car battery as a do-it-yourself project is not very difficult, but the battery is heavy (30-45 lb). Lifting it out of the car can be hard on your back. An old battery is often covered in electrolyte, which is very acidic and can burn your clothes or skin. Here is the DIY battery replacement guide
from Pep Boys. Our recommendation is to leave it to the pros.
Where to recycle an old car battery? Some automotive repair shops and car dealers accept old battery for recycling. You can find the nearest place to recycle your old battery at the Interstate Batteries website
How long is the battery warranty? In most cars, the battery is covered under the basic bumper-to-bumper warranty. In some cars, the battery coverage is pro-rated. This means, for example, the labor might be fully covered, while the part might be covered 100 percent within the first year, 50 percent within the second year and so on. You can find the warranty coverage details in your Warranty Guide brochure, or on the manufacturer's website.