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Everything You Need to Know About Your Car’s Battery

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The last thing you want is to be left stranded with a dead battery. The more you know about your battery and electrical system, the less likely you’ll get stuck. On average, a battery will last 3 to 5 years, but driving habits and exposure to extreme elements can shorten the life of your car battery.

How Does a Car Battery Work?

The car battery provides the jolt of electricity necessary to power all the electrical components in your car. Talk about a pretty huge responsibility. Without battery power, your car, as you’ve probably noticed, won’t start.

A chemical reaction puts your car in action: Your battery converts chemical energy into the electrical energy necessary to power your car, delivering voltage to the starter. Not only does your battery provide the energy required to start your car, it’s also stabilising the voltage (that’s the term for the energy supply) in order to keep your engine running. A lot’s riding on the battery.

The car battery may be small, but the power it provides is huge. And you need to constantly be aware of the fact that your battery may be in trouble.

Are There Any Warning Signs That May Indicate My Battery is Giving In?

“If only I knew sooner…” We’ve all been there before. Fortunately, here are some indications and symptoms that your battery may need replacement:

Slow engine crank – When you attempt to start the car, the cranking of the engine is sluggish and takes longer than normal to start. You’d best describe it as that clicking sound your car makes when you try to start it.

Check engine light – The check engine light sometimes appears when your battery power is weak. Strange system indicator lights –such as check engine and low coolant lights– could mean there’s a problem with your battery. (It could also just mean you need more coolant).

Low battery fluid level – Car batteries typically have a part of the casing that’s translucent, so you can always keep an eye on your battery’s fluid level. You can also inspect it by removing the red and black caps if they are not sealed (most modern car batteries now permanently seal these parts).

Bottom line – If the fluid level is below the lead plates (energy conductor) inside, it’s time to have the battery and charging system tested. When fluid levels drop, it’s typically caused by overcharging (heat).

The swelling, bloating battery case – If your battery casing looks like it ate a very large meal, this could indicate your battery’s gone bad. You can blame excessive heat for causing your battery case to swell, decreasing your battery life.

There’s a stinky, rotten egg smell – You may notice a pungent, rotten egg smell (sulphur odour) around the battery. The cause: Battery leaks. Leaking also causes the corrosion around the posts (where the + and – cable connections are located.) The gunk may need to be removed or else your car might not start.

Three years + battery age is considered old – Your battery can last well beyond three years but, at the very least, have its current condition inspected on a yearly basis when it reaches the three-year mark. Battery life cycles range from three-to-five years depending on the battery. However, driving habits, weather and frequent short trips (under 20 minutes) can drastically shorten the actual life of your car battery.

One thing you can do is check the four-or-five-digit date code on the cover of your battery case. The first part of the code is key: look for the letter and digit. A letter is assigned to each month — you know, like A for January, B for February and so on. The number that follows nods to the year, as in 9 for 2009 and 1 for 2011. This code tells you when the battery was shipped from the factory to your local distributor. The additional digits tell where the battery was made.

If you’ve noticed some of the abovementioned signs and if it’s over three years old, consider it time for close monitoring and replacement.