How Often Should You Change Your Battery?

Car batteries are the first link in the chain of your car’s drivetrain. They power the starter motor, without which you would be pretty stuck. While they also power your electronics within the vehicle, and charge while you are motoring along, the starting up of your car often puts the biggest drain on them.

Turning your key and having you car start first time is a joy that we take for granted a bit too often – the thing is, it does not last forever. One other main thing to remember is tat unfortunately there is not a noticeable gradual decline – one morning the battery is working and the car starts just fine, the next… The terrible sound of the whirring starter motor, not sufficiently powered by your soon to be dead battery, or even worse – nothing at all! With little warning, you may ask – “What can I do to avoid this?!” well there are a couple of options open to you – read on to find out more.

How long is the normal life of a car battery?

First of all, there is no specific answer to this as there is no definition of ‘normal’. A car battery in a car that does 50,000 miles a year on motorways, will be entirely different to one that does 3,000 miles a year, only doing short trips around town. Also there is the bewildering range of devices these days that must be taken in to account. MP3 players, Satellite Navigation devices, phones etc, all charging via the cigarette/USB ports, all taking power from the battery whereas this was not the typical case not so long ago.

A typical lead acid battery consists of a number of plates, made from lead and lead dioxide, these are suspended in a mix of sulphuric acid and water. This fluid, the electrolytic solution, allows electrons to flow between the plates – this is the actual electricity. So the battery itself is more fragile than you might at first think. Rough road surfaces, coupled with ill-fitted batteries or batteries that have work themselves loose can have a dramatic effect on the battery life. Signs of corrosion on the terminals where the power leads contact the battery indicate a leak is likely.

Driving style will be the biggest determinant in how long your battery will last though. Starting the car takes a big whack of energy from the battery, which is then replenished as the cars runs. If you are making only short trips, stopping and starting the car frequently, then you will be at risk of greatly reducing the battery life. What happens is that you do not recharge the battery fully, before your journey ends the battery is not finishing charging – this is called acid stratification. Over time, inside the battery, the electrolytic solution basically splits in two. The top fluid is a light acid, while the bottom is a heavier acid – the light acid will begin to corrode the plates, and the heavy acid will compensate for the cars electrical needs by starting to work harder than it is designed to. This will also reduce the life of your battery. Regular charging of the battery, with extended runs to make sure it is fully recharged can avoid this split.

The battery is of course part of a larger electrical system, and it is not always the item at fault when your car will not start. The battery is connected to the alternator, which charges the battery as the car is in motion. If the alternator is broken, then the battery will not receive charge. This would mean that the battery is just flat, rather than dead and it is the alternator that needs changing, not the battery.

So what are the main tell-tale signs a battery is on the way out? Well unfortunately, there are none – none noticeable without hooking the battery up to be electronically checked that is. However one big factor to consider is the age of the battery. If your battery is over 3 years old, you can start expecting problems form that point onwards. Some car batteries can last significantly longer and some won’t make it to the 3 years mark, it really is just a rule of thumb.

Getting the battery electronically checked is the only way to determine the efficiency and therefore the health of the battery. A1 Clutches provide a free battery check service, so give us a call today to book in for your battery test if you are concerned at all.

So the top three tips from this blog post, for when checking the health of your battery are:

  • Age – How old is the battery? More than 3? = Consider a battery check up soon
  • Driving habits – regular longer trips are better for your battery than short journeys
  • Battery appearance – Corrosion or stains on the battery indicate a leak

So to make sure you stay on the road, get your battery checked soon for free at A1 Clutches. Considering the stresses and strains put on car batteries (lead acid or otherwise) they are fairly inexpensive pieces of kit, but they are absolutely essential.

Now if you are saying to yourself that the vast majority of battery issues come in the winter months, don’t forget batteries can fail all year round! We see it every week, so get yours checked soon.