Car batteries have changed a lot over the years, as automobiles have evolved to include more and more complex electrical features. Their purpose remains the same, though: they supply the initial jolt of electricity that starts your ride.
Car batteries do not require as much maintenance and care as they once did, but in some ways they are less durable than older models and, when they go bad they can present some unique challenges.
How often should you change your battery?
Under most circumstances, a good car battery will give you three years of solid, reliable service. This may be affected by some variables:
- The age of your car. Generally, newer cars require stronger batteries or will require battery replacement more frequently. Many new cars have complicated computers that are constantly running, even when your car is not.
- The frequency you drive, or the type of wear you put on your engine. Your battery will drain if you do not use your car frequently, and using a battery charger to recharge it will damage it, eventually.
- Unintentional draining. If you leave your headlights on or your air conditioning on while your car is not running, you may drain your battery and need to recharge it. Also, avoid listening to the radio for long periods of time without the engine running.
After three years, it’s a good idea to get your car battery tested every time you take your car in for maintenance. Even the most dependable battery becomes undependable after four years. They are easy to test—and reputable automotive service center can do it—and easy to replace.
What are some tips to purchasing a car battery?
- Always buy a new battery, when possible. You never know how much wear and tear is on a used one.
- Follow the recommendations in your owner’s manual, or the advice of a certified mechanic. A car battery is not a place where you should try to save money. Make sure the voltage is right for your engine—not to low, and not too high.
- Purchase a battery from a high-volume retailer or auto service center. It’s the best way to ensure your battery is fresh, and hasn’t been collecting dust on a shelf.
- Ask for a warranty. He world is an imperfect place, and sometimes faulty batteries slip through inspections. Make sure to get a warranty to protect your car—and your wallet.
How can I keep my battery fresh?
- Use it or lose it. Like any other rechargeable battery, car batteries work best when they are used regularly, for steady intervals. Make sure you use your car often; if you don’t normally drive, make sure you start and run your car at least once a week.
- Keep it clean. Car batteries don’t require much maintenance these days, but deposits can build up around the terminals that will strain and ultimately damage your car battery. Check regularly to make sure this doesn’t happen.
- Be smart. As we mentioned before, avoid draining your battery by leaving your lights, air conditioner or radio on. Make sure all your doors are closed tight, so the internal lights will not drain your battery, either.
When it comes time to change your battery, you do not need a mechanic to do it. However, using your local automotive service shop is a good idea for a number of reasons:
- It’s hassle free. Your mechanic can swap out a battery and make sure it is properly hooked up in his or her sleep.
- They always have the right tools.
- They’re used to working in tight spaces and frequently have specialized equipment. As automotive engineers continually try to make the best use of space under the hood, batteries are frequently wedged into places where they are difficult to reach—let alone get a wrench on.
- They know exactly what your car needs. When in doubt, leave it to the experts!
If you follow these tips, you should have no problem at all getting your money’s worth out of whatever car battery you choose. Just remember to keep it charged, use it regularly, and pay attention to any warning lights.