Your car battery is one of the most important parts of your car’s electrical system. Without the battery, your car simply isn’t going to work. Your battery works hard, and eventually, it’s going to wear out. So, how long can you expect your battery to last, and how will you know when it needs to be replaced?
When do battery problems happen?
Most cars are equipped with six-cell batteries, equipped with lead and lead-oxide plates that contain diluted sulfuric acid. Battery problems occur when the battery loses some of its capacity due to a process called sulfation. That means that your battery’s sulfuric acid content has dropped to the point where it’s no longer effective, and it won’t start your car. You have a dead battery.
How long do batteries last?
Generally speaking, you can expect your car battery to last anywhere from five to seven years, with a few caveats. First of all, you get far more life out of your battery if you check your battery and drive your car regularly. If you park your car for the winter, for example, you’ll likely need to replace it sooner. That’s because when you’re driving regularly, your battery maintains its charge. If you have a “summer car” that you park during the winter, you should remove the battery and bring it indoors. Simply going out and starting the car from time to time won’t deliver enough of a charge to the battery.
Your mechanic can test your car battery to determine if it’s charging properly, and even give you an idea of how much more life you can reasonably expect from your car battery.
Unless you’re experiencing a really quick drain, you probably don’t have to replace your battery right away. A car battery problem typically worsens over time, so check your battery from time to time, make sure the terminals are clean (you can clean them up yourself just by disconnecting the cables, negative first, and roughing up the terminal posts and the insides of the cables with steel wool), and be alert to any potential battery problems. A dead battery, of course, has to be replaced immediately. A dying battery can be nursed along for a while but should be replaced as soon as is reasonably possible.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How Can I Prevent My Car Battery From Dying? and was authored by Valerie Johnston.