Over the life of your car, there are various parts and components that will eventually need replacement, including the battery.
While the average lifespan of a car battery typically falls in the range of 3 to 5 years, it’s important to understand there are several factors that can affect how long your car battery will last. In some cases, drivers have managed to extend their battery’s replacement interval by up to 10 years.
The type of vehicle you drive, the specific battery you’re using, your car’s maintenance, your driving habits, the climate—and even the way the battery was stored before it made it into your car—can all play a role in how often your battery will need to be replaced. Read on to discover how these factors affect battery life and explore valuable tips and best practices that can help you get the most out of your battery.
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A Closer Look at Factors that Affect Battery Life
Although 3 to 5 years is a good guideline for battery life, it can also be a bit misleading. For example, does it mean your battery will last 3-5 years after it was manufactured, or 3-5 years after it was installed in your vehicle? Why is there such a range? The fact is, it really depends on your circumstances. Here are some examples:
- How hot is the climate?
Car batteries are sensitive to temperature and tend to operate best at around 80 degrees Fahrenheit; when the temperature is too hot or too cold, it can affect the chemical reaction that happens inside the battery.
Hot weather can cause fluid evaporation and lower the battery’s ability to hold a charge, as well as speed up its chemical reactions (which can damage the battery over time). Cold weather, on the other hand, causes the battery’s chemical reactions to be slower and less efficient.
In Yuma, where average temperatures exceed 80 degrees for the better half of the year, the heat can really take a toll on your battery. To help extend the life of your battery, try to park your car in the garage or shade whenever possible.
- What kind of car do you drive?
When considering battery life, it’s important to realize that different types of vehicles use battery power at different rates.
A modern vehicle equipped with all the electrical latest bells and whistles (like keyless entry, entertainment systems, Bluetooth devices, and power outlets) will be more “power-hungry” than an older vehicle without these features. The more features a vehicle has, the more electrical power is required to operate them—and the more strain there is on the battery.
It’s also important to understand that modern vehicles are never truly “off;” the battery is still supplying power to the onboard computer and various memory modules, which causes a continuous power drain (also known as parasitic drain). Even though this can be as little as one to two amps, the battery will still need to recharge from it. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to unplug any devices when you’re not driving.
- What are your driving habits?
The way you drive also affects how long your battery will last. Every time you start your engine, it draws a substantial amount of power from the battery. The alternator will replenish your battery while you drive—but if you only take a short drive and then park your car, the alternator doesn’t have enough time to fully recharge the battery. If you regularly only take short, five-minute drives, it wears your battery out quicker.
The speed of your engine also matters. The alternator begins charging the battery once the engine reaches 1,000 RPMs or higher. To give your battery a reasonable recharge, you need to drive at highway speeds for 10-20 minutes. If
- How old was the battery before it was installed?
If your car’s battery was sitting on the shelf for more than six months before it was installed in your vehicle, it will work—but it won’t have the same longevity as a battery that came straight from the manufacturer.
Just like perishable food, car batteries begin to deteriorate if they’re left on the shelf for an extended time; they typically lose around 5% of their charge each month and can suffer permanent damage if the charge drops to 75% or lower. Batteries that have been properly maintained and kept fresh before being installed in your vehicle are more likely to have a longer lifespan.
- How long can a car battery last without being used?
Typically, your car battery will be at risk of dying after just three or four weeks of inactivity due to parasitic drain—and if your battery was already weak, it’s even more susceptible. When you drive your car regularly, the minor power drain while your engine is off is inconsequential; it becomes much more significant when your car remains idle for a week or two.
Tips for Extending Your Battery’s Life
There are two keys to extending the life of your battery:
- Keep it fully charged as much as possible.
- Keep it protected from extreme temperatures.
Although there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to make your battery last longer than the estimated 3-5 years, there are several steps you can take to give it the best chance for a long life:
- Limit short trips as much as possible.
- Park your car in the garage or shade on hot days.
- Keep your battery tightly fastened in the mounting bracket.
- Turn off all your lights when you’re not driving.
- Clean off any corrosion that develops around the terminals.
- Have your battery tested regularly.
- Don’t use your car’s electronic features when the engine is off.
- Promptly address any battery issues you notice, such as dim headlights, electrical problems, a warped or swollen case, electrical issues, difficulty starting the engine, or needing frequent jumpstarts.
- Keep up on your vehicle’s overall maintenance—many of the systems rely on each other to be in good working order, including the charging system.
It’s also important to keep in mind that you may do everything right to keep your battery going—but if it was sitting on the shelf for a while before it reached your vehicle, it may have a shorter lifespan than you expected.
Visit Accurate Automotive Attention for All Your Auto Care Needs
Whether you need a battery test or replacement, you can rely on the skilled ASE-certified team at Accurate Automotive Attention to keep your vehicle in top shape! Serving our community since 1969, we’re the only AAA Approved Auto Repair in Yuma, AZ. We offer comprehensive auto care for all makes and models and back our repairs with a 3-year/36,000-mile nationwide warranty.
See why we’ve been recognized as Yuma’s Best Auto Repair for 20 consecutive years—contact us today at one of our two convenient locations or request an appointment online!
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