How long would you guess your average car battery lasts? If you said forever you’d be incorrect. (Queue sad trombone) Would you believe that the typical battery life is only four to six years? Well, that’s the truth. If you’re reading this now, the up side is you won’t have to think about this while you are trying to turn the key over in the ignition and the car won’t start…because you’ll know exactly where you and your battery stand after having it tested as part of your regular auto maintenance (wink, wink).
To know if your vehicle’s battery is on its last legs you’ll want to have it tested every three to six months. You can do it yourself, which requires a voltmeter or dedicated battery tester, and of course some care that you don’t electrocute yourself. Or, you can take it to your local auto repair shop and they can do it for you. It should be done as part of your regular inspections or scheduled maintenance, so if you’re already on top of that it shouldn’t cost you any extra. In fact, most facilities will be able to give you test results as well.
Do you remember the old AA batteries that you could touch on both ends so the little strip would tell you how much juice was left? Unfortunately, testing a car battery is little bit more complicated. There are actually two tests performed, one to measure voltage and one to test draw. Basically, they determine if your vehicle’s battery is charging itself properly and ensuring that the components of the vehicle that require battery energy don’t use more than their fair share. If the battery isn’t charging or one component is using a higher amount of energy than necessary, it could lead to a no-start scenario for you. In other words, a bad day.
Extreme changes in temperature will affect your battery. It is a good idea to have your battery tested in the spring and fall to make sure your vehicle is ready for the extreme weather in summer and winter, BEFORE you are stranded somewhere.
The good news is that just like any other part of your vehicle, with basic regular maintenance you can extend the life of your vehicle’s battery. In addition to regular inspections, by cleaning the terminals you will ensure your battery will work longer. Napa has a great tutorial for this. And the only tool required is an old toothbrush!
If you are reading this post because your battery died, I’m sorry for your loss. If you are now in the market for a new battery, make sure to look at the warranty that comes along with it before you buy. Often times, the warranty provided with the battery is part of the purchase price, or in the case of discount batteries, NOT part of the price. Generally high quality batteries come with multi-year or lifetime warranties and some even include roadside assistance if you do end up stranded somewhere.
So there you have it! Keep your battery clean and inspected and you’ll quickly make your vehicle more reliable.