Batteries are a vital part of your vehicle; they start your engine via a chemical reaction set off when you turn the key in your ignition. This reaction creates an electrical current that turns the engine over and gets it running. But our cold winter weather can make it harder for your battery to do its job – and if it’s old, can leave you at risk of having it die completely. Keep reading to learn a little bit more about your vehicle’s battery, and how to tell when it may be time to have it replaced with a new one.
How Often Do Batteries Need to be Changed?
The lifespan of a vehicle’s battery depends on a number of different factors, from how often you drive to what kind of temperatures we have been having. In ideal conditions, a car battery can last around six years. But in areas that experience cold winters, the average battery lasts around four years. This is because extreme cold makes your battery have to work harder to start your engine, which shortens its overall lifespan.
Signs Your Battery is Beginning to Fail
While batteries will sometimes fail suddenly and without warning, most times there will be indicators at least a few days, and sometimes even a few weeks, before the battery goes completely dead. Here are some of the most common indicators that your battery isn’t performing as it should be.
- The engine doesn’t want to start.
As a battery ages, it becomes less effective at starting your engine. If you have to let the engine crank for longer than normal to get it started, there is a good chance your battery needs to be replaced.
- Your lights are dimmer than normal.
Even when your engine is running, the battery helps to power all of your lights, both interior and exterior. When a battery is losing its charge, these lights will often not be as bright as normal.
- Your check engine light is on.
While the check engine light can signal an array of different engine problems, it can also come on when your battery is beginning to fail.
- There is corrosion on the battery connectors.
Corrosion looks like a strange blue or ashy white substance on metal components. If there is any built up on your battery connectors, this is a sign that your battery is giving off acidic fumes from the liquid inside. Acid on your connectors reduces their ability to relay the chemical reaction inside the battery to start your engine.
- The battery case is misshapen.
Exposure to extreme temperatures can cause a battery to swell, which can then crack its case. Once a battery is misshapen, it can’t operate as efficiently and will have to be replaced in a short time.
One of the easiest ways to keep up on your battery is to take a look at it. All batteries have labels that are supposed to be marked by technicians on the date the battery was installed. Pay attention to this date, so that you can begin to monitor your battery performance after the battery has been installed for about three years. This can help you to better catch battery problems before they cause issues in your daily driving schedule.
Ways to Help Prolong Battery Life
There are some steps that you can take to try and prolong the life of your vehicle’s battery. First, you can install a battery blanket through the winter. This device wraps around your battery and plugs into a standard wall outlet, and keeps your battery just warm enough to prevent the internal fluid from freezing.
Next, be sure to minimize the use of electric accessories in your vehicle when you are starting or idling your car. Everything from your heater to your radio draw power from your vehicle’s alternator, which can prevent it from being able to charge your battery as efficiently. The easiest way to do this is to turn off your lights, heater, and radio every time you park your vehicle. Then your battery will only have to start the engine, and be under less strain.
Lastly, if you aren’t going to be driving your vehicle for an extended period of time, disconnect the battery. Small electronics like your clock and alarm system draw battery power even when your vehicle is off, which can quickly drain the battery. By disconnecting it, you will ensure that you will be able to start your vehicle the next time you need to use it.
Whenever you’re in doubt about your battery, stop by your neighborhood Chicagoland Jiffy Lube®. Our highly trained technicians will perform an inspection on your battery, checking its voltage as well as its physical condition, to determine if it is still operating within the manufacturer’s specification. If not, we can help you choose a new battery that meets your vehicle’s needs.
Jiffy Lube® recommends following manufacturer recommendations, where applicable, for maintenance schedules and service intervals.
Not all services are offered at each Jiffy Lube® location. Please check with your local Jiffy Lube® service center for specific services offered.