Spring may already be on the horizon, but winter will have a firm grasp on our weather for many more weeks to come. With these freezing temperatures comes added strain on certain parts of your vehicle, especially the battery. Many people choose to ignore their battery until it becomes totally dead, but this tactic can lead to a driver becoming stranded away from home – which can be quite a hassle during frigid winter weather.

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. Keep reading to learn a little bit more about this vital component of your vehicle, and how to tell when it may be time to swap it out for 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 your area experiences. In ideal conditions, a car battery can last around six years. Extreme cold and heat forces a battery to work harder to start your engine, which shortens the overall lifespan of the battery. In areas that experience extreme cold, the average battery lasts around four years.

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 in to a standard wall outlet, and keeps your battery just warm enough to prevent the internal fluid from freezing. The same effect can also be achieved using a small trickle charger, which also plugs in to a standard outlet and will keep battery 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 accomplish 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 experience 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 a battery. By disconnecting it, you will ensure that you will be able to start your vehicle the next time you need to use it.

Signs Your Battery is Beginning to Fail

While batteries will occasionally fail without warning, most often 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 is slow 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.
  • Exterior or interior 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 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.

Whenever you’re in doubt about your battery, stop by your neighborhood Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana 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.

So take the guesswork out of battery care, and let us help you Leave Worry Behind®!

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.