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Battery Basics

The battery is what powers every electrical component in a car. At some point, the car battery needs to be replaced, but when? Is there a way to tell that the battery is failing? How long does it last?

How long can it last? An average car battery lasts from 4 to 7 years. If the vehicle is parked for extended periods of time without starting, the battery will need to be replaced sooner. The battery lasts longer when it’s kept fully charged, although overcharging can also damage it. Therefore, problems with your vehicle’s charging system can also cause the battery to fail prematurely.

Is there a way to tell that the battery is failing? Not always, but there are some telltale signs. When the battery is failing, it can hold less charge than when it was new. If your battery has low capacity you may notice when you are starting the car, the engine turns over slower than before, even if the battery is fully charged. It sounds like the vehicle is “lazy” and not as eager to turn over. You may also notice that the interior lights flicker and go dimmer than usual when you are starting the vehicle.

Is there a way to test the battery condition? Yes, we can test your battery with a battery tester. Our testers not only can tell the state of the battery, but can also test the charging and starting system. Usually the test will show if the battery needs to be charged or replaced. A battery also needs to be replaced if it is leaking or has a mechanical damage.

Does the battery need any maintenance? Most batteries are maintenance-free. Typically, the battery is checked visually during your regular oil changes. We may recommend servicing your battery terminals if there is some corrosion at the terminals, which is not uncommon.

Does the red battery warning light on the dash mean the battery is bad? The red warning icon on the dash depicting a battery indicates a problem with your vehicle’s charging system. If it comes on while driving, it means that your battery is not charging. The battery may still be okay, but the charging system needs to be tested. The main component of the charging system is the alternator. What may cause a car battery to drain quickly (like overnight)? Either the battery has an internal defect or some electrical component in the car stays on and drains the battery. If the battery tests OK, we may recommend a parasitic current draw test. The test involves measuring the current draw after all electrical devices are turned off, and comparing it to the specifications. If the parasitic current draw is higher, the electrical component that draws extra current needs to be identified and replaced. The diagnostic process involves disconnecting various circuits and re-checking the current draw.

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