What No One Tells You About Car Battery Life

Car battery life is impacted by a lot of reasons including the weather condition, driving habits,… This article is going to represent these reasons and how to make car battery last longer.

Car batteries take an important part in car operation. The automotive battery does the job of transforming chemical energy into electrical form. 

It provides a significant amount of on-demand current to power up onboard electrical appliances, lights and start the engine

Normal Life Of A Car Battery

Depending on the weather where you live and your driving habits, also the condition of your charging system, the lifespan of a car battery is almost 3 to 5 years under normal conditions. 

However, the “normal” here is just not normal. It is determined by many factors mentioned in theory but rarely come to pass. 

To specify, “normal” in this case means that the battery is fully charged and attached to a reliable and consistent charging system. 

Besides, it doesn’t experience extremely high temperatures and provides power for the large number of accessories. In fact, these accessories such as GPS receivers, MP3 players,.. or vibration, temperature extremes really take a toll on the battery.

life of a car battery
Typical car battery life. (Photo: Quora)

Before delving deeper into the matter, you should know that car battery life is fixed and you can’t extend it beyond that lifespan. 

Nevertheless, you can definitely prevent the batteries dying early by knowing factors having negative effects on car battery lifetime and following simple car battery maintenance tips.

Factors That Can Impact Battery Life

Lack Of Maintenance

It is clear that if a lead-acid car battery isn’t maintained regularly, average lifetime of a car battery will reduce significantly. 

There are plates of materials such as lead and lead dioxide inside the plastic box, which are suspended in a mix of water and sulfuric acid creating an electrolytic solution. 

This mixture allows electrons to flow between the plates, which is essentially electricity. A range of factors can impact this chemical reaction. 

Vibrations from rough travel or a poorly-secured battery can shake loose or damage the plates. Moreover, the temperature is too hot, it can speed up the chemical reaction and shorten battery life. 

This is the reason why some batteries are covered by an insulating sleeve to keep extreme temperatures in check.

Bad Driving Habit

One of the major factors which have a negative impact on automotive battery life is driving style. Starting the car wastes a huge jolt of electricity, so the charging system has to step in to replenish the battery. 

If you have a lot of brief trips, the battery hasn’t ever had a full charge. This constant state of undercharge causes acid stratification. Inside the battery, the electrolytic solution has the upper half of the solution as a light acid and the other is a heavy acid. 

The light acid layer corrodes the plates while the heavy one will compensate for the car’s electrical requirements leading to a shorter battery life, even though the battery shows up as working on routine tests.

how long does car battery last
If you have a lot of brief trips, the battery hasn’t ever had a full charge. (Photo: Auto Electrician)

Extreme Temperature

Another factor that obviously impacts on a car battery life is weather conditions. The ideal temperature for batteries to operate best is a range of around 19 to 32 celsius degrees.

While extreme high temperatures can cause a dramatic decrease in the battery’s use cycle, extreme low temperatures also makes the battery’s overall capacity reduce. 

Therefore, you should try to maintain optimal operating temperatures to extend the lifespan of vehicle batteries.

Rate And Voltage Of Recharge

The speed of charging a car battery is not stable. So, a charge controller is used whenever recharging car batteries to help regulate the charging rate and the voltage. 

Moreover, there will be an ultimate failure if VRLA battery is overcharged excessively. Make sure that if you have a Gel battery, a fully charged status should be between 13.8 and 14.1 volts.  

For an AGM battery, you’re looking at 14.4 to 14.6 volts. And your battery is already fully discharged if your voltmeter reads anywhere between 11.8 and 12.0 volts.

Signs Of Car Battery Problem And Time For A Change

Bad Car Battery Symptoms

Dead battery is the clearest sign of car battery problems. You can test a battery with the electronic testers which is available at most automotive shops and even a few auto parts stores. 

A mechanic will check the car battery’s condition and give advice on whether it needs to be replaced or not. You should let the tech check your car battery’s condition whenever you have an oil change and routine vehicle maintenance.

Another sign of a car battery problem is a battery itself. Take a look at it. You probably have a leak if there is corrosion or stains. 

If your battery is covered in a case or insulating sleeve, remove it every once in a while to see what’s going on underneath. You should pay attention to your car’s battery and carry out some small tests to minimize the risk of being stranded on your way.

Time For A Change

Sluggish cranking or onboard electronic components acting erratically, flickering headlights for example is the warning that you need to change your battery. 

You should check the battery once every six months for swelling or a weird smell like rotten eggs, which means there is something wrong internally and it must be changed. 

Besides, some vehicles have a warning light on the dashboard to warn you what is wrong.

Car Battery Life: How To Make It Last Longer

Routine Inspection, At Least Once In A Month

The terminals corrode over time, leading to the destruction of connection between the battery and the vehicle. You can’t stop it, but regular maintenance will keep them clean of the buildup. Acidic or alkaline properties dissolve that corrosion. 

So, you can scrub the places with an anti-seize lubricant, a mixture of baking soda and water, or cola to remove the corrosion. Next, wash with water and dry with a piece of cloth. Rub some petroleum jelly on the affected areas to prevent future erosion.

car battery maintenance tips
Cleaning the corrosion regularly will extend the battery life. (Photo: Wikihow)


Don’t Turn On The Accessories While Idling

The battery is designed to supply a sudden burst of power to the ignition, not for providing energy for electronics and other devices for a prolonged period. 

Besides, the alternator generates electricity and charges the battery when the engine is on. 

So, operating lights, radio, and other electronics when the car is idling puts unnecessary pressure on the battery and damages it in the long run.

Avoid Short Rides As Much As Possible

The power cells take a minimum time to get fully charged and operate in full force. Making them work when they are not completely functional will only affect the performance of the battery. You need to drive the vehicle often and for longer periods. Shorter rides will ultimately result in declining car battery life.

Proper Storage Is Essential When Unused For A Long Time

Extended inactive periods are not good for the health of either the automobile or the battery. You need to drive the car regularly to make the power cells retain the adequate charge.

If your prized Mercedes-Benz only adds to the aesthetic of the garage most of the times, store the battery in a temperature-controlled chamber. Put it on a trickle charger occasionally to keep it operational.

boost your car Battery Life
If you don’t drive much, store the battery for an extended lifespan (Photo: Car News Cafe)

Use A charger

It’s common to find a dead car battery after returning from a vacation. It happens because the accessories keep drawing energy even when the car is not running. You can use a solar or regular charger that will supply power to the electronics. 

So, the fully charged state will make your car battery last longer whether you take the car to frequent short trips or leave it idle for weeks.