Your vehicle’s engine struggles, turning over slower and slower — giving you the unmistakable sounds of a car battery dying. If having to jump your car is becoming a frequent chore, you should try to get to the root of why it is happening.
Most vehicle batteries rely on lead-acid batteries or Wet-Cells’ to store power. Car battery shops will fill and charge some of their cells, so they are ready to go. But battery shops will keep most of their car batteries dry until they need them.
The connection poles on the battery need an electrolyte(acid) between them to complete the cell. Once this acid comes into contact with the poles, the clock starts ticking. Over five years, the acid corrodes and mixes in with the poles until the acid stops working.
In some cases, you can restore a dead battery, but it is often better and less expensive to recycle with a battery store and replace the cell. The battery case will also often warp and weaken towards the end of its life, especially if you have been jump-starting it a lot.
Beyond complex reasons involving chemistry and age, there are several simple reasons why your battery is low on power.
The 6 most common reasons your car battery keeps dying include: –
1. Battery Terminals
Issue: The battery terminals have to survive in a harsh environment, with exposure to acid, heat, and fumes. The lead terminals will corrode over time and form barriers of dirt and corrosive crystals. This means that over time, the car will have trouble charging the battery to full. Bad contacts may also increase the load on the battery when your car is drawing power.
Possible Fix: Loosen the bolts holding your battery’s power cables on until you can twist them on the terminal. Then spray a battery contact preservation spray while moving the power cables around the contacts. You can then tighten the bolts until the cable connectors are secure again. Take the vehicle to a mechanic if you are unsure about how to clean the contacts.
2. Power Drain
Issue: A common reason for a dead battery is that an open door kept one of the interior or exterior lights ON’ overnight. A car stereo uses little power, but it may draw enough power to prevent you from starting the engine.
Possible Fix: Check all doors, including the trunk, when you park your car. You can sit in your car with the ignition off to see if any lights are on. You also want to see if you can hear any electric motors running for excessive periods, such as the radiator fan.
3. Short Drives
Issue: Diesel engines and some large gasoline vehicles take a lot of power to start up. These vehicles are great for pulling heavy trailers and long journeys, but they take time to warm up and to restore the power they took from the battery.
Possible Fix: Walking is a good solution, but not always an option. If you are driving less than a few miles, you should let the engine idle for a couple of minutes before you move off. This extra idle time gives the battery more time to charge.
4. Weak Battery
Issue: Ageing is unavoidable — after five years, your battery is nearing the end of its life, and it will begin to have problems. Even a small device such as a car stereo is enough to drain the battery. A feeble battery will make it difficult to start an engine, even after a long drive. Consider this a warning, the next time you want to start the engine, the battery may not have enough power.
Possible Fix: You cannot turn back the clock, but you can have a mechanic check the voltage for you. You may catch the issue in time to have a professional restore the battery.
Issue: The alternator is your vehicle’s generator; your engine turns it, and it sends power to the battery. Connectors, belts, and corrosion can affect the efficiency of an alternator. If the alternator is the problem, you will see your headlights grow brighter when accelerating.
Possible Fix: Alternators can be expensive, but your mechanic may be able to tighten a few belts to fix the problem. It is worth fixing early on since a faulty alternator puts more strain on the battery, heating it, and shortening its lifespan.
Issue: Lead-acid batteries work best between –4 degree F and 122 degree F, either side of this and the battery struggles. It is more than possible for the hood of your vehicle to reach these temperatures in the height of the summer or winter.
Possible Fix: If you need to park your vehicle outdoors, try parking in the shade in the summer or put a cover over the vehicle in the winter. If you have been driving hard in the summer, it is worth idling the engine to allow the fan to cool it down more before turning it off.
General Battery Maintenance
General maintenance on your battery is easy to perform and may extend its lifespan by years. You can ask your mechanic to inspect your battery while they are doing the general service on the vehicle. You can inspect your battery — You should wear gloves and safety goggles.
Look at the battery terminals — if there is excessive corrosion and crystallization, clean it away. Also, check to see if the battery is intact — you are looking for cracks, leaks, and warping. If you can see any damage to the battery’s plastic, you should try to change it as fast as possible.
Try to avoid jumpstarting your vehicle if the battery has gone flat. Jumpstarting puts a lot of strain on the cell. It is better to use a drip charger or to have a battery professional take the battery away for computer-controlled charging.
The battery voltage should be above 12.6V when the engine is running. Voltages below 12.4V often a sign of a car battery dying. Some vehicles have voltage indicators on the dashboard, or you can have a car electrician check it.