How Batteries Work and What Affects Their Lifespan

Like any of the other wireless electronics in your home or office, your Chantilly, VA, vehicle also has a battery. According to the MIT School of Engineering, a battery is a device that stores electrical energy in the form of chemical energy and converts that energy into electricity. While you can’t precisely save energy by catching it, you can store electrical power inside the chemicals found inside a battery. In this helpful blog from our automotive maintenance experts at Casey’s Automotive, we’ll give you an easy to understand breakdown.

How Does A Battery Work?

Batteries have three main components: two terminals made of different chemicals, an anode (negative terminal), a cathode (positive terminal), and an electrolyte chemical that acts as a medium to allow the flow of charge between the cathode and the anode.

Most vehicular batteries rely on a lead-acid reaction, which falls under the category of SLI (starting, lighting, and ignition) by providing short bursts of energy to power the different parts of your vehicle. Those parts include accessories, lights, and the engine. Once the battery sends an initial jolt to the engine, it starts the alternator. From that jolt, the alternator is then used to power the engine.

How Seasonal Temperatures Affect the Battery

Given the chemical make-up of a battery, temperature changes can cause some issues. Summer heat is damaging to the internals of the battery as the heat increases the vaporization of the electrolyte. When that happens, it causes the corrosion process to speed up. If you’ve ever seen a battery with a dusty or foamy substance near the terminal, you’ve witnessed battery corrosion.

Now, while summer heat causes corrosion damage, the colder temps can be brutal too. Given the need to produce maximum amperage, a battery must work harder to start in the winter months since the engine is so cold. That extra demand on an already weakened battery can cause it to lose its efficiency. Effectively, it shortens the battery’s life.

Can I Protect My Battery from Seasonal Temperatures?

Unfortunately, there are not many ways to protect a battery from extreme hot and cold. Being proactive is the only way to avoid being stuck with a vehicle that will not start. During the warmer months, you can check for signs of corrosion on your battery. Look at the hold-down bracket, the cables, and on the battery itself. There will be a build-up where the battery cables connect to the positive and negative terminals. Cleaning that corrosion from the battery will protect the components and extend the life of your system.

If your car frequently sits for weeks on end, we recommend starting and driving it at least once a week to get the battery charged, even a simple drive around the block as the battery may become drained from onboard computers.

During the colder months, it is helpful to allow the battery to charge up before turning on the accessories, such as the heating system, lights, and even the radio. Also, don’t be afraid to juice it up a bit before driving. In cold temps, an uncharged battery can quickly become a dead battery.

How Long Will My Car Battery Last?

At Casey’s Automotive, we see batteries generally last from 3-7 years. That is quite the range, and many factors can affect your vehicle’s battery life. Although you cannot precisely predict when your battery will fail, having it tested regularly will give you the ability to see when it’s becoming weak. Signs of a weak battery can include slow start, hesitation to start, dimming dah and headlights, and a warning light engaging on the dashboard. If it falls in the 5-7-year range, it’s best to replace it as soon as possible. Most batteries have an install date on it, so make sure you make yourself aware of that date.

What Kind of Battery Does My Car Need?

All batteries have a series of numbers and sometimes letters referring to the battery group, identifying what they will fit. The identifying number shows the battery that will best fit the physical dimensions, terminal locations, and type required for your vehicle.

Group size is determined by the vehicle’s make, model, and engine type. Although some vehicles may accommodate a battery from more than one group size, using a battery approved for your vehicle is the optimal route. Consult your owner’s manual, your trusted repair shop, or a replacement guide to find the battery group size that works for your specific vehicle. At Casey’s, we will always recommend using the exact fit battery found in your manufacturer’s guide.

How Much Do Car Batteries Cost?

The range in battery price is massive. You may find automotive car batteries from $60 to $300. The cost involves variants such as size, type of battery, quality, and if you have it professionally installed. In some vehicles, the storage area is difficult to access, meaning you’ll need a professional to have it installed.

Casey’s Automotive, Battery Diagnostic Tests in Chantilly, VA

Many drivers in Chantilly, VA, are familiar with the need to winterize their vehicles, but the warmer months require automotive maintenance too! At Casey’s Automotive, battery diagnostics is one of the 42-points our automotive maintenance technicians cover in our complimentary inspection. And, if you suspect your battery is losing its juice before your maintenance interval, contact us. We’ll get you in and out with a diagnostic check in little time.

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