How long do car batteries last? In general, your car will usually need a new battery after three to four years. However, it’s good to know the signs you need a new one since nobody wants the experience of having a dead battery.
There is no simple answer, but based on decades of industry experience, we know that three key factors affect the life of a car battery: time, heat, and vibration.
Batteries live a mysterious and misunderstood life. While some batteries offer clues that failure is coming, many do not. While we’d all like to have an avid array of warnings that battery failure is coming, it’s good to first prevent some of the big issues causing battery failures, and next, react quickly when clues present themselves that something may be wrong.
It’s important to remember that no battery lasts forever, but certain things can reduce the life of a battery, and sometimes very quickly. Whether you’re keeping your car in storage all year or driving it every day, you’ll still need to replace your battery at some point.
Typically, the average car battery life is between three and five years. Pushing a battery longer than five years, even under perfect driving conditions, could cause your battery to fail without notice. For that reason, many manufacturers recommend a replacement schedule of five years.
When your battery is reaching three or more years old, consider having it tested. Think about getting it checked at the turn of the seasons or during every oil change.
Car Battery Lifespan
Batteries gradually deteriorate until they can no longer provide enough power to start an engine. This wear time could take three to five years and a vehicle’s usage pattern is one factor contributing to the rate at which a battery will age. Batteries in cars driven mostly on short trips may not fully recharge and batteries in vehicles parked for extended periods naturally self-discharge.
Ask around and you’ll get several different answers. Some cars will get up to five or six years out of their battery, while others will need a new one after only two years. In general, your car will usually need a new battery after three to four years.
Replacing your car battery is another part of routine maintenance. Getting your battery checked and inspected is standard for your service visits after three years, even if you haven’t needed it replaced yet.
The reason why it’s difficult to give one solid answer for how long your battery lasts is that there are a lot of elements that can affect your battery life.
Things That Shorten Battery Life
The two biggest factors that go into how long your battery lasts are your driving habits and where you live.
Inactivity can really bring down your battery’s lifespan. If you don’t drive often or you only use the car for short trips, then it’s going to weaken your battery. If you only use the car for a brief 15-minute commute, try taking the scenic route or going on a road trip sometime to help prolong the battery’s charge.
One other thing that you should pay attention to in your driving habits is leaving the power on when the ignition is off. If you leave an interior light on overnight or leave the key in the ignition, then that’s going to kill the battery quickly.
The climate where you live in the other factor to pay attention to. If you’re driving in an area where it’s hot all year, then that’s going to wear your battery down faster than driving in a colder climate.
Signs That Your Battery Is Low
A lot of drivers don’t know their battery is low until their car won’t starts. Luckily, there are some warning signs that your battery needs to be replaced.
- Slow starting: Slow cranking is a clear sign that the battery doesn’t have as much power to start the car as it should. Over the average car battery life, you can expect a minimal difference in the cranking speed, but it’s accentuated when the battery is failing.
- Signs of leakage or corrosion: Check the tops of the battery for corrosion, or signs of acid in the battery tray below. While corrosion on the terminals doesn’t condemn a battery immediately, that corrosion will eventually lead to a failed terminal. It calls into question how long should a car battery last. Leakage can often signal a structural failure or over-charging.
- Sudden click or no-start: If suddenly your battery is dead meaning, you turn the key and get a click or buzzing, jump-starting the car and going about your day is not the solution unless it’s an emergency. Many times, the headlights or dash lights will work fine, but the car will click when you try to start it. Get the battery charged and tested immediately, along with other parts of the charging system. If the issue continues after battery replacement, the chances of a parasitic draw on the battery are likely and it will need to be checked out.
- A very bad smell: The tell-tale sign of sulfuric acid is a rotten-egg smell. If you smell this, the chances are your battery is very unstable, and more than likely either being overcharged or has an internal structural failure.
How To Prevent Battery Failure?
Routine testing and keeping track of your battery’s lifespan will give you a clear idea of when to replace a car battery. As your battery nears the end of its life, it’s time to consider the best battery replacement and budget for a replacement. In the meantime, however, several things can be done to get the most out of your battery life.
- Long time between starts? Use a maintainer: A battery maintainer keeps an on-demand low-amperage charge on your battery, eliminating any slow discharge. Remember, that slow discharge, and recharge will eventually kill a perfectly good battery. Learn more about different types of battery chargers here.
- Get the corrosion off: Periodically check the battery terminals for corrosion and keep the posts and clamps clean. Battery corrosion washers and dielectric grease will help aid in keeping corrosion at bay.
- Don’t power accessories for long periods: Again, your car battery is used for starting, not accessories. If you are someone who throws the stereo on in the truck out at the campsite to listen to the football game over the weekend, or you spend any time powering items with the car off, consider either an auxiliary battery or a deep cycle-starting combination battery that is better suited for discharge and recharge.
- Don’t remove heat/protective blankets: Many vehicles come equipped with protective heat blankets or shields around the battery. Over time, these devices break down or get removed and discarded. They’re designed to protect the battery from the hot elements under the hood, so keep them around.
- Test your battery frequently: Finding out your battery is bad in a frozen, empty parking lot at night is not a good thing. Finding out your battery needs to be replaced while getting tested in a parking lot is way less stressful.
Malfunctioning Charging System Reduces Car Battery Life
While less common than the aforementioned factors, a malfunctioning charging system will also reduce battery life.
Persistent under- or over-charging accelerates battery aging. Some newer cars with absorbent glass mat (AGM) batteries require careful control of charging rates for maximum battery life, and the automaker may even alter the charging strategy as the battery ages.
Finally, allowing any car battery to go completely dead will take a big chunk out of its lifespan, even if you can recharge and put the dead battery back in service.
Purchase Replacement Battery from High-Volume Seller
When your car needs a new battery, always purchase one from a high-volume seller with fresh stock. You do not want a battery that has already lost a good portion of its service life sitting on a shelf. Also, look for a battery with an extended full-replacement warranty.
Quality batteries offer free replacement for three or more years if there is a problem within that period. A warranty that enters a pro-rated replacement period sooner will require a partial payment to replace the battery once the full-coverage term expires.