by Mark Stull, 2016-01-28
Today’s car batteries are much different from prior years. Car batteries were once 6 volts. Cars were hard to start and not very reliable. Auto makers switched over to 12 volts in the 50’s and that made a big improvement on the way a car would start. Most people remember the days when you opened the hood and saw the battery. Now you have to go on a treasure hunt to find a battery. Because the engine compartments are smaller, batteries can now be found in the trunk, under the seat or even in the wheel well making them much more difficult and time consuming to change.
Average life expectancy is about 5 years. It is advisable to have your battery checked regularly before it completely fails. Cars start pretty fast so you don’t really know if it’s getting weak. The battery’s function is not only to provide necessary voltage to the starter for the car to start, but also provide necessary voltage to the car accessories when the idle speed is low and the alternator output is low.
If the battery is dead, does it need replacing? The answer is no! Something could be causing the battery to discharge. Sometimes the problem is obvious. Not closing the door all the way could keep the dome light on and that would discharge the battery. A recharge of the battery and closing the door properly may be all that is needed. Proper testing could be done to find this out. An amp clamp around the battery cable will tell the story. Rule of thumb is that most cars will consume about 25 mili-amps from the battery while the car is off. The clock, radio and all the computers on today’s cars all require a certain voltage and will eventually drain the battery dead if the car is not used on a regular basis. If the amperage draw is higher than 25 mili-amps, the battery will be discharged at a much higher rate and that is an indication the something in the cars electrical system is malfunctioning.
Are all batteries of the same quality? No they are not. Like the old saying goes “you get what you pay for”. I have found that discount stores have cheaper prices but also cheaper quality batteries. You may only get 13 months out of the battery instead of the expected 5 years. Now it’s out of warranty so now it’s time to buy another battery. There is not much value in that. I have also experienced name brand batteries that have a very short life span. Because many companies are trying to cut costs, they are having manufacturing done over seas and the quality is no longer seen in the product. Quality is proven over time.
Don’t be surprised if you go out to your car and it won’t start in the cold weather. Have your battery tested at Auto Lab Troy if you suspect it may be getting weak or if it is 5 years old or older. We have a state of the art battery tester that does a fine job of detecting weak batteries. We stock most common batteries and if it’s not stocked, we can have it in hour from our supplier. Having you alternator tested at the same time is also a good idea. A malfunctioning alternator can shorten a batteries life.
ASE Certified Master Technician