Rechargeable batteries are a marvel of engineering. The lead-acid battery used in gasoline-powered vehicles has been around since the earliest automobiles. It hasn’t changed very much since then. Since the 1970’s, car batteries have been largely maintenance-free.
A car battery can last up to seven years. It allows you to start your engine thousands of time, without even thinking about it. But eventually the battery can’t hold enough charge to start the motor.
At Chapel Hill Tire, our customers often ask “When should I replace my car battery?”
Before we answer that question, let’s go over battery basics.
Your Battery Is Recharged As You Drive
Unlike other parts, your battery will last longer if you drive daily. This is because driving regularly keeps the battery charged. When a car sits, the battery degrades because it isn’t recharged.
Another thing that may seem counterintuitive is the fact that car batteries last longer in colder climates. Huh? Doesn’t cold starting put a significant demand on a battery? Yes, it does. But sitting in hot weather is even worse.
Here is the science behind the process:
Let’s visit the inside of a battery. An SLI (starting, lighting, ignition) battery is constructed of six cells. Each cell has both a lead plate and a lead dioxide plate. The plates are coated with sulphuric acid that works as a catalyst.
The acid causes the dioxide plate to generate ions and lead sulfate. The ions react to the lead plate and release hydrogen and additional lead sulfate. This reaction generates electrons. This produces electricity.
This process allows the battery to perform the miracle of holding a charge, discharging the electricity, and then recharging itself.
Viola! Your car starts up with a roar. You open your sunroof, crank up the radio, and hit the road.
Why It’s Not Good For A Battery To Sit
If you don’t continually drive your car and fully recharge the battery, it sits in a partially charged state. The crystals start to harden on the lead plates. When this happens, the portion of the lead plate covered by the hardened crystals can’t store electricity anymore. Over time, total battery capacity diminishes until the battery can no longer hold a charge and must be replaced.
If ignored, 70% of batteries will die within four years! A consistent charging schedule will extend your battery life.
If My Car Won’t Start…
It usually happens when you are late to work. You try to start your car, but the engine won’t turn over. Does this mean you need to replace your battery?
There are other parts in your electrical system. (The shinbone’s connected to the knee bone…) Your alternator spins and creates electricity to charge the battery. If your alternator stops working, we can fix you up with a new one.
Another possibility is that it’s not spinning properly because there are issues with the serpentine belt or belt tensioner. The serpentine belt, not surprisingly, twists through your motor like a snake. The serpentine belt is powered by the engine. The serpentine belt runs many things and one of them is the alternator. The aptly-named belt tensioner regulates tension on the serpentine belt. If it’s working properly, it creates the right amount of traction to keep the alternator turning at the correct speed. The upshot? If your car won’t start, give us a call. It might be your battery or something else.
When Should I Replace My Car Battery?
At Chapel Hill Tire, we can test your battery to see how much charge it can hold. This will give you an idea of long it will last. We will also advise you on using a battery charger if you don’t drive regularly. Let us help you extend the life of your battery.
A car battery is a major purchase. It’s not like replacing the AAA’s in your TV remote. When it’s time for a new one, we can help you make the best choice. This depends on your budget, vehicle type, and driving habits.
Do You Drive A Hybrid?
Chapel Hill Tire specializes in hybrid car service. In fact, we are the Triangle’s only independent certified hybrid repair center. We provide comprehensive hybrid maintenance and repair—including battery replacement. (This is something you definitely don’t want to do on your own.)
Our hybrid services come with the same 3-year/36,000 mile warranty as our other services. If you compare that to your dealer service warranty you’ll understand why we are the smart choice for hybrid drivers.
Let’s get back to our original question: ‘When should I replace my battery?’ Since there are so many variables involved, just give us a call. We look forward to serving your battery needs.