Your vehicle’s battery may be losing its drive for life. If you haven’t checked it lately, there’s no better time than now to have your car’s battery tested and potentially replaced. Here’s all you need to know about your vehicle’s battery and how to change it.
How Does a Car Battery Work? And Why Do They Fail in Cold Weather?
Batteries rely on chemical reactions to supply the current. Colder weather can slow down these reactions and eventually the batteries can’t supply enough current to keep up with the demand.
Cold batteries discharge faster than warm batteries. If you live in a colder climate where temperatures often fall below freezing, you should consider keeping your vehicle in a garage, insulating the battery, or even installing a trickle charger to keep it warm. If you’re simply storing a battery, keep it in a cooler location and later bring it to room temperature before installing it.
How Often Should You Test Your Car Battery?
- If your vehicle is straining to start, be sure to have your battery checked.
- Have your car’s battery tested every time you bring it in for routine maintenance, such as an oil change. Most shops will do it for free, so be sure to ask.
How Often Should You Replace Your Car Battery?
On average, car batteries tend to last around 3-5 years. The main differentiator between battery brands is the length of warranty, not quality. Have your car battery tested frequently to ensure it doesn’t fail, stranding you in an inconvenient spot. If an automotive shop is recommending a car battery replacement based only on a maintenance schedule, double check before approving it. Confirm your vehicle maintenance schedule online, or ask the technician to show you the results of your battery’s test.
How Do You Change a Car Battery?
While changing a battery, a good technician will clean off the clamps to make sure there’s good contact between the battery terminals and the cables that deliver the punch to the starter. Even some corrosion can rob enough power to prevent the car from starting. Ask for a good protective spray to be the final touch of any surface. This protection will slow down the corrosion that will build up on the connections. A little extra work on the installation will really add up when it gets chilly.
What Should You Do When You Have a Dead Battery?
If faced with a dead battery, you have some options –
Call for roadside assistance.
If you’re alone and without jumper cables, the best option is to call for roadside assistance. State Farm ® offers Emergency Road Service coverage to make this hassle a lot easier.
Break out the jumper cables and get started.
Here’s a great, in-depth guide to jumping your vehicle. To summarize the points:
- Pull the working vehicle next to yours, so both batteries are within reach of your jumper cables.
- Turn off both cars.
- Connect the Red (positive) cable to the dead car’s positive (+) terminal. Then connect the Red cable to the donor car’s positive terminal.
- Connect the Black (negative) clamp to the battery’s negative terminal on the donor car. Connect the other Black clamp to the ground point on the donor car’s engine.
- Allow both cars to charge for a couple of minutes.
- Start up the donor car for about five minutes. Then start the previously dead car, and wait another couple of minutes.
- If possible, drive your car for a bit to ensure the battery recovers.
Disconnect the battery and have it charged.
Disconnect your dead battery. Bring it to an auto parts retailer and have it recharged while you wait. If the battery is unsalvageable, you will have to purchase a replacement.
Save on Your Car Service
If you follow the steps provided and find yourself at the auto parts store waiting for them to charge your battery, you will likely end up buying one and having them install it. Most auto part stores offer this as a free service for most vehicles (typically excluding European vehicles with batteries in the trunk that also require a computer reprogramming).