A car battery looks like a box that sits in the engine bay, quietly doing its job. Unfortunately, that also means it’s tricky to know when to buy a new one if that battery is worn out.
You can tell your car needs a new battery when you start having problems starting the car like the engine takes too long to crank or doesn’t crank when its battery is dead or dying. Besides that, a battery that’s underutilized or overused will also need a replacement. Lastly, any battery with physical signs of damage, like cracks and swelling, is dangerous and must be replaced immediately.
Read this guide through to the end to know the 3 signs that your car needs a new battery and what you can do to maximize the life of the one you currently have.
Let’s get started.
What Are The Signs That A Car Needs A New Battery?
There are 3 general signs that you can rely on to indicate that your vehicle needs a new battery as soon as possible. Those signs involve problems starting your car, batteries that have been used for too long or not at all, and signs of physical damage on the battery and its casing.
Let’s take a deep dive into each of those signs:
#1 You Have Problems Starting Your Car
A car with parts in excellent operating condition (including its battery) will start as soon as you turn the key in the ignition. At most, like on cold mornings, you might need an extra second or two for that to happen.
However, should the car take more than 2 seconds of cranking to start, that’s a common telltale sign that you’ve got battery problems.
Aside from that, other common starting problems caused by a battery issue include:
- An engine that won’t crank at all
- An engine that’ll keep cranking but never start
- A car that often needs jumpstarting to start (i.e. can’t reliably start on its own)
Starting the engine suddenly becomes a challenge because your vehicle’s battery is too weak or is approaching the end of its lifespan and is about to die out.
When that’s the case, the battery can’t deliver enough cranking charge to get the engine started like it usually would.
Of course, the battery is completely dead and delivers no charge at all if you find that the engine won’t even crank a little bit. This is further confirmed when none of the lights or other electrically-powered car components will work.
#2 The Battery Has Been Underused Or Overused
Another clear indicator of whether or not you need a new battery is its usage patterns.
For example, some people underuse their car batteries by leaving their car parked for weeks or months without ever starting the engine. But with each passing day, those batteries naturally lose a little bit of their charge.
Most car batteries can last approximately 2 weeks without charging (when you turn on the engine). However, left unused, the battery continues to discharge until one day, when it dies completely.
Unfortunately, a dead battery that’s been left unused for several months or years might never be able to recharge, making it completely useless.
So, if that sounds like the battery in your car, then you’d be better off investing in a new replacement.
However, the opposite conditions are also just as unhealthy for a battery.
That’s right! Overusing a car battery will wear it out faster, and you’ll likely need a new replacement soon enough.
A car battery is just like any other battery in that it has a limited number of charges and discharges in it. So, the more times you’ve drained and recharged the battery, the closer it gets to being worn out.
Overusing a car battery can mean one of two things, which are:
- A battery that’s been in use for too long: A typical car battery can last for 2-3 years. By the end of that period, the car would have used that battery so many times that it reaches the natural end of its lifespan.
- A battery that’s been drained too often: Suppose the driver habitually uses the car’s electrical power to charge gadgets and appliances while the engine is off. In that case, the battery will discharge until it’s empty, without the engine and alternator recharging it simultaneously. Draining the battery continuously will wear it out much faster, causing you to need a replacement sooner than usual.
So, suppose you know that your car battery has been underutilized or overused. In that case, that’s a sign that you might need to purchase a replacement soon.
#3 The Battery Has Physical Damage
The third and final sign that your car needs a new battery is when you see physical damage on the battery and its casing.
Under normal conditions, car batteries should look from the outside like a rigid plastic box with two electrodes on the top. However, when you look at a car battery under the hood, you see the outer shell. That shell safely houses the battery’s cells, electrolytes, and other components.
As long as the battery’s case maintains its shape and none of the fluids inside come out, you can rest assured that it’s still in good condition.
However, any of the following visual signs mean that you’ll have to buy a new battery immediately:
- Cracks in the battery’s case
- Swelling or bulging of the battery’s case
- Leaks of the battery’s electrolytes
- Rust or corrosion on the electrodes on top of the battery
Bear in mind that the car battery might still function despite these physical signs of damage. However, they’re caused by internal problems that make the battery very dangerous to continue using.
If you see any of those signs, disconnect the battery and do not start your car. Instead, call someone to replace the battery wherever your car is parked or get a tow truck to move your vehicle.
Starting the engine and driving your car while the battery is damaged is incredibly dangerous to you, your vehicle, and other road users.
How Long Do Batteries Last?
A car battery will typically last around 3 years. The precise lifespan can differ between cars and owners, depending on their usage patterns.
However, you can maximize the lifespan of your car battery by:
- Cleaning the battery case regularly
- Starting the engine regularly, even if you’re not driving the car
- Checking the battery’s voltage and recharging it if you’re not using your car
- Turning off electrical and electronic car components when the car’s not in use
These simple steps will help prevent excess wear and keep your car battery fully charged. In doing so, you’ll maximize the battery’s lifespan and get the most value out of it as possible.
The battery in your car is a crucial component that starts the engine and keeps your electronics powered. Unfortunately, most people choose the cheapest car battery they can find because they assume it’s less important than other components.
However, investing in a slightly pricier battery with higher-quality components can give you more peace of mind that the battery will last longer. Plus, it’ll be much longer before you see the 3 signs that your car needs a new battery if you invest in a high-quality one in the first place.