A common question mechanics are asked is: “When should my battery be replaced? I don’t want it to let me down?” Well, the answer is that it “depends” but a rough rule of thumb is that a car battery lasts about four years -maybe five- under normal conditions. That being said, batteries can go bad sooner.
The operative word in the paragraph above is “normal conditions”. Normal conditions means the battery goes through full charge cycles, it is attached to a properly functioning charging system, and it isn’t providing power for a ton of accessories. As you might imagine, normal just isn’t that common in the automotive world. In the real world, temperature extremes, vehicle vibration, short trips and an ever-increasing array of electronic devices can take a toll on a battery’s lifespan.
If you look at a typical lead-acid, maintenance-free car battery, it’s easy to make sense of why these factors. Inside the plastic battery box are plates made of heavy materials like lead and lead compounds. These plates are suspended in a mix of water and sulfuric acid. A host of factors can disturb this structure and weaken the battery structure. For example, driving over rough terrain or vibrations from rough roads can shake loose the internal battery plates. Another issue is heat. Extreme, prolonged heat during the summer can speed up the chemical reaction inside a battery which can shorten its life. Your average driving distance can affect the reaction, too. If you have a short commute or take lots of brief trips, the battery never gets fully charged and this an shorten battery life also.
According to the service department at Arrigo Sawgrass, the most obvious sign of a battery that is nearing the end is that when it is fully charged, say after a long trip, that it cranks the engine slowly. A good mechanic can help check this for you.
In conclusion, batteries are so reliable and so simple that drivers have a tendency to forget about them. If you pay attention to the age of your car’s battery, you’ll reduce your risk of being stranded on the road. All things considered, batteries are relatively inexpensive, considering the amount of work they perform on a regular basis.