Your quality used car’s battery powers everything from the radio to the fuel pump to the starter. In other words, it provides the electricity necessary to power all the electrical components in your car. Sounds pretty important, right? It is! The last thing you want is to be left stranded with a dead battery. The more you know about your battery, the less likely you are to get stuck.
How does it work?
Without giving you a full-on science lesson, your car battery works due to a chemical reaction. Your battery converts chemical energy into the electrical energy necessary to power your car, which sends voltage to the starter. The battery works to keep the electric current steady enough to keep your engine running.
How long do car batteries last?
On average, a battery will last 3 to 5 years, but driving habits, conditions, and exposure to extreme elements can shorten its lifespan. If you want to know how old your battery is, you can check the 4- or 5-digit date code on the cover of your battery case. The first part of the code is a letter followed by a numerical digit. The letter is assigned to each month in order — A for January, B for February, and so on. The number relates to the year, as in 9 for 2009, 1 for 2011, 2 for 2012, and so on.
Signs you might need a new battery
If your used car is having any of the issues below, it might be time for a new battery.
- Slow engine crank: If you notice your car is taking longer to start and makes a slow whirring sound like it’s having to try harder than it used to, it might be time for a new battery.
- Low battery fluid level: Most car batteries have a part of their structure that’s clear so that you can easily check its fluid level. If the fluid level is below the lead plates inside, it’s time to have the battery tested.
- Check engine light: The check engine light sometimes appears when your battery power is weak. Check your car owner’s manual for what your dashboard lights mean and check how old your battery is by looking at the code mentioned above.
- If it smells like rotten eggs. If you notice a sulfurous odor coming from your engine, it usually means your battery is leaking. This can lead to corrosion, which needs to be cleaned by a professional.
- Flickering headlights or a weak horn. If your headlights start to dim or flicker, if your horn sounds weaker, or if your radio starts to go in and out, these may be signs that your car isn’t getting enough power and your battery may be to blame.
How can I test my battery?
There are a few ways to test your battery at home but it’s probably easiest to bring your car into any repair shop, dealership service center, or parts store to have them easily test it. This service is usually free. If you’re curious though, there are “virtual battery testers” online to get a general idea of how much life may be left in your car battery. To use this online tool, you’ll simply select your car’s year, make, model, engine type, and zip code. Why the zip code? The tool factors in the age of your battery and the region you drive in (weather and driving conditions) to provide the best estimate.
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