Bill Nye The Science Guy On Static Electricity

Your car battery should last about 3 to 5 years…

But lots of people find that they have to change their car battery every 1 to 2 years.

And what can you do to prolong your vehicle’s battery life?

Well… That’s what we’ll discuss in this article.

We’ll show you why automobile batteries die early…and what you can do to keep this from happening.

We’ll also give you 8 simple tips and techniques to maximize the lifespan of your car’s 12 volt battery.

The tips we will teach you in this guide will be simple to do…and anyone will have the ability to do these (even if you know nothing about cars or car batteries).

So let’s get started! …

First, You Should Know That Every Car Battery Lifespan Has A Limit (however most people kill their battery well before it’s time)

Even if you take care of your car battery perfectly…it will still die 1 day.

This set lifespan is called the battery’s”Calendar Life” and it is completely independent of how often the battery was charged or discharged.

But most car batteries never make it their complete”Calendar Life”…

Rather, they die early because of poor maintenance and care…which you can do something about.

Lead acid batteries are the earliest, most reliable, and most widely used type of rechargeable battery in the world.

Lead Acid Batteries have three life phases — formatting, peak, and decline.

  • Formatting is when the battery is new and needs to be used gently.

  • Peak is the perfect performance stage, which we seek to keep for as long as you can.

  • Decline is a slow process, but one which gradually ends in the termination of the battery.

Batteries in decline can nevertheless be used for quite some time, but must be watched.

Around this time, you can either recondition the battery or keep a close eye on it and try to replace it before a problem arises (like being not able to begin your vehicle for work).

Tip 1: Do a monthly inspection of the battery terminals to be certain they are clean and corrosion free.   One of the initial problems most people have with their car battery is the build-up of corrosion around the terminals.   Corrosion destroys the connection between the battery and the vehicle and several batteries are replaced because of too much corrosive build up.   But often times, this can be easily treated by simply pouring a small quantity of Cola or a DIY anti-corrosion paste (one part water to three parts baking soda) within the corroded areas. 

The acidity in the Cola or the alkaline properties at the DIY anti-corrosion paste will consume the rust away.   Make certain to allow it to dry, then rub some petroleum jelly on the terminals to prevent future corrosion.

Tip 2: Don’t run any car accessories (radio, lights, or electronics) before turning on the vehicle ignition and driving the car.   When the car is on, the car alternator generates electricity and charges the car battery after the battery has a voltage drop.   But if the car isn’t on, and you are using the car’s electronics, you are simply relying on the car battery to power those electronics. 

This is detrimental to the car battery because car batteries are not meant for this sort of use.

Instead, car batteries are supposed to provide a sudden burst of electricity for ignition.  They’re not made to offer prolonged power for electronics and other devices (that’s what a deep cycle lead acid battery would be for).   Using your car battery for a battery that powers electronics, rather than a battery that just gives you a burst of power for ignition, will damage the battery and greatly shorten it’s lifespan if it’s repeatedly used in this fashion.   So avoid operating any automobile accessories or electronics while the vehicle is off.

Tip 3: Make sure the car battery is secure and has great battery cables.   The battery needs to be secured at all times.  If a battery is jostling around it’ll be impaired and could short circuit.   This may ruin the battery — and even cause damage to your car whilst creating a security risk.   The same could happen if you have bad battery cables (or they are not connected properly).  So check your cables and make sure they have a secure connection also.

Protecting your car battery from large changes in temperature will help optimize the battery’s lifespan.   To do this you can use a car battery insulating material.   Newer model cars already have these kits installed typically.  But if your car doesn’t have one, you can easily set up one yourself.   Just be certain it matches your car’s battery compartment.  Generally the companies selling these battery insulation kits will have a form on their website where you can place in your car model and year, and it’ll tell you if your battery will fit their kit — such as here (top of page).   These protective battery sleeves are usually made from plastic or an acid resistant, thermal resistant material.   These automobile battery insulation kits will insulate your battery and protect it while still allowing proper ventilation.

Tip 5: Fully control your car battery at least once a week (use a car battery charger or shut-off if you have to).   Your car battery drains even when the vehicle is off.  This happens because current is drawn from the battery by car accessories (radio, lights, etc.) or the car computers.   This is why people come home from long vacations and locate their car battery dead.  

Car battery chargers (solar or regular ) will keep the optimum charge level of your car battery when the car is not in use.   They do this by providing enough electricity for your car accessories and car computer, so they don’t continuously draw current from the car battery when the vehicle is off.   As you can imagine, these chargers are extremely useful…especially if you go on a trip or leave your car unused for a while.  They’re also helpful if you go on plenty of short car trips (like to work and back daily ) and never give your battery a opportunity to fully recharge.  Repeatedly doing so can dramatically shorten your battery’s life — unless you use a car battery charger or interchange batteries, leaving you at home to fully charge.   The most important thing to remember with this tip is…be sure you fully charge your car battery at least once a week since it’ll greatly increase the life of your battery.  Do this with a charger, interchanging batteries…or just going on a car ride long enough to recharge the battery.

Tip 6: Check your car battery’s water level.   Most car batteries indicate whether there’s a need for water.   So check the vehicle battery water level indicator frequently and when water is needed, refill the battery with distilled water (and that is important, ONLY use distilled water to refill your vehicle battery).

Never overcharge your car battery. Lead-acid batteries release oxygen and hydrogen gases when they are overcharged.   This causes two problems:

  1. It can be explosive.

  2. It also breaks down the composition of the water in the battery — that shortens its lifespan

Tip 8: Assess your vehicle’s alternator.   If you are doing everything we’ve recommended in this article but your automobile batteries are dying early, you’ll want to look at your vehicle’s alternator (or find a mechanic to check it).   If your alternator is bad it will results in ineffective recharging of your battery and dramatically shorten your battery’s lifespan.