Have you ever been in a hurry to go somewhere and when you jump in your car…it won’t start? “Ugh, what’s next?!” That’s what you mumble to yourself, and then the very next thought is…
“What will the car battery replacement cost me this time?”
- Typical car battery replacements cost between $60 – $200 depending on the size, brand, and length of the factory warranty.
I lived in one of the hottest places in America for just over twenty years. It was Phoenix, Arizona, and the temperatures would reach the 120s every summer. That was OUTSIDE of the car. The temperatures inside the car were much hotter and could be life-threatening.
I remember losing countless VHS tapes, coloring crayons, and one radar detector because they melted while inside my car due to the extreme heat of the desert. For this same reason, my car batteries would only last around 12 months, instead of the usual 4-5 years. I quickly had to learn how to get more life from my car batteries.
Factors that speed up car battery replacements
Many factors can negatively affect the life of your car battery. We tend to not think much about it as we drive around town with our busy schedules. Here is just a short list of different driving habits that can put a strain on our car battery:
- Towing a heavy trailer
- Driving in extreme temperatures (hot or cold)
- Dense traffic with lots of braking and starting
- Frequent long-distance trips
- Driving up and down steep mountain roads
Anything that puts an extra strain on the engine also puts an extra strain on the battery. The battery can be considered the powerhouse of electricity that keeps the engine running. Without that electricity, the car’s engine will not have what it needs to start.
Running a car uses the electricity stored in the battery. Fortunately, our cars also have an alternator in the engine compartment. The purpose of the alternator is to recharge the battery, but it only works when we are driving.
Monthly Checks and Their Importance
One way to make sure you don’t get stranded with your car is to conduct monthly checkups. These checkups take very little time and can provide you with a clue that your battery, among other things, may be starting to fail.
You can see a standard car maintenance list here, but we will quickly discuss the easiest way to check on your battery. It only needs to be checked once a month and takes under five minutes.
How to check your car battery
Any auto parts store will carry a tool called a voltmeter. A voltmeter is a simple hand-held device that measures electricity. It comes with two extensions that you can attach to the negative and positive terminals on your battery.
A quick flip of the switch on the voltmeter will show you how much electricity is currently in your car battery. Check the reading against your car owner’s manual or online to see if you are in the normal range.
If the reading is low, it might be a sign that your battery is not being appropriately recharged by the alternator. It could also mean that your battery is starting to fail. A reading above the normal range could also indicate a pending problem with your battery.
How to get your battery checked by a professional
Many automotive shops or auto parts stores will test your battery for you. Some will allow you to simply drive up to the shop and they will come out to test it for you. Testing is usually free at most locations. Other shops ask that you take the battery out of your car and bring it inside.
The parts stores that I have used will keep the battery for 24 hours. During this time, they test the battery for an initial reading. Then they attempt to place a full charge on the battery with their own equipment. Once appropriately charged, they will test the battery again and see how it fares.
Either way, the store will provide you will the results. Then you will know if you need to replace the battery. Be sure to review the warranty date on your battery as it may be covered, and you can replace it for free.
Car battery core charge
Since car batteries are classified as hazardous waste, you cannot simply throw your dead battery in the trash. It must be disposed of properly at the local town dump or take it to a recycling center.
But there is a better option. You can leave your old battery with the store that sold you the new battery. Most stores that sell new batteries will offer a “core charge.” This is basically a fee passed on to you that covers the cost of proper disposal of your battery. It usually is set at $10 and is charged to you when you buy a new battery.
Now you can get that $10 fee refunded to you if you take your dead battery to the seller. So, it is best to take the dead battery with you when you are buying a new battery. In that situation, you do not get charged the fee. 30 states in the USA require this core charge by law.
Basic battery maintenance
If you want to get the most out of your battery, there are a few things you can do. These routine maintenance items take less than a half-hour of time and only need to be done once every couple of months.
Corrosion on the battery terminals is one of the biggest problems with car batteries. Corrosion leads to poor electrical contact. It can stop the battery from passing along the electric current to other parts of the car. Battery cleaner spray is an easy solution.
Battery cleaner spray can be easily applied to the battery terminals. There is a yellow foam that turns pink when it comes in contact with the corrosion. Simply let is set for ten minutes then wipe it dry with a towel.
It also helps to use a wire brush to clean the metal terminals of any debris. This debris can build up from leaking battery acid or dirt that gets on the terminals. Brush it clean and then finish it off with some protective spray.
Battery terminal protectant spray is just as easy to apply as the battery spray cleaner. Simply spray it onto the battery terminals and let it sit. It will dry into a tiny protective shell around the outside of the terminals. This should help to prevent future corrosion to the terminals.
How to jump-start a battery
There is a chance that your dead car battery is a result of leaving the lights on overnight. Any electrical device left on when the car is not in use is still using electricity. This includes the radio, inside dome or vanity lights, and the outside lights.
Sometimes a quick jump-start from another good battery is all it takes to get you going again. To jump-start, a car only requires one pair of jumper cables. Jumper cables are typically two long cables color-coded in red and black.
At the end of each cable is a pair of metal pinchers. These pinchers are typically marked with a plus (+) sign or a negative (-) sign. The positive cable is always the red colored cable. The negative cable is always colored black. The same coding should be on your car battery cables.
Your battery also has a positive or negative sign at the location of the terminals. To use the jumper cables, simply attach one end of the red cable to the positive terminal on the good battery. Then connect the other end of the red cable to the positive terminal on the dead battery.
Take the black cable and attach one end to the negative terminal on the good battery. Lastly, connect the other end of the black cable to the negative terminal on the dead battery. This means the red cable goes from positive to positive. The black cable goes from negative to negative.
You need to be cautious when doing a jump start. If you cross any of the cables to the wrong terminal, there is a chance of an electrical shock or damaging the batteries. If you are uncomfortable with this procedure, ask someone with more experience to help you.
These cables allow the electricity to flow from the good battery to the dead battery. While the cables are connected, attempt to start the car with the dead battery. For the best results, you should have the car idling that has the good battery in it.
All car batteries must be replaced at some point. With this article, you know that you can either buy a new one or attempt a jump start. You also know how to properly maintain your battery so it will last longer. Lastly, you know how to test your battery with a voltmeter or how where to go for someone else to test it for you.
No car is maintenance free but this the information in this article, you will be better prepared on how to deal with dead car batteries. You also now know what a car battery replacement will cost.