Vehicles are very complex and amazing pieces of machinery that rely on a large number of different parts and components working together in harmony. In order for a vehicle to achieve movement, these all need to be working proficiently. However, there are some parts that are more vital than others, which can render a car unmovable if they alone are inoperable. One of these vital parts is your car battery and is required for a number of different things, mainly turning the vehicle on.
The battery is primarily used by the vehicle’s starter, which activates the engine. Once the engine is on and running, the vehicle’s alternator is what produces power for the vehicle, and the battery naturally recharges itself. However, the battery can be used while the engine is off to operate components like the radio and lights. This drains the battery of power, and if used for too long without turning the engine on, the battery can lose all power, which would require the battery to be recharged.
Typically, a car battery should last you anywhere from 2-5 years depending on a wide variety of conditions such as use, climate, driving distances, etc. With so many different factors to consider, it can be difficult for the average car owner to know just how healthy their car battery is. Luckily, there are a few different tips and tricks that you can learn in order to maximize the life of your battery, and avoid a premature car battery replacement.
How a Car Battery Works
In order to maximize the life-span of your battery, you would first need to understand how car batteries work. This, in turn, requires you to understand how a standard battery operates. Electricity itself is the flow of electrons through a conductive pathway, such as a wire. This pathway is called a circuit and is circular in nature. Batteries have three primary components in them; the anode, which is negative (-), the cathode, which is positive (+), and the electrolyte.
The anode and the cathode, which are the negative and positive ends of the battery, respectively, are hooked up to an electrical circuit. This causes a chemical reaction to occur inside of the battery, which creates a buildup of electrons in the anode. This, in turn, creates an electrical imbalance in the battery. As more and more electrons build up, they begin to overflow.
Due to the nature of electrons, they repel each other and will seek out the area that has the fewest electrons in it. In a battery, the only place for the electrons to go is the cathode. However, due to the battery’s electrolyte, the electrons are unable to go directly to the battery’s cathode.
The electrolyte will only allow the electrons to flow to the cathode if the battery is connected to a closed circuit, meaning that there is an electrical wire connecting to both the cathode and the anode. When the circuit is closed, the electrons are able to flow to the cathode and through to the electrical component that is connected, supplying it with electricity.
However, over time, the electrochemical processes that occur in batteries change their very chemical composition, making them unable to produce electrons. This, in turn, renders the battery useless and is why batteries have a limited lifetime. When you recharge a battery, you are changing the direction of the flow of electrons in the battery using an outside power source. This causes the electrochemical process to happen reverse, which will eventually allow the battery to return to full power.
Car batteries operate very similarly to standard batteries, only on a much larger scale. They rely on a lead-acid reaction to occur and are considered SLI batteries, which stands for starting, lighting, and ignition. These batteries excel in supplying quick and powerful spurts of energy, which is very useful when it comes to starting the engine, as well as the lights and accessories.
Once the engine is running, the alternator takes over and supplies power for the vehicle. Most car batteries are 12-volt batteries, which have six cells that contain two plates each, totaling 12 plates. These plates are submerged in sulfuric acid, which causes a chemical reaction between the two plates, ultimately resulting in the production of electrons. These electrons then race around the plates, which creates electricity. This electricity then flows from the battery into places like the engine, the lights, and the radio. Unlike standard batteries, car batteries are able to recharge while the vehicle’s engine is running, giving them a much longer lifespan.
Ways to Maximize a Car Battery's Life
Although car batteries can be fickle components at times, there are several different ways to ensure that your car battery lasts as long as possible.
Limit short rides: Batteries require the engine to be on for them to recharge. Short rides prevent the battery from fully recharging, which can eventually lead to your car’s battery dying unexpectedly one day. If you find yourself frequently taking short trips, it may be a good idea to invest in a portable car battery charger. It can recharge your battery should you find yourself with a dead battery.
Keep your battery tightly fastened: When a battery is loose, it can vibrate and move around, which can result in damage to the battery. It is a good idea to regularly check the battery to ensure it is tightly secured, especially if you find yourself frequently driving on rough and bumpy roads.
Control the corrosion: Over time, the terminals on car batteries can build up corrosion, which can lead to the battery short-circuiting and dying prematurely. You can remove and prevent corrosion by scrubbing the terminals with a toothbrush and a mixture of baking soda and water. Simply clean it off with a spray bottle filled with cold water afterward and let it dry.
Test your battery often. You can get a car battery tester, which can accurately let you know just how much power your car’s battery has. Being able to recharge your battery before it dies will do wonders when it comes to extending the battery’s usage.
Limit usage while the engine is off: While the car battery can be used to power things like the lights and the radio while the engine is off, this drains the battery without a source to recharge it. Over time, this can lead to the battery dying. By limiting the drain on the battery, you extend its life.
Care for the whole vehicle: Vehicles require a multitude of different parts that work together to make it work, including the battery. By taking your vehicle in for regular checks and tune-ups, you can ensure that not only is your battery healthy, but so is the rest of the vehicle.
When it comes to car/truck/SUV maintenance, here in Cincinnati, Kings Ford is the premier place to bring your vehicle. Kings Ford Quick Lane is excellent for not only a checkup, but also a car battery replacement should you find it necessary. Our expertly trained staff will be able to aid you with anything you need, whether it be battery servicing, an oil change, or any other questions and concerns. Our technicians are familiar with all kinds of vehicles and will be able to detect any potential issues. Here at Kings Ford, we are the premier place to go for any of your automotive needs.