How Long Will an Auto Battery Typically Last?

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( — October 13, 2020) — Your vehicle’s battery doesn’t care if you’re late for work or if the family sedan is finally loaded for that big summer road trip. When it’s tapped out, it’s tapped out. Here’s how to avoid being stranded with a depleted battery and a car that won’t start.

How Often Does a Car Battery Need To Be Replaced

Today’s car battery typically lasts for several years, but it’s virtually impossible to pinpoint the exact moment that it will fail. Most manufacturers mark the average lifespan of a battery at five years.

That said, no two batteries are exactly alike — and neither are the cars they’re in or those cars’ drivers. There are a variety of factors that affect your battery’s longevity, but two of the most common are where and how often you drive.

If you don’t drive frequently, your car’s battery is discharging while it sits in the driveway or garage. If you drive regularly, but only for short distances, your battery may never get a chance to charge up completely. As such, some automotive experts recommend a maintenance battery charger for car owners who only drive sporadically.

Heat is also a concern. The hotter it is where you live, the quicker your battery will deplete. The chemical reaction required for your battery to create power is fueled by heat. If your battery’s constantly hot, it’s constantly generating a current.

Signs It Is Time for a New Car Battery

Modern car batteries are built to hold a complete charge until the bitter end. This is good news if you’re scrambling to your local auto shop before your battery dies. This is bad news if you were hoping for signs and symptoms of an auto battery on its last leg. While older car batteries led to dimmed headlights as they ran out of juice, the only way to really know how much life is left in your battery these days is to conduct a battery test.

How To Choose the Right Battery for Your Car

When it’s time to replace your battery, the first thing you need to do is determine which options are compatible with your car. This starts with knowing your engine type. If you’re not sure what’s under the hood, your local auto shop can use a VIN decoder to get the necessary details about your vehicle.

Second, you should avoid buying a battery that’s more than three months old. (If your selection is limited, you can stretch this out to six months, but don’t opt for a battery that’s any older than that.) Batteries drain while sitting on the shelf. To check a battery’s age, inspect the shipping code printed on its case. It will either have a traditional date using numerals or it will utilize letters for the months, starting with an “A” for January.

Finally, pick a battery with a lengthy warranty. Typically, the warrant has two terms

  • The free-placement window
  • The prorated window, in which you’ll be paid back in part based on how long you’ve owned the battery

In most cases, the first of these two warranty periods is paramount, and you should pick a battery with the longest free-replacement warranty.

Don’t get caught with a car that won’t start. For a safe, reliable ride, keep track of your battery’s age and don’t hesitate to perform routine testing as your battery ages.