Let’s imagine, it’s a beautiful weekend. You have many plans to do: going out with friends, running some errands, or maybe going shopping. Getting behind the wheel, you are happily singing along with your favorite song and turning the car key. Oh God, your car does not start!
You try again, again, and again. Your car still not working and you have no idea what to do.
If that is the case, let’s be honest that it is a big nightmare! It is a sign that your car battery needs to be replaced.
When we talk about car battery, it is really obvious that your car battery powers every electrical component in your car. However, the importance it can often be underestimated. But wait until the day that your car battery dies, you will find yourself completely stranded.
It is recommended that changing your car battery is one of some repairs and maintenance tasks you can and should do yourself. For a lot of car owners, however, it doesn’t feel like a simple task. For all of those reasons above, in today article, we will talk about car battery. I will tell you when to change your battery with some extra useful information in the first part and introduce 10 easy steps to change it yourself in the second part.
When does your car battery need to be replaced?
The car's battery is a rechargeable battery that supplies electrical energy to a motor vehicle. It is also known as an SLI battery (starting-lighting-ignition), whose main purpose is to start the engine.
Starting your car engine is the most important function of a battery. If your car batter is dead or low on charge, your car will not work. Therefore, you have to make sure to know when to change your car battery to keep your car working. Here I have outlined some warning signs to look out for whether your battery is close to dying, and some ways to know when it’s time to replace it. In addition, I will also give you some useful information about car battery.
1. Warning signs that may indicate your battery is falling
As I have just mentioned above, in this part, I will give you some warning signs that can help you to know whether your car battery needs to be replaced. There are various indications and symptoms that you need to notice:
Slow engine crank:
When you attempt to start the vehicle, the cranking of the engine is sluggish and it takes a little bit longer than normal to start. It is a sign that your battery needs to be checked or replaced.
Check engine light:
The check engine light sometimes appears when your battery power is weak. In this case, some drivers usually assume it’s a mistake, or the problem will fix itself. You should not ignore it, having your certified technicians take a look is a good idea.
Low battery fluid level:
You can always keep an eye on your battery’s fluid level since car batteries typically have a part of the casing that’s translucent. It’s time to have the battery and charging system tested if the fluid level is below the lead plates.
The swelling, bloating battery case:
Your battery casing looks like it ate a very large meal. It is the excessive heat that causes your battery case to swell, decreases your battery life.
There is a stinky, rotten egg smell:
A pungent, rotten egg smell (sulfur odor) around the battery. It’s because the battery is leaking. Leaking also causes the corrosion around the posts: (where the + and – cable connections are located). The gunk may need to be removed; otherwise, your car may not start.
Your battery can just last well beyond three years. You should have its current condition inspected on a yearly basis when it reaches the three-year mark.
2. Useful information about car battery
Besides noticing those signs listed above, getting yourself to know more about car battery can also help you to inspect and maintain your car, as well as your battery. Here is some useful information that I think you should know:
What affects the life of a battery?
There are a number of reasons a battery could die, the most common are:
- Leave your headlights, interior lights or radio running
Leave your headlights, interior lights or radio running for prolonged periods while your car is stationary.
- Not using your car for a long time
The battery will die as it won’t get charged by the engine.
- The failure of the diode bridge or voltage regulator in the alternator
This is down to the fact that the alternator is responsible for charging the battery when the car is running so if it is malfunctioning, the battery will die.
- The temperature drops well below zero degrees
The battery could freeze!
- Short Trips.
Shorter battery life. If you take many short trips (less than 20 minutes), your battery won’t have enough time to fully recharge, shortening its overall life expectancy.
How long does a battery last?
An average age of a car battery is 5 to 7 years old. It can last longer if the vehicle is driven daily and the battery is kept fully charged.
When is the best time to replace a battery?
Since most battery-related problems happen during cold winter months, you should have it replaced before the winter. If you don’t have winter to worry about, the best time to change your car battery is when you start to notice that its power is beginning to fade. Remember to replace an old battery before having any long road trip if you don’t want to be left stranded in the middle of the road just because of a dead battery.
How to change your car battery
Your car battery does not last forever. Therefore, one day you will have to replace it. However, since changing a battery is a quick and easy job and can be done with minimal tools, you can try to do this yourself. However, because it is a vital part of the car and can be dangerous, you need to be cautious. In this part, I will inform you some important things you should notice before changing your car battery. After that, we can move to the 10 main steps.
1. Before changing your car battery
Before you get started, there are somethings that you need to notice:
Make sure the battery needs to be replaced
If you do not want to spend time and money installing a new battery when the problem is not with the battery itself, take the following three things into consideration:
- Look for sulfate build-up (a whitish or blue residue around the terminal). Removing this can sometimes solve issues with a faulty battery. This residue may indicate a bad seal around the battery terminals and is leaking the acid out onto the terminals.
NOTE: do not touch this powder with your bare hands since it can often contain dried out sulfuric acid, which will begin to burn your skin.
- Verify that the battery has been given the chance to recharge properly. (drive constantly for 30 minutes with minimal electrical usage, including the air conditioner)
- Check the alternator. Some cars also have a battery meter, with the engine running, the alternator usually maintains a charge close to 13.8 – 14.2 volts in a properly functioning charging system. The battery should have 12.4 – 12.8 volts with the engine off, and with no accessory load.
Buy the correct replacement battery
Find out what kind of battery you're replacing (or the dimensions of your battery) and bring this, your car's make, model and engine size information to a local auto parts store.
Set up a secure working environment
Make sure that the car is completely off (has been off for at least two minutes). Put on the parking brake.
Open the hood of your vehicle
2. Steps to change your car battery
That’s all for the prerequisites to change your car battery. If you have done all the things above, these 10 steps listed below will walk you through how to change a car battery:
Step 1: Locate the battery
You can check your vehicle owner's manual for your car battery’s location. With many newer vehicles, space under the hood is at a premium. Some batteries’ location may be in the trunk, under the floorboard or even tucked away out of sight behind a wheel well.
Step 2: Identify battery terminals
Identify the positive and negative posts:
- The positive terminal: have a plus sign (and is often red)
- The negative terminal: have a minus sign (and is often black).
Step 3: Disconnect the negative terminal
Loosen the nut or bolt that secures the negative terminal and cable to the negative battery post by using a wrench.
- DO NOT allow any metal objects to touch both battery posts simultaneously
- DO NOT don't let your wrench touch the positive terminal and the body or fender at the same time.
Step 4: Disconnect the positive terminal
Step 5: Remove the car battery
Unfasten the battery holder and remove any screws, clamps or bars holding the battery in place. Carefully lift the battery out of the car.
NOTE: the battery can weigh 13.5 to 27 kilos, so if you have any back problems, get a helping hand.
Step 6: Clean the terminal clamps and the battery tray
Use a baking soda solution and a wire brush. Wait for the area to dry before moving onto the next step.
NOTE: When there's any severe corrosion to the terminal ends or the cables, you should consider repair or replacement by a mechanic.
Step 7: Replace the battery
Place the new battery where you just took the old battery out. Make sure the positive and negative terminals on the correct sides. After that, connect all the screws, clamps or bars that may hold the battery in place.
Step 8: Reconnect the positive terminal and the negative terminal
Step 9: Apply battery lithium grease
Spray the terminals with lithium grease to prevent corrosion.
Step 10: Close the hood
Shut the hood of your car. After 60 seconds you can try to start the car. If the car starts up with no problem and you notice all the lights turn on, then congratulation, you have successfully changed your battery!
FRIENDLY REMIND: Batteries are filled with a toxic, corrosive liquid and must be disposed of properly. You can call your local recycling center for a referral.
As you can see, changing your car battery is a simple task that you can actually accomplish yourself with the right preparation. Hope my article can give you some useful information to maintain your car battery, provide you the knowledge to indicate whether your battery needs to be replaced, and last but not least, help you to know how to change your battery. Try to change your car battery next time.
Good luck and drive safely!