How to Know When to Replace Your Car Battery

  • Feb 20, 2019
image of a man looking at his engine image of a man looking at his engine

The best time to replace your battery is before you need to. But how do you know it’s time to replace the battery if it’s not dead—yet? There is no catch-all answer for how long a car battery will last, but there are symptoms that can suggest it's time for a replacement. Learn the signs of a dying car battery, how climate can affect yours, and when you should have it replaced with this guide.

Signs Your Car Battery is Dying or Dead

Cars are good about letting you know that something is wrong. From illuminated dashboard lights to strange smells and sounds, anything out of the ordinary indicates that your car needs help. Here are a few common warning signs of a weak battery to keep an eye out for:

  • Slow Engine Crank A car engine that is slow or takes multiple tries to start is a clear, potential sign your battery is on its last leg.
  • Illuminated Battery Light If this light is on, it shouldn’t be ignored. There are a lot of reasons your battery light might come on, but many of them point to an issue with the charging system. 
  • Bloated, Misshapen Battery Case This usually happens when your battery is overcharged or has been exposed to high temperatures. An oddly shaped or swollen battery is a sure sign you need a replacement.
  • Battery Fluid Leak Car batteries tend to leak if they’re overcharged or damaged, both of which mean it’s time for a new one. 

Experiencing symptoms of a bad car battery calls for a trip to the auto repair shop. However, if you haven’t noticed any of these signs, that doesn’t mean you’re completely in the clear. Many factors can drain your battery, and their impact might not be obvious until it’s too late. Testing a battery regularly can help to ensure you don't end up stranded or on the side of the road.

How Often Do Car Batteries Need to Be Replaced?

No battery can last forever. General wisdom says you should replace your car battery about every three years, but you could end up needing a replacement sooner. Factors like your climate and driving habits can affect your battery’s lifespan and leave you needing a new one before the three-year mark. To ensure you're replacing your battery in a timely fashion, consult your manufacturer's recommended service intervals.

How Often to Replace a Car Battery: Consider Your Climate

Whether you live somewhere hot and humid or cold and dry, climate can negatively affect your battery. Extreme temperatures in either direction will have different effects on your battery, but the outcome is the same: a shorter battery life. 

Hot Weather and Batteries

When you step outside on a super-hot day, you’re at risk of becoming dehydrated. The same is true for your car’s battery. Like our bodies, car batteries rely on liquids to keep moving. The sweltering heat of summer can lead to evaporation of water in your car’s battery acid, resulting in decreased performance, subpar starting power, and a shortened lifespan.

Furthermore, scorching temperatures can also do a number on the guts of your battery. When the heat rises and the water in your battery evaporates, the likelihood and speed of corrosion increase, and corrosion is one of the leading causes of battery drainage and malfunctions.

Cold Weather and Batteries

But wait—there’s more! Just as hot weather can lead to battery problems, cold weather can, too. When the heat index turns to wind chill, your battery needs to work harder to generate enough energy to keep your car running smoothly. Cold weather can also result in thicker engine oil, which puts an additional strain on your battery.

Don’t Let Climate Ruin Your Battery

If you live in a particularly hot climate (we’re looking at you, Phoenix) or experience an unusually cold winter (hello, Minneapolis), you might consider replacing your battery more often than recommended. A free battery check at Firestone Complete Auto Care can help you determine whether your battery is worn out. The middle of nowhere is the wrong place to have a weak battery!

You can combat the harsh effects of weather on your battery by making sure you have the right battery type. When it’s time for a new battery, find one that is specifically designed for your climate. Wondering where to get your battery replaced? Firestone Complete Auto Care offers battery repair and installation services, and we carry climate-specific batteries too. 

Driving Habits Influence When to Replace a Car Battery

How you use your car over a long period of time can affect how often you need to replace your battery. If you consistently take short trips like daily drives to the office and the grocery store, for instance, your battery doesn’t have enough time to get fully charged between trips. This can lead to decreased performance.

Also, if your car sits in the garage or driveway for extended periods of time, its battery continues to drain passively even when the engine isn’t on. The good news is that these battery-draining habits make for great excuses to take your ride on a good ole' fashioned road trip. 

Car Battery Replacement Service Near Me

Every mile you drive on a past-its-prime battery is an inch closer to getting stranded. If you're considering a new battery, don’t wait until you’re stuck on the side of the road to have it replaced. Stop by your local Firestone Complete Auto Care for a free battery check.

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