March 2023

Car Battery Care and Life Expectancy

Discovering you have a dead battery upon turning the key in the ignition is one of the most inconvenient, yet common, occurrences for motorists.

Several factors can determine how long your battery will last, for example weather conditions, vehicle type and usage.

There are several key pointers you can utilise to help increase the life expectancy of your vehicle’s battery.

Modern vehicles are controlled by numerous computers, these computers need power from the battery, so if the vehicle isn’t locked using the remote, they will continue to be on standby and consume power. Over time this will lead to the vehicle’s battery being drained.

Batteries in modern vehicles are well hidden, usually under covers in the engine bay, tucked away in the boot or under the rear seats. This means that they can be hard to inspect, so it is a good idea to ask your  friendly MTA member to test your battery's state of health next time you are in for a servicer or WoF.

Hybrid and electric vehicles still have a 12-volt battery for running things like the lights, radio and door locks, so are still susceptible to flat batteries.

Why is my battery flat?

Batteries often go flat because a light has been left on. It may be the headlights or an interior light. Check all lights are off before leaving the vehicle.

Frequent, short car trips contribute to an earlier lifespan for car batteries. If short trips are a part of your daily routine, you may want to consider a slightly longer trip once a month to charge the battery.

Cold weather makes it more difficult for an already-weakened battery to hold its charge. Storing your car in a garage during spells of cold weather should keep the battery warmer and, therefore, easier to charge and start the vehicle.

If your vehicle isn’t in use for long periods of time, removing the negative battery connection during periods of non-use assists in the longevity of your battery. Just make sure to reconnect the terminal before attempting to start the vehicle.

The life expectancy for your automotive battery will vary depending on brand, model and application. If you don’t know when it was last replaced ask your local MTA workshop to check it for you.

Signs you need a new battery:
  • slow, sluggish or hard to start
  • corrosion around the battery terminal
  • unknown age of the battery.
Charging your battery

If you aren’t using your vehicle for more than a couple of weeks, you may want to consider purchasing a battery charger. Make sure you choose a charger specific to the needs of your car.

When charging your car, it is not only safer, but better for your battery to opt for the slow-charging method, this is often called trickle charging. A fast charge increases the potential of overcharging your battery and can create permanent damage.

It is advisable to charge batteries in a well-ventilated area as they can give off poisonous gasses.

Replacement and recycling

Your local workshop, parts retailer or recycling centre may take your used vehicle battery, usually for a small fee. It is illegal to dispose of your vehicle batteries along with household waste due to the lead and acid contained in the batteries.

If the battery is still in reasonable condition, it may be reconditioned for use, or its components will be extracted and melted down for use in the future.

Keeping your car battery fully charged means your battery will have a longer lifespan and use energy more efficiently.

Waiting until you breakdown before replacing your car battery is avoidable. As batteries can pose several dangers, it is advised you seek professional help from a battery specialist before attempting any repairs yourself.

Motoring Tips