We’ve all been there, just about to head off on your next journey only to discover your car won’t start. In the majority of cases, a flat battery is to blame for this inconvenience, and like any car part, knowing the basics about its role, maintenance and replacement can save you time, money and plenty of heartache.
Your car battery plays an essential role in the running of your vehicle, it basically provides the jolt of electricity needed to power its electrical system, a reaction that makes your car run, which is powerful work for a little box! The battery also keeps the current running throughout your vehicle steady, stabilising the voltage and preventing the shortages that cause extensive damage. A car battery does have its lifespan, and generally must be replaced every three to five years to uphold optimum performance and avoid expensive repair or recovery. A flat battery is in fact one of the most common reasons for calling out a breakdown specialist, but by taking note of these tell-tale signs you can make sure your car battery is replaced before it’s too late.
There is a change in your car’s performance
Your engine will struggle without the help of a fully operational car battery, and whilst the most notable sign that you need a replacement is your vehicle failing to start, the engine will tell you all you need to know long before the battery gives out completely. If your vehicle begins taking longer than usual to start then this may be down to a failing battery, and the sluggish and cranking nature of your engine will be evident.
Your dashboard’s “check engine” light appears
The most obvious sign of a problem is the appearance of your engine warning light on your dashboard but it isn’t always clear to a motorist with limited maintenance experience or knowledge that this indicates a failing battery and the need for replacement. Your check engine light can be a sign that the battery power servicing your vehicle is particularly weak, and diagnosis of this is possible if other clues are present.
Your car battery fluid is low or leaking
Just like your engine oil and coolant levels, your battery fluid level needs to be checked periodically, and should already form a vital part of your car maintenance regime. Adding this to your list of vehicle upkeep tasks is easy and most car batteries utilise translucent casing so battery fluid levels can be checked at a glance. If upon inspection your fluid level falls below the energy conductor or lead plates, then enlisting a professional to complete further tests on your car battery and wider charging system may be wise.
Low levels may also indicate a battery leak, which is common and caused by corrosion to the cable connections of the battery itself. A build up of residue will be present around these connections, and without removal, over time your vehicle may not start.
The battery case is swollen
Upon inspection another factor that should be observed is the condition of the battery case itself. If the case is swollen or bloated in appearance then this may prove that your battery is not regulating heat as well as it should do, a primary cause of decreased battery life. As mentioned previously most batteries should last for at least three to five years, but after your car battery reaches its third birthday it is recommended that an annual check is completed by a qualified professional on the battery and charging system. Your chosen expert will have the equipment and expertise to diagnose any issues before battery failure strikes.
To learn more about car care, take a look at our latest car maintenance articles now.