There’s a lot to keep track of when it comes to car maintenance, from overall engine health, to oil and coolant levels and tyre upkeep. Chances are battery care isn’t the first thing that comes to mind for many. That is until you get behind the wheel and encounter issues starting the engine.
To avoid these types of issues, there are a number of simple steps you can take to keep your battery in good condition and extend its lifespan.
Of course, parking your car overnight and forgetting to turn the headlights off is a quick way to drain your battery. Meanwhile, as we’ll look at below, there is a range of other factors that can impact a battery’s lifespan.
In the following guide we’ll take a look at what sort of lifespan you can expect from a battery, factors that impact lifespan, signs your battery is on the wane, how to care for your battery, and what to keep in mind when it comes time to organise a replacement.
What sort of car battery lifespan should you expect?
Your car battery is a key component of your car, from its primary purpose of helping to start the engine, to powering the various elements of your car’s electric system, helping to keep everything running smoothly from one trip to the next.
However, batteries naturally degrade over time and with usage, and the day will eventually come when you need to organise a replacement (as we’ll look at below, there are a range of factors that will impact a battery’s longevity).
The AA advises that in New Zealand conditions, provided a car battery is maintained, its fitment is correct, and it is kept at a 100% state of change, it can be expected to last three to five years.
Of course, when buying a used vehicle you’ll need to factor in prior usage and whether the battery has been replaced at any point. You may also want to get the battery tested to determine its strength and prevent any potential issues.
Factors impacting car battery lifespan
There are all sorts of variables that can impact the lifespan of your car battery. Some of these may essentially be out of your control, while you may be able to take steps to lessen the impact of other factors (we’ve run through steps to extend lifespan below).
The following are some of the key factors you should keep in mind in weighing up battery lifespan:
- Battery brand and capacity – you’ll want to ensure you’re using a reputable brand, while batteries with a greater capacity will obviously be able to perform over a longer time frame
- Fitment – as advised by the AA, you should ensure your battery meets the original equipment manufacturer fitment specification
- Environmental conditions – both extreme hot and cold weather can have an impact on battery performance and longevity
- Short trips – if you routinely use your car for short trips, the battery might not have adequate time to recharge after it has been started
- Infrequent usage – you need to ensure your battery is frequently recharged, and if your car often sits unused over long periods different electrical components running in the background will eventually drain it
- Battery drain – from leaving your lights on when your car isn’t running, to charging your smartphone while behind the wheel, general battery drain will impact longevity
Failing car battery signs: What to look for?
There are a number of signs you can look out for if you believe your car battery is on the wane. Of course, it is important to be aware of what to look for, enabling you to take steps ahead of potentially getting caught short with an unresponsive car.
Your battery could well be nearing the end of its lifespan if you’re experiencing any of the following issues:
- Slower engine start – is a classic symptom of a failing battery. If your engine is slow to get started it could well be time to get your battery tested and/or replaced
- Dim headlights – is another typical symptom of a degraded battery, indicating it is struggling to deliver the required power
- Other electronic devices – similarly, if you have other electronic devices that are struggling to function, this could be a symptom of a failing battery
- Swollen appearance – your battery should fit neatly in its fitment, however if it has become swollen this usually means it has been overcharged and should be replaced
Of course, if your car is experiencing any of the above issues, you should seek expert mechanical advice.
Car battery care: Steps to extend your battery’s lifespan
There’s not really a great deal of ongoing maintenance required when it comes to car batteries. As advised above, as a starting point it’s important to ensure that the battery is properly fitted and meets the required specifications for your car.
Battery care mostly falls under the banner of how you use your car over the longer term, and in line with this there are a number of steps you can take:
- Regular driving – as advised above, long intervals without using your car will result in battery drain. Driving your car regularly can help keep the battery charged
- Avoid short trips – of course, depending on your daily driving patterns, this may be difficult to do. However, if it’s possible to get behind the wheel for a bit longer, this can help charge your battery
- Avoid excessive electricity use – turning on your headlights, or running your car’s audio system, when the engine isn’t running can quickly lead to battery drain
- Environmental conditions – if the temperature is soaring, park your car in the shade if possible, reducing the chance of battery failure. Be it extreme heat or cold, taking steps to safeguard your car will also help to improve its overall longevity
- Regular servicing – is, of course, good for the broader health of your car. You may want to ask your mechanic to specifically look at the battery, ensuring it is in good working order.
Time for a change: Replacing your car battery
If you suspect your car battery is getting towards the end of its lifespan, it’s important to get it checked as soon as possible. While a spent battery is a comparatively simple thing to fix (as far as car issues are concerned), you’ll obviously want to avoid dealing with an unresponsive car.
A mechanic will be able to carry out a battery inspection test, determining its status. This is an important step to take, as your battery may simply be flat, in which case it may be possible to recharge it and get it up and running again.
Meanwhile, it could also be that there are other related components impacting your car/battery performance. Of course, the sooner you identify any issues the better, with it worthwhile seeking out expert advice.
If your battery has reached the end of its lifespan, a mechanic will be able to arrange for its disposal and organise a replacement. Battery costs range anywhere from $100 to $500 (along with service costs), so it’s worthwhile confirming the pricing for your current model.
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About the author of this page
This report was written by Canstar author Martin Kovacs. Martin is a freelance writer with experience covering the business, consumer technology and utilities sectors. Martin has written about a wide range of topics across both print and digital publications, including the manner in which industry continues to adapt and evolve amid the rollout of new technologies