How Long Do Car Batteries Last?

Lucy Lazarony
December 29, 2020

A car battery will gradually deteriorate until the battery can no longer provide enough power to start an engine. The length of a car battery’s life is three to five years. And the car’s usage pattern and how often and how the car was driven affects the rate in which a battery ages. For example, cars driven mostly on short trips may not fully recharge and this shortens battery life. Where you live also impacts the life of your car battery. Heat increases the rate of battery degradation and in southern locales with lots of heat a car battery will typically last about three years. In cooler and colder northern climates, a car battery may last five years or longer. Another factor to a car’s battery life is vibration. Vibration causes internal parts of a car battery to break down. But using special hold down hardware will secure the battery in place and keep it from moving. Driving without this hardware can significantly shorten a car battery’s life. Having a malfunctioning charging system can lower battery life as well. The reason? Over-charging or under-charging the battery accelerates the age of the battery. In addition, letting a car battery go completely dead will very much shorten a battery’s lifespan. And that is even if you recharge the battery and get the car up and running.

How to Avoid Dead Batteries

Letting your car’s battery go completely dead will shorten its battery life considerably. Here are tips on how to avoid it. Inspect the car battery at every oil change. Make sure the cable connections on the battery are clean and the hold down hardware is secure. Once a car battery reaches its third year, have the battery tested every year. A car battery test will identify the battery’s level of deterioration so you’ll know when to install a new battery.

Choosing a New Car Battery

When buying a car battery, you must consider factors such as battery type, physical size and terminal configuration. You’re looking for a car battery that properly fits the make and model of your car. Choosing an incorrect battery can harm the car’s electrical system. So you’ll want to make your choice carefully. Unsure of which battery to buy? Consult your car’s owner manual or speak to a local automotive professional. AAA recommends your replacement battery always being the same type as the original, factory-installed battery in your car.

Learn Your Car Battery Group Number

The group number is an industry standard that defines a battery’s physical size, its hold down configuration and the type of terminals and their location. Choosing a battery with the same group number as the original equipment battery will ensure a secure fit, sufficient clearance and no issues with the cables or the battery terminal. So find out the group number of the original battery for your car. And you’ll know the group number to shop for in a new battery.

Choose a Car Battery with a Warranty

Look for a battery with an extended, full-replacement warranty. Good, quality batteries offer free replacement for three or more years if there are problems with the car battery.

10 Signs Your Car Battery May Be Dying

It is best to replace a worn down battery before it dies completely. Here are 10 signs your car battery may be on its last legs.

The “Check Engine” Light Comes On. It is not unusual for an issue with the car battery to cause the “check engine” light on the dashboard to come on. This is the first sign of trouble with the car battery.

The Engine Turns Over Very Slowly. If your car is slow to start, it could be an issue with the car’s battery. It is also possible that your car is having trouble with its alternator or starter. So take it into a mechanic to be sure.

The Car’s Ignition Clicks. If a car’s engine clicks repeatedly before it starts, this could mean there is a limited amount of power being supplied by the car’s battery.

Headlights Appear Dim. If your car’s headlights appear dimmer than normal, this may be a signal there is not enough power to keep them on fully. And you also may notice the brightness of the headlights adjusting randomly or the headlights may not work at all. Both are signs there is trouble with the car’s battery.

Electrical Problems. Radios, dashboard lights, windshield wipers, power window controls, all work improperly when there is trouble with the car’s battery.

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Corroded Battery Terminals. A key reason car batteries die is because of corrosion. Battery acid will leak out at the connectors and then harden, reducing the amount of contact between terminals and connecting points. This damage will reduce the battery’s ability to recharge using the car’s alternator. Not sure if your battery is corroded? The battery corrosion is easy to see. A blue and green powder will be caked on the battery’s terminals.

Cold Weather. When a car’s battery gets exposed to cold temperatures for extended periods of time, the battery is more likely to fail. So if you live in the north where it is often below freezing, you may have trouble starting your car because of a failing battery.

Smells Like Sulfur. If you open your car’s hood and it smells like sulfur or rotten eggs, these are signs of a leaking battery. A leaking battery could be caused by the battery’s old age, external damage to the battery terminals or an internal short circuit. If this happens to your battery, you’ll need to take your car to the repair shop as soon as possible.

Unusual Shapes. Extreme heat or cold will force your battery case to take on unusual shapes. The case may bulge and swell up and leak out battery acid. Any battery and its case that is no longer rectangular in shape should be discarded. So if you see unusual shapes, it is time for a new battery.

Old Age. Most car batteries only live three to five years, depending on weather and the car’s driving conditions. If your battery is more than three years old, have it tested so you’ll know just how much life is left in it. Be prepared to buy a new battery when the old one is finished.

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