Your vehicle battery will last around 3-4 years on average, depending on the type of weather it experiences, how often it’s used and whether it’s treated right. If your battery fails it could leave you stranded and be extremely inconvenient and costly.
Batteries gradually lose their capacity to perform due to:
- Climate – hot and cold
- Vibration while being driven
- Constant charging and discharging.
Battery failure is accelerated by lack of maintenance and allowing it to discharge fully. A battery that’s beginning to fail will begin to labour when cranking the engine. At this point, you can get the battery load tested and have the alternator output checked. If you have to jumpstart the vehicle, it’s time to change the battery. If the starter motor gives a clicking sound or a shrill screech, it’s time to replace the battery.
If your battery is bulging or swollen, it’s time to replace it.
If the battery warning light comes on and doesn’t go off after a few seconds, the battery may not be getting any charge and it will run out if you continue on – this will reduce the life of the battery. Check the alternator.
The best time to check your battery is as the weather turns colder. Cold weather puts more stress on the battery. The battery has close to 100% performance at temperatures in the mid-twenties Celsius. At freezing point, performance can drop 30-40%, and it goes lower from there.
How to maintain a battery
Most cars now come with maintenance-free batteries. This doesn’t mean they need absolutely no maintenance, though.
Check the terminals for corrosion
Check the clamps holding the battery in the tray are tight to reduce vibration
Check the clamps holding the cables to the battery are tight to ensure a good connection
Check the electrolyte levels, if required
During the pre-trip inspection, visually inspect the battery and look for the same tasks as per the list for cars, above.
Replacing the battery
Cars usually have one battery, but lorries often have two. You should replace both, not just one, even if only one is failing.
Check that the battery you are putting in meets or exceeds the minimum specification in the manual. If the battery is underpowered, it will fail quickly.