Ever been jealous of your local mechanic, family friend, or even that good Samaritan by the side of the road who can start up your temperamental car and diagnose the problem within seconds? Much like a horse or baby whisperer,
Today’s report from Rx Automotive is on car batteries, why they die and what we can do to lengthen their life. Most of us have had a dead battery at one time or another. In fact, it would be very unusual if you hadn’t. You may be surprised to learn that only 30 percent of Saint Charles vehicle batteries last for 48 months.
Now that’s an average. How long a battery lasts depends on many factors. You may not know that one of the biggest factors is the temperature where you live and drive around Saint Charles. You might suppose that cold weather was harder on batteries because it takes more power to crank a cold engine, but the opposite is actually true.
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Batteries in very cold climates have a life expectancy of 51 months as opposed to 30 months in very warm climates. The reason is simple: batteries are chemically more active when they’re hot than when they’re cold.
A car battery will actually start to discharge on its own within 24 hours in hot weather. It takes several days in cold weather. When batteries are left too long in a state of partial discharge, the discharged portion of the battery plates actually, for the lack of a better word, ‘die’. Recharging the battery will not restore the dead part of the battery plate.
One of the big problems for the way most of us drive in the Saint Charles area, is that our batteries are often partially discharged. The biggest job the battery does is to start the car. It takes some time for the alternator to recharge the battery after starting. If you’re driving short distances, especially if there are several starts and stops, your battery may not fully recharge.
Another issue is that vehicles are coming equipped with more and more electricity hungry accessories like navigation systems, DVD players, CD and MP3 players, heated seats, heated steering wheels and so on. And we often plug in cell phones, computers and other gadgets. Combine that with short trips and it’s no wonder that our batteries are partially discharged.
Experts say we can extend our battery life by topping off the charge periodically using a good quality battery charger. You may’ve heard these chargers referred to as ‘trickle chargers’. They’re attached to the battery and plugged into a wall outlet to slowly bring the battery up to full charge.
Now there’s some science involved with how fast a battery should be recharged. If you buy a cheap manual charger, you’ll have to tend it. Frankly a learning curve on how to do it right and requires much attention. A computer controlled charger – or smart charger – monitors the process and determines the appropriate rate of charge. And it even stops charging when it’s fully charged. It costs more than the manual charger, but the automatic model is worth it.
The suggestion is to charge once a month in warm weather and once every three months in cold weather.
Another thing to avoid is deeply discharging your battery. Something like running the headlights and stereo with the engine turned off. That’ll take months off the battery life every time you do it.
Now, as we discussed, heat is hard on a battery. A dirty, greasy battery holds more heat. You can wipe off excess dirt with a paper towel or ask your service advisor at Rx Automotive to clean it for you. Rx Automotive can even test your battery and tell you if it’s time to replace it.
Batteries are fairly expensive, so taking a few steps to make them last longer is well worth it. Of course, the battery will eventually need to be replaced. Always make sure you get a new battery that meets the factory specifications for your vehicle. If you feel you need more battery capacity than what came with your vehicle, talk with your service advisor at Rx Automotive about appropriate upgrades.
If you have a dead battery, be careful to inspect it before you jump start it. If the case is bulging, cracked or leaking, do not jump start it. Damaged batteries can explode or catch fire. And deeply discharged batteries can freeze. Do not jump start a frozen battery.
Hello, welcome to Rx Automotive. Today’s topic is batteries. It seems like everything in Geneva runs on batteries. Of course, the batteries we’re most concerned with here at Rx Automotive are those in our vehicles. Car batteries wear out just like any other battery and need to be replaced. There are a couple of things Geneva drivers should know when looking for a new battery.
There are two measurements that come into play: one is cold cranking amps and the other is reserve capacity.
Let’s start with cold cranking amps. This can be thought of as the power output used to start a cold engine. The number of cold cranking amps you need depends on your vehicle and where you live, specifically how cold it is where you live. The two factors are that the colder your sedan’s engine is, the more power it takes to turn the engine over to get it started. It has all that cold, sluggish oil to contend with.
The other factor is that the chemical reaction in the battery that creates electrical energy is less efficient in the cold. We even have a table. Let’s say it’s eighty degrees Fahrenheit out. At that temperature, 100% of the battery’s power is available. At freezing, only 65% of battery power is available, but it requires 155% as much power to start the engine as it did at eighty degrees.
As you can see from the chart, the colder it gets, more power’s needed, but the available power drops.
Percent of Power Available Celsius Fahrenheit Power Required 100 27 80 100 65 0 32 155 40 -22 0 210 25 -32 20 350
So if you live where it’s cold, you need a battery with more cold cranking amps than you do where it’s moderate or hot. The battery that originally came with the vehicle was based on averages. At Rx Automotive, we like to remind Geneva auto owners that they should always get at least as many cold cranking amps as the manufacturer recommends, but may want to upgrade if they live where it gets real cold.
And the type of engine you have will impact the battery you need: A six-cylinder engine requires more cold cranking amps than a four. An eight cylinder needs even more. And diesel sedans require more than a gasoline engine with the same number of cylinders.
Now on to reserve capacity: It’s a measurement of the number of minutes of reserve power the battery has at a given load. The number is more important to Geneva drivers these days because of parasitic drain. Parasitic drain is the battery energy that’s used when the key is off in your sedan. So, the power drawn by the security system, the remote start system, even the power the computers require to maintain their memory.
Reserves are also needed when you make very short trips around Geneva. You’re not driving long enough for the battery to recover the energy it used to start the engine. So go with the minimum recommended by your manufacturer or Rx Automotive and upgrade if you need more.
Talk with us at Rx Automotive about your options. If you need more from your battery, a larger, heavy-duty battery may be called for. At Rx Automotive, we remind our customers that it’s very important that the new battery fits your sedan: the terminals can’t be touching other parts and stuff.
Batteries are a big ticket item for most Geneva motorists, so the warranty gives piece of mind. There’re two kinds of car battery warranties: pro-rated and free replacement. With the pro-rated, you get a credit for a portion of the battery if it fails during the warranty period. With a free replacement warranty, you get just that, a free replacement. Be sure to ask us at Rx Automotive about the warranty so you know what you’re getting.