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How Long Does A Car Battery Last? (And How To Maximize Its Life)

May 27, 2021

Your car battery plays a key role in starting your car.  

However, car batteries don’t last forever, and you may find yourself with a dead battery eventually.

So, how long does a car battery last?

And what can you do to maximize the battery’s lifespan?

We’ll cover both those questions in this article, highlight the signs of a failing car battery, answer some FAQs and point you to an easy solution to battery problems.

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Let’s begin.

How Long Does A Car Battery Last?

The lifespan of a car battery is determined by how long it can hold its charge and remain capable of recharging. The average car battery life also depends on its chemical composition, as there are different car battery types.

So, how long does a car battery last?

Here’s the average battery life of some common car batteries:

Battery type isn’t the only thing that determines the battery’s lifespan. 

Let’s look at some other aspects that have an impact on battery life.

What Affects The Car Battery Lifespan?

Here are some other factors that affect the lifespan of the lead acid battery: 

1. Time

Battery degradation occurs slowly as the alternator charges it up each time. As time passes, your battery capacity drops, and the battery can’t be fully charged anymore.

The lead acid battery averages 500-1200 charge-discharge cycles before it drops to 80% of its original capacity (80% is the typical limit defining battery cycle life). 

Even then, battery cells don’t stop working suddenly

The battery degradation will continue at the same rate. 

For example, after 1000 full cycles, a cell can hold 80% of its original capacity. It still keeps on working until its capacity drops to 60%, maybe 2000 cycles later. This makes the risk of a sudden battery death low.

This also explains why most batteries become inefficient around 3 years of regular use. However, you’ll risk sudden battery failure if you push it beyond 5 years.

2. Temperature

Heat has a two-way effect on lead acid batteries. 

It aids the chemical reaction needed to generate electricity (which is why it’s easier to start an engine in warm weather than cold). But, it also accelerates battery degradation. 

What happens?

Scorching weather (or even an extremely hot engine) causes battery fluid to evaporate, damaging internal cells, which then reduces battery life. 

On average, batteries last around 5 years in cool regions but only 3 years in hotter climates. Some cars come with a shield on the battery to protect them from under-the-hood heat.

3. Vibration

Vehicle movement creates vibrations that can affect the internal battery parts and cause them to break down. Your car battery must be secured firmly in its mounting to minimize any unnecessary shakes that can shorten battery life.

4. Charging

The alternator charges the car battery when the engine is running. 

Problems with the charging system can quicken the shortening of battery life. 

Overcharging can cause battery fluid leakage, while undercharging accelerates battery drainage. And allowing a car battery to drain completely will remove a hefty portion of its lifespan, even if you can recharge it afterwards. 

Whenever alternator issues crop up, it’s a good idea to have a mechanic check the entire charging system so that your car battery doesn’t deteriorate any faster than it should.

5. Usage

Vehicle batteries are energy storage devices and will self-discharge slowly when unused.

Because the car battery charges while you drive, leaving your vehicle stationary for long periods of time will obviously deplete its charge. And the more onboard electronics the car has, the faster the battery will drain to support those electronics.

However, driving very short distances can also strain the vehicle battery. When you take very short trips, the battery charge drains faster than the charging system can recharge it. 

That’s why if you’re looking to quickly charge your car battery, make one or two loops around the block instead of one short run down your street.

We’ve now covered the 5 elements that affect your car battery life.

But how can you tell if your battery is failing?

What Are The Symptoms Of A Failing Car Battery?

Here are some common flags that your car’s battery raises when it’s on its last legs:

1. Longer Engine Cranking Times

If your engine takes longer than usual to turn over and spark to life, it’s a sure sign your car battery is close to failure. You’ll be lucky to get a few more cranks before a replacement battery is needed.

2. Dim Headlights And Electrical Problems

The battery powers the starter and all electronics in a vehicle, including the headlights, air conditioning and onboard computer. A weak battery will struggle to run the electronics at full power, and it’ll be most apparent with dimming headlights. 

Here’s a quick way to check: 

3. There’s A Click, But Engine Won’t Start

Let’s say you turn the key in the ignition, and it only gives you a click or buzz without the engine starting. However, the headlights or dashboard lights are functioning fine. 

You’ll likely need to pull out the jumper cables in this case, but get your battery charged and tested. If the problem is not the vehicle battery, there might be some hidden element drawing too much power. 

4. Battery-Related Dashboard Lights Are On

The dashboard battery light or check engine light turning on doesn’t always mean a failing battery. It can also indicate problems with the alternator, and the best way to figure this out is to have your mechanic perform a battery test

5. There’s An Unpleasant Smell

The lead acid battery contains sulfuric acid, so a damaged or leaking car battery can emit an unpleasant smell of rotten eggs that comes from the acid. 

If this happens, get your battery checked ASAP. Don’t drive with a leaking battery pack. 

6. Corrosion On The Battery Terminals

Corrosion on the vehicle battery terminals is common with battery aging but can lead to starting issues and terminal failure. It can also indicate problems with the charging system. 

To help maintain your battery health, clean off any corrosion.

7. The Battery Is Out Of Shape

Your car’s battery should never look misshapen. 

However, exposure to extreme temperature changes can cause the battery casing to bloat, swell and crack. 

If your vehicle battery looks deformed in any way, get it checked as there’s a high possibility the battery’s life is at an end.

8. Seasonal Changes Affect Its Performance

While summer heat can evaporate the battery fluid, winter cold weather slows down its internal chemical reaction. As the vehicle battery ages, its ability to adapt to seasonal changes reduces. 

If your car battery struggles with seasonal temperature changes, it’s probably time to get a new battery

9. It’s An Old Battery

If your battery is nearing the 3-year mark, it would be within the natural range for the car battery life to start deteriorating. It’s best to have the battery regularly tested for performance.  

Next, let’s look at some steps you can take to help with your car battery lifespan.

How Do I Maximize My Battery’s Lifespan?

You’d want your car battery to last as long as possible. 

Here are some things you can do to maintain battery health and maximize the battery lifespan:

We’ve now covered everything there is to know about car battery lifespans. However, you probably have some other questions, right? 

Let’s get into them:

9 Car Battery FAQs

We’ve answered some FAQs that you likely have in mind. 

1. When Should I Get The Battery Checked?

Not every failing battery displays apparent symptoms, so it’s advisable to get your car battery inspected at every oil change. 

If you live in a warm climate, get an annual battery test after 2 years. 

Those in cold climates can wait up to 4 years. 

2. Are All Car Batteries The Same Size?

No, they’re not. 

Batteries come in different physical sizes. Make sure a new battery is the correct size, fits securely in mountings, and connects to terminals properly.

3. What Are Different Car Battery Types For?

The standard vehicle with an internal combustion engine (ICE) uses regular flooded lead acid batteries. 

A car with higher power needs, like those with engine stop-start systems or one that has lots of electronics, often uses the AGM battery or an Enhanced Flooded Battery (EFB). 

An electric motor powers an electric car instead of an ICE, so the electric vehicle often uses rechargeable lithium-ion batteries with longer battery life. 

4. What Is The Car Battery Group Number?

The car battery number is an industry standard defining its:

Replacing a battery with the same group number as the OEM battery ensures it will fit correctly with no terminal issues.

5. What Does Cold Cranking Amps Mean?

Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) defines how much battery power (or amps) it can deliver for 30 seconds at 0°F (-18°C). It shows how well a vehicle battery can start the engine in frigid conditions. The higher the CCA rating, the easier it is to crank the engine. 

Don’t get this confused with the Cranking Amps (CA) rating, which is based on an easier test. 

Note: Never install a battery with a lower CCA rating than recommended by the car manufacturer — it might not provide enough power to run everything your car needs.

6. How Much Does A Car Battery Replacement Cost?

A battery replacement varies based on vehicle make and model, location and battery supplier. 

On average, a replacement battery can cost between $80-$150, with premium variants going up to $200. Labor charges typically range around $70 for an installation.

7. How Do I Charge A Car Battery?

Park your car in a safe place and have your battery charger ready. 

Here’s what to do:  

  1. Turn off the car and locate your battery. 

It’s usually under the hood but sometimes can be in the trunk.

  1. Detach the battery clamps — negative terminal (black) FIRST, then positive (red). Keep them separate from each other.
  1. Plugin the charger, but keep it off. Connect the positive charger clamp to the positive terminal (red) FIRST, then connect the negative clamp to the negative terminal (black). 
  1. Turn on the battery charger, set it to 12V and charge as long as needed. The battery charger amperage determines how fast your battery charges up. A 4 Amp charger takes about 12 hours to charge a fairly depleted battery, while a 40 Amp charger can get the battery to start your car within a few minutes of recharging. 
  1. When you turn the battery charger off, remove the clamps in reverse order — negative (black) first, then positive (red). 
  1. Using a battery tester (like a multimeter), check the vehicle’s battery voltage. It should read 12.6V or more when the car is off and between 13.7-14.7V if it’s on. 

8. Does A New Battery Require Charging?

No, a new battery will come fully charged, so you won’t have to charge it. 

9. What’s An Easy Way To Fix Battery Problems?

If you’re concerned about your battery’s life, there’s no harm in having a reliable mechanic take a look. Better to be safe than deal with a dead battery situation later on!

Additionally, your mechanic might be able to spot another car battery problem that you weren’t aware of and save you a ton of potential trouble, too. 

If popping by a workshop just to check out a concern feels like a hassle, don’t worry.

That’s what RepairSmith is for.

RepairSmith is a convenient mobile vehicle repair and maintenance solution that offers these benefits: 

For an accurate estimate of any battery-related repair and maintenance costs, fill this online form.

Final Thoughts

Your car battery doesn’t last forever, but you can prolong its lifespan. Pay attention to it and drive regularly to keep it charged.
And if you do face any battery issues, you can always rely on RepairSmith for help. Just contact them, and their ASE-certified mechanics will be at your disposal ASAP!