Buying a Car Battery:  What You Need to Know

It is an accepted that part of the costs of owning a car are the repairs and replacements of different car parts.  Through normal wear and tear and daily activity certain parts require more attention than others.  

Our car battery is not exempt from this, yet because it’s packed away under the hood, we so often forget about it.  That is until we’re running late for something highly important and then it’s lack of starting reminds us that we have, indeed, been forgetting to pay attention to it.  

How sad that it isn’t until our car battery is dying that we are reminded about it’s very necessary presence in our vehicles life.  Car battery installation and car battery repair need to be a top priority to car owners as without them, we simply cannot get from point A to B.  

Be Proactive

red tank broken down carBeing proactive regarding proper care and maintenance for you car battery will avoid these situations from happening.  Of course, we all get caught off guard and sometimes, battery’s just die without any real sign, maybe it was just a dud, but more likely that not, there were signs that you missed.  

Be proactive about replacing your battery if you know it’s been two years or four years.  Give your car the opportunity to run properly.  A large investment like your car deserves your care and attention.

Repair or Replace

It’s important to know to keep tabs on your battery for a number of reasons.  One reason being that when these moments in life occur, and your battery picks the completely wrong time to act up, you’ll know what is most likely the cause.  

So what does it mean to keep tabs on your battery?

Should you ever have any reason to lift the hood of your car to check your oil or anything else, use that opportunity to also check out your battery.  See any leaves, sticks or debris gathering along the top or sides of it, clear it off.  If you happen to notice any gunk starting to build up, that will definitely need to be cleaned off it as well.  

Clean the Corrosion 

By the way, that gunk that you may notice building up around the terminals is actually sulfate.  Over a period of time, the battery’s discharge of lead can build up on the terminals as a cakey white substance, sulfate, that prevents the battery from recharging during use.  If your doesn’t start and you notice this build up, that can be your culprit.  

To clean the sulfate off the terminals, first make sure you car is turned completely off and no key is in the ignition.  Your cleaning solution will be a simple mixture of baking soda and water.  Using a brush, dip into solution and gently scrub the sulfate to loosen the deposit.  Remove loose sulfate with cloth and wipe clean.  Once dry, try to start your car again.  If the car starts, it should be able to recharge itself and you may not need to replace it.  

Modern Amenities

plain car battery

Most to all car batteries made these days do not require the same level of care and maintenance that they have in the past.  Checking battery fluid level is not something modern consumers have to worry about.  Even though it can still happen, sulfate corrosion around your battery’s terminals is less likely to happen, as well.  

However, these modern amenities don’t mean you get to ignore your battery, or that it will take care of itself.  It just means you need to be more diligent about remembering to do so.  

Right Temperature

Be aware that geographic climate does affect the life of your car battery.  If you live in a hot climate, anywhere the temperatures exceed 90+ most of the year, there’s a better chance you will be changing your car battery more often than a cooler climate.  Have your mechanic check your battery once every two years.  

Two years is an average for these climates.  Of course, proper care and management of your battery will most likely ensure a longer life, but there is little that can be done to protect against such heat.  If you’ve ever lived in these climates, you understand.  

A cooler climate battery will need to be checked around to four years.  Again, proper care and maintenance may buy you a longer life, but for good measure and to avoid your car not starting just when you need it most, check it out and get it repaired or replaced.  

What Kind of Battery Do You Need?    

When it comes time to replace your car battery, you need to make sure that you purchase the right battery for your car.  Batteries are specific to vehicles.  You don’t want to put a battery that powers a hatchback in your diesel V8 SUV.  Check your owner’s manual or an in-store fit guide when shopping.  

Your car manual is going to suggest the battery that is going to most suit your car, not the climate.  If you live in a geographic climate that has extreme weather conditions; ie heat, you will want to discuss with your local mechanic which battery may be best suited for such conditions.

As mentioned above, constant or even frequent high temperatures are extremely rough on battery life.  However, these temperatures can also have other effects like; corrosion of plates and cause electrolytes to vaporize faster (which are needed for current).  Long lasting battery is more important if your daily routine doesn’t require any long trips which helps with recharging.  

Besides choosing a battery that has been tested and shown longevity performance, you’ll want to choose a battery that scores well with cold-cranking amps and reserve-capacity testing.  There are always performance variations with different brands, but choose a battery that has at least an adequate rating in both those categories.   

Choosing the Right Battery

Because the battery provides life and is essentially, living, it is going to start to loose its juice even when idling in the store waiting to be purchased.  All batteries having shipping codes on them which tell how old they are.  

Some use a letter to signify the month (“A” for January) and others use numbers to signify the year (“5” for 2015).  Still others use basic numeric dates.  Check these numbers, letters out to check when your battery was made.  You won’t want to choose a battery that is over 6 months old.  

Types of Batteries 

Batteries come in a variety of sizes.  It is important that you choose the correct size for your car as the wrong size may not fit securely enough or provide sufficient power.  Again, putting a battery made for a dump truck in your compact hatchback may be the wrong choice (it is).  

Also, the terminals need to be in the correct place or your car’s cables may not reach.  Every car and battery has a specific fit guide.  Be sure to take advantage of this resource.  If you still feel unsure, ask the person working at the store.  They should be proficient in providing you with the correct information.  

Grab a Handle

person battery handle Because more people are choosing to do their battery installation themselves, manufacturers have started putting handles on their batteries for easier lifting and carrying in and out of stores and vehicles.  Batteries weigh around 40 lbs so that handle provides a lot of added convenience for the consumer’s use.  


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