Inside Your Car 8 September 2021

How long does a car battery last?

The battery is the silent workhorse of your car. It’ll continue to get you from place to place before giving out, seemingly without warning, stranding you with a car that just won’t start. While the signs of a dying battery can be hard to spot there are a few things that can indicate when it’s time for a replacement.

What is the average car battery lifespan?

In general, the average lifespan of a car battery is between three to four years. However, this can vary with some batteries needing to be replaced after a year, while others can last up to six years.

In reality, a range of factors will impact how long your battery will last.

  • You’re only driving short trips: The alternator recharges your car battery as you drive. Short trips don’t offer a lot of time for the alternator to get to work and won’t charge your battery as much as longer trips.
  • Leaving your lights on: We’ve all been there. As easy as it is to do, forgetting to turn off your car headlights or leaving an interior light on is a sure way to drain your battery.
  • Weather extremes: Your car battery doesn’t like extreme temperatures. While newer batteries tend to be more resistant, both hot and cold extremes can weaken the batteries performance.
  • Faulty parts: Faulty parts can cause a real headache for your battery. Issues like corroded or loose battery cables, a faulty charging system and even electrical problems like defective fuses and wiring can all contribute to a shortened battery life span.

After ruling out those factors, the best way to get to the bottom of your battery problems is to take your car to a trusted mechanic.

How to charge a car battery

A healthy car battery voltage sits at 12.6 volts. When your engine is running your voltage will be higher and range somewhere between 13.7v and 14.7v. An easy way to test your charge and the health of the battery is with a car battery voltage test.

Car Battery Voltage Charge level (%)
12.6 100 (full charge)
12.4 75
12.2 50
12.0 25
11.9 0 (dead)
           

Testing the battery voltage directly after you drive your car is likely to give you a higher reading. To get an accurate reading, it’s best to test your battery after the car has rested - preferably overnight.

You can test your battery voltage at home using a handy device called a multimeter. Used correctly, this instrument will give you an accurate battery reading.

How to use a multimeter

1. Set the device to read DC volts and set the dial to 20.

2. Touch the red probe to the positive terminal and the black probe to the negative terminal.

3. A reading will appear on the screen.

4. If you get a negative reading you’ve got the probes around the wrong way. Switch them around to get an accurate reading.

Signs you need a new car battery

While it may seem like your battery has just given out without explanation, there are a few signs that can indicate it’s time for a replacement.

Your car will take longer to start up when your battery is low on charge. The engine may sound sluggish and take a few more seconds to get going when you first start the ignition.

Dim headlights and interior lights are another indicator that your battery is losing charge. A flagging battery will struggle with things like your dashboard lights.

Does your car smell like a rotten egg? You may have a battery leak. You’ll need a professional to take a look at the battery rods for corrosion.

Sometimes the easiest way to spot a dodgy battery is by simply looking at it. Batteries can swell and crack, normally due to extreme weather conditions and can cause a misshaped battery case.

While it is possible to increase the life of your battery, it will stop working eventually. Get ahead of the unexpected breakdown blues and get in touch with your local mycar. Our experienced specialists are ready to perform a range of battery tests, and if required, replace your car battery on the spot. 

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