I always say that car batteries are like bananas. No matter what brand or sticker they have on them, bananas all come from similar trees. In the case of batteries, they come from similar manufacturing plants; in many cases, different battery brands come from a single manufacturing plant. Batteries are also like bananas in that the day they’re put into service, they begin breaking down. Just as every brand of banana is equally perishable, so are batteries.
Although you can buy batteries labeled with the logo of every car manufacturer, only a few manufacturers make batteries.
The 4-year, 5-year or 7-Year Battery Warranty
You can buy a battery with a variety of warranties. The longer the warranty, the greater the price. A seven-year warranty battery will cost more because it has more cells and is designed to last that long under normal driving conditions. However, that doesn’t mean your battery is going to last for seven years. In order to understand why not, let’s think of a car battery a different way: Not like a banana, but like a bank account. You know perfectly well that if you steadily withdraw money from your account day after day — writing checks, making debit card purchases, using the ATM — you’re going to overdraw that account unless you deposit money regularly.
How a Car Battery Loses Its Charge
Let’s follow just one day in the life of your car battery. Imagine that the “life” in the battery represents $100 in the “account.”
You get in the car to drive a mile from home to the supermarket. You turn the ignition, start the car, and draw a small amount of energy from the battery in doing so. You’ve just drawn $2 out of that battery “account.” Coming out of the grocery, you start the car again, and drive 4 blocks to the drugstore. You just withdrew another two bucks, and your account is down to $96. When you leave the drugstore, you start the car again and drive half a mile to the dry cleaners. Now the account’s down to $94.
Basic Automobile Engine Cooling System Functions
Most cars (with the exception of a few with air-cooled engines found in older-model Volkswagens) have a system of hoses and a water pump that circulate coolant fluid around and through the components of your engine. A water pump, driven by a belt attached to the engine, circulates the coolant. This process collects heat and passes it through the radiator to cool it down to the temperature set by the thermostat. The radiator is just inside the grill in the front of the car, and the speed of the car and a fan forces fresh air through the many small cells — called the core — of the radiator, cooling the fluid. The entire process is designed to allow the engine to operate at the proper temperature.
Recharge Your Car Battery
You ask, “Doesn’t the engine recharge the battery as I drive?” Yes, the engine powers the alternator, which generates an electrical current to recharge the battery. But, in the sort of day-to-day driving I just described, you’re not driving far enough to recharge it all the way. Here’s where our bank comparison fits perfectly. Just as you have to deposit money into your bank account, you should recharge your battery.
How often? You probably don’t need to worry about the charge on your battery during the first year or two you own a new car. Note that this applies to new batteries – not a used car with a battery that isn’t truly new!. After that, charge your battery once a year. If you do, the battery will truly last the 7 years for which it was designed. This precaution is well worth the minimal effort. For example, we put a charge on the battery of any car we’re maintaining in our shop as a matter of course. It’s easy, and it costs next to nothing. You can buy a charger and do it at home, too.
There’s never a convenient time to have your car battery fail.
Auto Electrical System Warning Lights
One reason to make a battery recharge a regular part of your maintenance routine is that there’s no warning light for battery charge on the dashboard in most cars. If you see an “Alternator” or “Charging System” warning light, it means you may have a problem like a loose belt that’s not turning the alternator adequately. Have that condition checked out promptly. It could mean your battery is being recharged little or none. But your car isn’t monitoring the actual charge on the battery.
Wishing you safe and happy motoring.
Owner, Hillside Auto Repair