When do I need to replace my battery?
That’s a smart question. All batteries wear out and need to be replaced – but some are being replaced before their time.
Look, if your battery is dying and you need a jump-start, it could very well be that you have a bad battery. But have your service center test the battery first to see if it’s bad. The problem could be parasitic drain or a bad alternator that’s not properly charging your battery.
But you also need to have your alternator tested. A surprisingly high percentage of “bad” alternators are actually just fine: the problem is a worn serpentine belt and/or belt tensioner. If the belt is slipping, it’s not spinning the alternator properly so it can’t fully charge the battery.
So, you see a dead battery can be the result of a chain of events: a worn serpentine belt, a worn belt tensioner, a bad alternator or a bad battery. If you don’t check the belt, tensioner and alternator you can just end up replacing batteries that are still good.
That brings us back full circle to when batteries do fail. There’s a chemical cycle that takes place inside your battery: the battery is discharged when you start the car and is recharged by the alternator when you drive. Short trips with frequent stops and starts, may mean that your battery is never fully recharged. When a battery isn’t fully charged, parts of the battery harden and are no longer available to “store” electricity. Over time, your battery just can’t hold enough charge for the needs of your vehicle. This overworks your alternator, causing it to wear out prematurely.
Batteries generally last longer in colder climates and wear out faster in warmer climates. The fact is that, on average, 70% of batteries fail within four years. Many experts recommend replacing your battery every five years. This can help avoid you being stranded with a dead battery as well as undue wear on your alternator.
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