How Long Do Car Batteries Last?

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Automobile battery failures occur at the most inopportune times. In general, automobile batteries last around three years. Car battery failures are almost guaranteed to happen when you’re late for work, your kids have an important day at school, or you have a special event to attend. Car battery failures occur on the coldest mornings, the hottest afternoons, and at the end of the workday when you want nothing more than to go home. Being stranded when you have to be somewhere is no fun, but you can prepare yourself by understanding how car batteries work, the signs of imminent failure, and how the weather can affect car battery life.  

Tell-tale signs your car battery is about to die 

A battery about to die rarely provides a warning, but you can prevent this catastrophe if you know the few warning signs you can see ahead of time. The time to look out for car battery failures is after the three-year mark. You will rarely see a “check battery” warning on your dash until after the battery is too far gone. Instead, you might experience the following: 

  • Whirring slow-start noises: A battery beginning to degrade could start slowly when you turn the key. This happens when the battery isn’t strong enough to start the car. The battery may be past the point where it can start if you turn the key and hear a repeating spinning sound rather than the ignition catching. 

  • Dim headlights or interior lights: When a driver turns the key to engage the starter, the overhead or interior lights typically come on first. If those lights are dim or your headlights are dim upon an attempted start, this could be a sign that your car battery is low on juice.  

  • Clicking noises: If you enter the vehicle, put your key in the ignition, and give it a turn, it should fire up immediately. In circumstances where the battery is failing or has failed, you may hear a clicking sound. This may sound like a quickly ticking clock, or it might sound like a tapping noise. Either way, this is a sound you don’t want to hear.  

  • Leaking or corrosion at the terminals: A small amount of corrosion at the terminals of your battery is normal. Your automobile parts store serviceperson might even clean this corrosion from your terminals at each oil change, so you may not even notice it. But if you do see leaking or signs of acid abrasion at the top of the battery, this means that the battery is at the end of its life. When your terminals become coated in acidic gunk, the connection between the battery and the starting system can be diminished. This inability to connect can lead to starting failure.  

  • The smell of sulfuric acid: Sulfuric acid odors may be compared to the scent of spent matches or rotten eggs. They are distinctly foul and hard to miss. If you open your hood and the smell of rotten eggs wafts up to greet you, this could be a sign that your battery has become unstable and can no longer be used. In this case, it is dangerous to continue using it, so be sure to get it evaluated right away.  

  • Swelling of the battery case: The battery is home to chemicals waiting to be used in a chemical reaction. Sometimes, these chemicals become unstable and when they do, they can cause the battery casing to swell. If you see swelling of the battery case, there’s a problem, so you should get it checked right away. 

If you’ve noticed any of the signs mentioned above, talk to a verified mechanic on JustAnswer.  Ask anything about odd sulfur odors, swollen battery cases, corrosion, and more in a one-to-one chat and get quick, personalized responses.  

How weather can affect car battery life 

Batteries are already exposed to heat because they are typically found under the hood of the engine. However, in hot areas throughout the summer, the intense heat can deplete the battery in as little as 48 hours. This is because heat causes internal damage that reduces the car battery’s lifespan by evaporating liquids inside the car battery. 

The cold makes it more challenging for the battery to generate the initial burst of energy needed to turn the engine over; it also thickens engine oil, which doesn’t help either. As a result, you may have had trouble starting your car during winter. However, this does not reduce the lifespan of the automobile battery as much as heat does. 

Unfortunately, you don’t have much control over the climate. However, a crucial factor you can control is your driving style. ‘Stop-and-start’ driving, or routinely driving for less than twenty minutes, consumes the car battery’s energy without giving the alternator enough time to recharge. This frequently depletes the car battery to extremely low levels and decreases its lifespan. 

Ways to extend the life of your automobile battery 

You can take several actions to extend the life of your battery. 

  • Get frequent battery checks: Oil changes should occur every three- to five-thousand miles. When you change your oil, you should have your car battery checked for corrosion, swelling, and foul odors at the same time. Car part stores can also evaluate your battery for you at little or no cost.  

  • Don’t let your car sit unused: When a vehicle sits unused, the battery loses its charge. Over time, the restart ability reduces considerably. You can avoid total battery failure by cranking the vehicle periodically and letting it run for a few minutes. Doing this keeps your battery stable, reducing the level of battery failure caused by lack of use.  

  • Keep the posts and clamps clean: You can keep corrosion at bay by eliminating it at the source. Corrosion usually starts at the posts and clamps on the battery terminals. Cleaning the posts and clamps with dielectric grease is a perfect way to extend the life of your battery. This service is sometimes performed with a standard oil change. If not, you can ask for the car parts store personnel to take a look while you are there.  

  • Unplug everything you don’t need: Vehicle batteries are made for powering vehicles. However, some people siphon energy from the battery to power external equipment like phones, video players, GPS units, and computers. When you park your vehicle, unplug chargers and accessories.  

  • If your vehicle’s battery case has a heat blanket or shield, leave it in place: In cold climates, vehicle batteries need more care. If your car comes with a blanket or jacket for the battery, it’s best if you leave it in place. The manufacturer included it for a reason, so you should use it. If it is damaged, have it replaced rather than removing it completely. Your local car parts store that sells replacement automobile parts should also have this car battery jacket in stock. 

  • When in doubt, find out: Having your car battery evaluated is the best way to be sure it’s healthy and usable. Most auto parts stores offer testing for batteries so that you can gauge the life left in your unit. This will not keep it from failing, but it can alert you to potential problems before failure happens.  

If you have questions about ways to extend your battery life, ask a verified auto mechanic on JustAnswer and get quick, trustworthy information about batteries, battery life, and how you can get the best out of your battery.  

Ways to save money on car battery replacements 

New car batteries can be expensive, particularly when you’re on a budget. In a perfect world, you could recharge your current car battery and keep using it. But in the event of a car battery failure, car battery replacement might be necessary.  

Much like cell phones, vacuums, and radio equipment, refurbished car batteries can be purchased at a lower price than new batteries. A refurbished car battery might have a slightly shorter lifespan than a new battery, but it can also be significantly cheaper than a new car battery. The advantages of using a refurbished automobile battery are numerous.  

  • They are less expensive than completely new car batteries. A refurbished battery can be purchased for less than half the cost of a brand-new one. 

  • They are environmentally healthy since fewer used batteries are dumped in landfills. 

  • Refurbished automobile batteries can be purchased in a variety of offline and online locations. Finding one that meets your needs is simple. 

  • Refurbished car and truck batteries can function just as well as new car batteries if they are skillfully reconditioned and well-maintained. 

You can also save money by selling the old, used-up core of your lifeless battery. Many car parts stores will accept them as a trade-in for your new battery. They will give you a credit toward the cost of your new one if you present the old battery core at the time of your purchase.  

Aside from that, you can also get money for your old battery by taking it to: 

  • Scrap yards:  Scrap yards typically harvest the lead from old batteries and then sell it. Each battery has about twenty-one pounds of lead in its core. The rate you’d be paid depends on the fair-market cost of lead at the time of the sale. You can inquire at the scrap yard if you’d like to find out what your battery is worth.  

  • Metal recycling centers near you: Metal recycling centers usually concentrate on metals like aluminum cans, copper from HVAC units, and metals harvested from old refrigerators and freezers. They might buy your old battery for the same reason the scrap yard would, which is to harvest the lead.  

Another way to save money on car battery replacements is to keep your receipts when you buy a new car battery. This helps you take advantage of the car battery warranty if your battery fails before its warranty date. Most car batteries have an intended lifespan of three years. The warranty period may be less than that, but if your battery fails within that window, you can either return your battery for a refund or get a no-cost car battery replacement.  

A car battery’s lifespan can be increased with proper maintenance. To avoid excessive vibration, double-check that the battery is firmly connected to the battery tray. Verify the condition of the belts and alternator in the charging system. Periodically examine the terminals for tightness and corrosion accumulation if the battery is visible. While the terminals should be snug, avoid overtightening them. 

If your vehicle doesn’t automatically turn off interior and exterior lights when the engine is turned off, make sure to double-check them before you pull into a parking space. A battery tender or charger can extend the life of your battery and keep it from running out of juice if you leave your car parked for an extended period or don’t use it frequently. 


You’ll eventually have to deal with a dead or weak battery unless you buy a new car every two years. The key is to keep an eye on an older car battery and replace it before it leaves you stranded. When the time does come to replace it, compare prices on warranties that are appropriate for your automobile and the length of time you intend to retain it. 

By keeping a diligent eye on the health of your automobile battery, you may be able to avoid having your car leave you stranded at the end of a long workday. No one likes to call in late to work because their car makes a clicking noise when the ignition is engaged. The “dog ate my homework” excuse is much more acceptable than the “my car wouldn’t start” excuse, particularly if that no-start is potentially avoidable.  

When in doubt, a verified JustAnswer mechanic is just a click away. Ask anything about how you can extend the life of your battery, save money on replacement batteries, and more in a private chat. Mechanics are available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  

Understanding the basics of car battery life 

A car battery’s primary purpose is to change chemical energy into electrical energy when you turn the key. Nowadays, car batteries are typically powered by 12-volt lead-acid batteries. Although there are a few differences between brands, the fundamentals are the same. A car battery is essentially a series of cells, specifically six cells that produce 2.1 volts. Each cell consists of two lead plate types (lead and lead dioxide) interconnected crosswise from one similar plate to the next and submerged in a sulfuric acid solution to generate two poles—one positive and one negative. 

An electrical charge is created when they are linked together in a circuit by a chemical reaction that transports electrons across the plates. As electrons go from one plate to another, the battery is depleted. Nevertheless, it is possible to recharge it by returning the electrons to the first plate. However, with time, the chemical reactants will be exhausted, and it won’t be possible to generate adequate voltage for automotive requirements. At the point of exhaustion, you will need a car battery replacement. 

Keep in mind that a car battery’s typical lifespan is affected by a wide range of factors, but even in ideal circumstances, the battery’s chemical composition will eventually deteriorate. The ambient temperature and driving practices are the main factors affecting a battery’s lifespan.  

Whatever replacement battery you decide on, it’s crucial to monitor your car battery’s condition and be aware of when the battery needs to be tested or changed. Even though you might not notice any symptoms, a battery test and regular maintenance at a car repair shop or auto parts store are crucial for avoiding abrupt failure. Whether you choose to change your battery every three years or let it last up to five years or longer, pay close attention to how powerful it is and how well it holds a charge. This will lessen your chance of getting stranded and keep your car ready for use. 


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