The day your car won’t start is not the best time to buy a new car battery. But according to our research, that’s exactly what most people do.
During the life of your vehicle, you may need to replace your car battery once or twice as it deteriorates or wears out from exposure to heat and repeated charging and discharging. A dead battery can be a real nuisance, especially if you can’t find a jumper cable or have to wait for roadside assistance.
Taking good care of your battery will help maximize its life, and noting its condition and aging time can indicate when to start buying replacement parts … before you break down.
Paying attention to battery maintenance and noticing when replacement time is near will ensure that you have the option to replace it on your terms, including proper research and easy scheduling.
Test the battery annually
Inspections should be part of a car owner’s maintenance routine, but it’s especially important to do them before long trips.
According to AAA, car batteries typically last three to five years, ranging from 58 months or more in the northernmost part of the United States to less than 41 months in the southernmost part.
Although almost all car batteries today are “maintenance free”, we recommend that you have your battery load tested by a mechanic once a year (if you live in a warm climate) or 4 years (if you live in a cold climate). Doing so will test its ability to hold voltage while in use and the results will let you know when to start buying a new battery.
The age of the battery is also a strong indicator that it is time to consider a replacement. The date can be found on a label affixed to the top or side of the battery. batteries manufactured in October 2021 have a numeric code of 10/21, or an alphanumeric code of K-1. “A” is for January, “B” is for February, and so on (the letter “I” is skipped).
If you don’t want to go through all this trouble, you can buy a very simple battery testing device called BT60, which you can connect to both ends of the battery and observe the battery level and status every day. It is a very convenient and excellent tool to avoid big trouble.
Batteries should fit your car and driving needs
Car batteries come in a variety of sizes. Of those we have tested, the best performers vary greatly from year to year and from size to size. This makes it impossible to make simple recommendations by make or model. It also means that you should not assume that you will get the same results by buying the same model of battery as the one you are replacing.
Make sure to get the correct size and terminal location (or type) for your vehicle. Check your owner’s manual or in-store fitment guide before shopping.
In some cases, owners can replace the AGM battery with a conventional submerged battery to extend the life in hot climates, but it is best to consult a mechanic first. Many vehicles are equipped with AGMs to support a growing number of electrical components, and charging systems may be configured specifically for AGM batteries.
Make sure it's a new battery
Batteries lose strength over time, even when stored. For best performance, buy one that has been in use for less than 6 months. Three months is even better. In most cases, there is a shipping code. Some use letters for the month (“A” for January) and numbers for the year (“1” for 2021); others use numeric dates.
Recycling Old Batteries
The toxic lead and acid in batteries are easy to recycle, and most retailers will dispose of your old batteries for you. You may have to pay an additional fee when you buy a new battery in the store, which will be refunded when you return your old battery.
It’s important to choose the battery with the longest free replacement period. Battery warranties are measured by two numbers: the free replacement period and a prorated period – which allows only partial reimbursement. For example, the code 24/84 indicates a 24-month free replacement period and an 84-month prorated warranty. However, once you are in a prorated period, the amount of reimbursement you will receive usually drops quickly.
Please note that signs of neglect (such as low water levels and improper installation) may void the warranty. This can also be the case if the battery is not recommended for heavy-duty applications such as high-end car audio and marine applications.