The car battery – also known as the starter battery – provides the electricity required to start the internal combustion engine in a motor vehicle. While driving, the car battery is continuously charged by the alternator and, as a storage medium, ensures a permanent and even supply of the existing electrical consumers.
Why do many car batteries strike in winter of all time?
A car battery can develop its optimum performance at a temperature between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius. However, the lower the outside temperature, the lower the charging and supply capacity of the battery. At minus 18 degrees Celsius, a car battery only has about half of its normal output. However, the full energy of the starter battery is urgently required, especially when it is very cold, as the higher viscosity of the engine oil makes the starting process much more difficult. If the battery is of advanced age and if it has not been properly maintained, its death is usually inevitable.
It is therefore important to maintain and care for car batteries regularly. The fluid level of conventional batteries should be checked regularly, especially in winter. If the water level has dropped below the target mark, it must be refilled. Distilled water must be used for this, otherwise there is a risk that deposits will form inside the battery. It is also important to ensure that the alternator and regulator are working properly. If this is not the case, the battery-internal process of electrolyte splitting is accelerated, which shortens the service life of the battery.
However, technical progress has not stopped at car batteries. In recent years, maintenance-free car batteries have increasingly conquered the market.
These represent a self-contained system in which the decomposition of the electrolytes into hydrogen and oxygen takes place extremely slowly, which results in correspondingly long battery life. Such accumulators can not be opened in a non-destructive manner, but refilling with water is also not necessary with this type of battery.
The charging voltage of the battery must also be checked continuously; this applies to both conventional and maintenance-free accumulators. The regular voltage during the charging process is between 13.8 and 14.4 volts, values above or below are harmful to the battery. If the charging voltage is too high, even maintenance-free batteries quickly lose water. This leads to a drastic drop in the charging voltage, as a result of which the capacity of the battery is irretrievably lost within a short time.
If the voltage is below the minimum of 13.8 volts, the car battery may not be fully charged by the alternator. This means that less energy is available for the start process. If this undersupply lasts for a long time, the performance of the battery is permanently impaired.
Properly charging a car battery
Checkout our review of Best Car Batteries.
If the starter battery is so discharged that the vehicle’s starter can no longer be started with it, it is possible to charge the battery with a charger specially developed for car batteries. The prerequisite, however, is that the battery is not too old and has been regularly serviced.
Proceed as follows:
- Disconnect the battery cables (negative and positive pole clamps) and remove the starter battery from the car.
- Connect the battery charger to the battery by connecting the positive terminal of the charger to the positive terminal of the battery and the ground terminal of the battery to the negative terminal of the charger.
- Set the charger to charging current (1/10 of the battery capacity) and switch it on.
- Now let the charger run until the battery is fully charged. Make sure that the room is well ventilated. If the battery heats up too much – over 55 degrees Celsius – the charging process must be interrupted until the battery has cooled down. As soon as the charging process is complete, the acid density of the battery should be measured using a hydrometer or refractometer after a waiting period of around two hours. If the water level is too low, add distilled water. The starter battery is then reinstalled in the car and the battery cables are connected.
Tips for a long battery life
Will your vehicle not used for a long period of time, you should definitely disconnect the battery. In this case, the connection of a so-called trickle charger ensures that the battery capacity is fully preserved, as the tool causes the starter battery to discharge completely and gently.
However, even when discharged, the battery should not be stored unused for several months, otherwise, there is a risk that the voltage will drop below the critical value of 11.8 volts and the battery will be damaged. If a storage period of several months cannot be avoided, it is advisable to fully charge the starter battery before discharging. If you use a quick charger for this, you should only charge 70% of the battery capacity with it.
This helps against early battery death
Today’s car batteries are sold as maintenance-free, but you can still start in a few places to prevent the important energy source from dying away prematurely. If you follow these tips, you’ll reduce the risk of grappling with a striking battery on a cold winter morning.
- Check-in good time A small inspection or a winter check in the workshop provides information about the voltage, current strength, and age of the battery. If the values differ significantly, replacing them is the right decision. In addition, the fluid level of the battery should be checked once a year and, if necessary, distilled water should be topped up.
- Lights on or off? Especially with older batteries and especially in winter, large power consumers such as the high beam, touchscreens, music system, or subwoofer should only be switched on when the engine is running. If your battery is still fresh, exactly the opposite helps: Switching on the high beam for a few minutes before starting the engine acts as a kind of warm-up phase for the battery, which slows down the aging process.
- Avoid short trips! According to the TÜV, journeys under 10 kilometers are a heavy burden on the car battery because it cannot be fully charged on short trips. In winter, in particular, many electricity consumers such as heated seats, heated windows, and other fans run at full speed. In addition, there is urban stop-and-go traffic with many traffic lights and engine idling. Together, these factors affect the performance and service life of the car battery. Here it helps to simply leave the car behind or to go on a longer excursion from time to time.
- Fight against corrosion Even batteries advertised as low-maintenance can get dirty. And a damp layer of dirt can lead to slow discharge. White spots on the polar caps are a sign of harmful oxidation. Cleaning the connections with an antistatic cloth helps here. Applying a grease-based anti-corrosion agent, also known as pole grease, can also increase the life of the car battery.
- If nothing works, Now is the worst-case scenario and the car just won’t start? First switch off all unnecessary power consumers such as lights, seat heating, or radio systems. If the engine does not start within the first 10 seconds, you should wait at least one minute until the next attempt to start – this will not overload the car battery. If then nothing happens, the only thing that can help is start-up help.
Check more about car batteries here.
How long does it take to charge a car battery?
That depends on the capacity of the battery and the maximum charging current of the charger. Usual maximum charging currents are, depending on the selling price of the charger, 5.7 or 10 A. The larger the battery, the higher the charging current should be. For example, charging an empty 100 Ah battery with a 7 A charger to 80 percent takes up to eleven hours.
How long does a car battery last?
A car battery is a consumable part. How long it lasts depends on two things:
- the quality of the battery itself
Experience has shown that car batteries from the original equipment of the car last longer than so-called after-market batteries. This is due to the fact that the quality demands of the
automobile manufacturers on the newly installed batteries are usually higher than on the very price-sensitive spare parts market.
The range for the cost of a new battery is very wide and depends on its
capacity, its technology, and ultimately also on its quality. For example, a good conventional 50 Ah lead-acid battery costs around 100 dollars and a good 100 Ah AGM battery around 260 dollars.