The humble car battery is the reliable workhorse of our automobile; quietly performing it’s power-generating duties, with little recognition. The car battery provides power to the starter, and in turn, the alternator gives the energy needed back to the battery to keep the car powered. Only upon its inevitable natural death of old age, does this little marvel receive any acknowledgement.
How does a car battery work?
Inside the battery, plates of lead, and plates of lead oxide are fixed in a water and sulfuric acid solution. The chemicals then produce electricity that may be transported to wires to turn on lights and start the ignition. The acid responds to the lead plates, which transmutes the lead oxide into lead sulfate. During a recharge of the battery, the chemical process undergoes a recto verso, or reverse in direction. The recharging effect transmutes the lead sulfate back to lead and lead oxide. These chemical reactions continue each time the battery is discharged and recharged.
Why do batteries die?
When the active material in the plates can no longer sustain a discharge current, a battery “dies”. Normally a car (or starting) battery “ages” as the active positive plate material sheds (or flakes off) due to the normal expansion and contraction that occurs during the discharge and charge cycles. A well maintained and properly charged deep cycle battery dies “naturally” due to positive grid corrosion causing an open connection failure.
Frequent short car journeys are a major factor for the early demise in a battery’s lifespan. It actually takes around 8 hours of continuous driving for the alternator to fully charge a modern car battery. A battery that is frequently fully charged will last longer than that of a constant semi-charged state. Constant partially charged car batteries often have half of the lifespan of a constantly fully charged battery.
How to extend battery life?
Batteries should be tested/inspected before cold and hot seasons (at least twice a year).
- Keep the battery terminals clean and inspect regularly (monthly) for corrosion.
- Start the car before operating car accessories and drive the car to allow the battery to get topped off by the car’s alternator, which produces electricity and, as a by-product, charges the car battery after voltage drops.
- Keep the battery secure and free from vibration. Batteries that shake can become damaged and short-circuited, or worse cause damage to your car.
- Insulate the battery from extreme temperature changes with a car battery insulation kit. These usually come with new cars already, however you can find replacements specifically made to fit your car’s battery compartment. The sleeves are usually plastic or an acid resistant/thermal resistant material that insulates your battery but still allows it to vent.
- Invest in a car battery charger that will maintain an optimum charge level when your car is not in use or when you go on vacation.
Suburban Autoworks, Inc. is a complete car care center in Doylestown, PA. As a full service automotive repair facility, Suburban Autoworks performs a full range of mechanical repairs, and preventive care, on all foreign and domestic cars and trucks.
General Service will prevent costly repairs in the future. Call us at 215-345-5211 to schedule an appointment or to discuss any questions regarding automotive maintenance or repair.