Your battery does a lot in the function of your car, especially as more and more features are added into our cars. The battery contains plates that interact with a mixture of chemicals that form an electrolytic solution, allowing electrons to flow between the plates. This reaction and the flow of electrons is essentially the electricity that powers your car. The battery provides the energy to start the engine, provides energy to the ignition system, powers electronics, and regulates voltage. With a dead battery or dying battery, it can’t provide power to start the car, the ignition, or your radio and GPS systems. So how do you know when it’s time to change it?
The rule of thumb is to change your battery about every four years under normal conditions. However, depending on where you live, your driving habits, the condition of your charging system, along with other factors, that lifespan may change.
For example, travel in rougher terrain might cause the plates in your battery to shake loose or become damaged.
On hot summer days, extreme heat shortens your battery life by speeding up the chemical reaction going on in your battery, while extreme cold can do the opposite. It slows down the reaction, prolonging battery life. Some batteries have an insulating sleeve to regulate extreme temperatures.
How and how much you drive also affects the battery’s chemical reaction. When you start your car, it receives a jolt of electricity to get things running, so the car’s charging system has to replenish and recharge the battery. But if you have a short commute or are taking lots of short, quick trips, the battery can’t get fully charged. If it continues to be undercharged, it can result in what’s called ‘acid stratification’, which is the acid and chemicals in the battery separating, causing corrosion, which makes your battery have to work harder than it is supposed to.
So, while it’s not a perfect measure, you’ll want to be on the lookout for symptoms of a dying battery around the four-year mark at latest.