What Causes Vehicle Battery Failure?
Car batteries often die with little to no warning. One day they seem to work fine, holding a charge and powering all of your car’s electronics. Then suddenly, they fail, and your car won’t start. It can be extremely frustrating, especially if a dead battery leaves you stranded. If you’ve experienced a dead battery, you may have wondered what caused it to die.
There are a lot of things that can kill a battery, but generally, those problems fall into the following categories:
- Cold Weather
- Time / Age of Battery
- Corrosion / Lack of Maintenance
- Electronic Drain
- Acid Stratification
Let’s look at each of these problems and discuss what you can do to help extend your battery’s life.
Cold weather is extremely hard on batteries and is the most common reason why cars won’t start in the winter. Additionally, most batteries seem to fail in the winter because of the added stress from the cold. As the weather gets colder, the battery gets less efficient, and the available amperage to start your car drops by 30 to 50 percent. Meanwhile, your car gets harder to turn over, as the engine oil thickens at lower temperatures.
You can’t do anything about the weather (except move to a warmer part of the country.) But if you can park in a garage, the temperature difference is enough to preserve your battery. Testing your battery in the fall before the weather turns cold is also a good idea. If the battery is out of warranty or the test shows it is in marginal or poor condition, you should replace it before winter.
Old Batteries Lose Their Performance
Time is the second most common cause of battery failure. Most car batteries last three to five years, but extremely hot or cold weather shortens their lifespan. However, no matter what you do, your car battery will eventually wear out and must be replaced.
In addition to the age of the battery, lack of use can also shorten the battery’s life. If your car sits for long periods, investing in a battery charger, also known as a battery tender or “trickle” charger, will help keep your battery in peak condition.
Corrosion And Lack Of Maintenance
If you’ve ever opened the hood of your car and noticed your battery terminals are covered in a bluish-white crusty substance, then your battery terminals are corroded. As a result, your battery is not getting a full charge and has to work harder to power your car’s electrical systems, which shortens its life. The best thing to do is clean the terminals with a battery brush and spray them with a corrosion inhibitor.
In addition to cleaning corroded battery terminals, it’s important to keep your battery maintained by ensuring it’s clean and the battery cables are tightly connected. It’s also important to ensure the battery is properly secured, so it isn’t subjected to excessive vibrations while the car is in motion.
Finally, while most batteries are sealed, maintenance-free batteries, some types of batteries occasionally need to be topped off with distilled water. If your battery is not maintenance-free, it should be checked once or twice a year and topped off as needed.
Electronic And Parasitic Drains
As car electrical systems get more sophisticated, it’s more likely something will put a slow drain on the battery. These slow drains or parasitic drains may not be noticeable if you drive your car regularly. But let it sit for a week or more, and you may find a dead battery or have difficulty starting your car. The solution comes down to one of three things:
- Drive your car more frequently to keep the battery charged.
- Invest in a battery tender.
- Use a multimeter to track down the source of the drain, or have a mechanic check your car’s electrical systems.
Another common cause of battery failure is acid stratification, which occurs when the battery’s electrolytes settle to the bottom. This problem occurs when batteries are never fully charged and spend most of their time below 80 percent of their charge capacity. The most common conditions that prevent a battery from being fully charged include driving short distances or running accessories like the lights or stereo for long periods with the car turned off.
GMB Offers Batteries You Can Trust
If you need a new battery for your car, truck, or SUV, GMB has you covered. We carry the highest quality maintenance-free AGM (absorbent glass mat) batteries that are designed for the demands of modern vehicles. Like all of the products we carry, you can trust GMB because:
- We have been an industry-leading OEM and aftermarket automotive parts manufacturer since 1943.
- We have locations on the east and west coasts in the US and global locations in Asia and Europe.
- We believe your success is our future which is why we offer the products and support you need.
If you have any questions about our batteries or any of our products, please get in touch with us.
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