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The Way What of Automotive Batteries

Why is it that car batteries fail at the worst possible time? Of course, there’s no good time, but batteries tend to fail at the extremes of temperature.  The first really cold morning in winter kills many marginal batteries, often with no warning. Even worse, the summer heat combined with high underhood temperatures in late model cars create the perfect storm of conditions no lead acid battery can withstand for long.

With all the wonderful technological advances in cars, why are we still using lead acid batteries in our vehicles? There has been some innovation, but fundamentally the lead acid battery works just about the same as when it was conceived in the 1860’s. The short answer is that lead acid batteries are cheap, and work well for 4 or 5 years. When the puzzle of energy storage is finally solved it will be a monumental step forward, but right now lead acid batteries get the nod by all new car manufacturers.

Since we’re stuck with lead acid batteries for the foreseeable future it makes sense to maximize battery life, and avoid being ambushed when inevitably the battery fails. Automotive lead acid batteries on average last about 5 years. Average car ownership is about 6.5 years, meaning most car owners experience battery failure.

It’s best to think of batteries as consumables, like brake pads, spark plugs, and other traditional maintenance items. Most mechanics in Morrisville, PA that perform car repairs recommend replacing the battery before complete failure, and not just to prevent breakdowns. A weak battery can cause damage to expensive charging and starting system components such as starters and alternators. As the battery slowly loses its ability to reach a fully charged state, the alternator is forced to work at a 100% duty cycle, far above its design capacity. This creates heat, and heat is the enemy. The starter fares even worse, low available amperage causes low starter RPM, which in turn causes starter motor windings to overheat and fail.

In our opinion, new car manufacturers have done a disservice to their customers by not including batteries in maintenance schedules. They do recommend testing the battery, perhaps when your vehicle is in for your PA auto inspection in Morrisville, PA, but the likelihood of catching a battery failure as it’s happening is remote. The answer to why batteries are not included comes down to manufacturers need to keep scheduled maintenance costs down. Projected maintenance cost is used as a sales tool, effectively preventing inclusion of expensive items like batteries and tires. No one should wait for tires to fail, and similarly, no one should wait for batteries to fail. You’re going to have to replace the battery sooner or later anyway, why wait until it leaves you stranded, and possibly causes damage?