Save thousands on vehicle repairs with Endurance.
Get a FREE Quote

Unleashing Power: Everything You Need to Know About Car Batteries

BY: Andrew Giorgi
Car mechanic is using a multimeter with voltage range measurement to check the voltage level of the car battery

When the average driver thinks about the most important components of their car, they likely think about the engine, the wheels, or maybe something more specific, such as the alternator. However, there is one automotive part that is often overlooked until it actually dies on you: a car battery.

Having a dead battery in your vehicle will essentially make it a giant paperweight, as the battery is responsible for starting the entire electrical system, which is required to get your car going. Learn everything you need to know about car batteries, including how to choose a new one, so that you can get back on the road as soon as possible.

Car Batteries 101: How Do They Work?

Before learning how to choose the right type of battery for your vehicle and how to maintain it, it’s important first to go over how a car battery works to drill into its importance. When you either turn your key in the ignition or click the “touch to start” button in your vehicle, the process begins.

A traditional battery has a number of lead plates sitting between other types of metallic plates, all submerged in an electrolyte solution that is partially made up of an acidic solution. Depending on the type of battery you have, beginning the ignition process triggers a reaction within the battery that causes the starter relay to close contact with the battery by activating the electrolyte solution.

When these contacts close, an electrical current is generated that sends voltage to the starter motor, which turns the initial gears that get your vehicle going. Once the engine gets going, the alternator takes over and generates the power your vehicle needs while also keeping your battery charged.

The Common Types of Car Batteries

Believe it or not, there is more than one type of car battery used in vehicles. Each of these different types has varying cold-cranking amps (power generated per 30 seconds even at low temperatures) along with long-term performance. By learning which type you have in your vehicle, you can better determine when replacement may be necessary:

Gel Cell Battery

A gel cell battery uses sulfuric acid mixed with fumed silica to create a gel-like substance that stays immobile. This means that there is a lower chance of spilling within the battery, which theoretically makes it more stable and means the battery doesn’t need to be upright. This type of battery tends to have an increased cycle life, but the actual amount of power that can be stored is lower.

Standard Wet Cell Battery

This type of new battery or old battery is the standard type of battery that is seen on vehicles, which was described above. This is a six-cell battery that can hold around 2 volts per cell, meaning that 12 volts in total can be stored within the battery.

Silver Calcium Battery

Finally, the silver calcium battery is one that was designed to be more efficient than a standard wet cell battery by using lead-calcium silver plates instead of lead-antimony plates as in a standard battery. Generally, this battery is sealed and lasts longer, as well as being resistant to higher temperatures, than a standard battery.

Maintaining Car Batteries: What You Need to Know

Regardless of the type of car battery you have, there are a few ways to maintain your battery so that it lasts longer over time. By learning how to care for your battery properly, you can increase the vehicle’s battery power and avoid finding yourself in a situation where breaking out the jumper cables is necessary. Utilize the following tips:

  • Change the battery every four years: The majority of car batteries have an estimated lifespan of four to five years, so choosing to change it on the sooner end of that spectrum is a smart idea so that the battery doesn’t die at an inconvenient time.
  • Test your battery annually: Depending on the car battery you have, the voltage, when tested, should fall between 12.6 and 14.4 volts. When at rest, the voltage should be closer to 12.6, and when running, it should jumpstart to 14.4 as a maximum. Anything outside of this range should be considered abnormal.
  • Drive your car regularly: Those who have an older vehicle that they keep in their garage for nostalgia rather than as a daily driver need to take their vehicle out at least once a month. The chemical energy generator by your battery will deteriorate quicker if it is never run, which is why even a small drive around the block can help.
  • Keep your battery warm: Climates play a major role in the longevity of a battery, with cold weather being detrimental to battery health over time. Do your best to keep your vehicle battery out of freezing weather, even if this means disconnecting the battery and storing it somewhere warm if you know it won’t be used daily.

7 Signs of a Failing Car Battery

While maintaining your vehicle battery is of the utmost importance, any car battery can fail over time for a variety of reasons. That’s why learning how to spot the signs that your car battery is about to fail is crucial, as this can help you avoid being stuck somewhere with a dead battery. Keep an eye out for some of the following key signs:

  1. Your headlights seem to dim or flicker at night for no apparent reason
  2. There are odd clicking noises when you attempt to start your vehicle
  3. The engine backfires when you try to start your vehicle
  4. You smell something odd every time you try to start your vehicle
  5. You notice corrosion on your vehicle when you open the hood
  6. The battery voltage is abnormal when you test it
  7. You notice the check engine light come on with any of the above signs

How to Choose a New Car Battery

Battery replacement is something that gives many drivers a headache, though it doesn’t need to be a complicated process. So long as you know where to start, choosing a car battery can be a relatively simple task. First and foremost, make sure your current battery is actually dead by testing its voltage, as there may be no need to buy a new battery in the first place if your vehicle’s problems stem from something else.

Assuming it is indeed dead, refer to your owner’s manual to see if a certain type of battery, such as lithium-ion batteries, is required in your vehicle. The manual will also tell you the specific size battery your vehicle requires. With these factors at the top of your mind, look at the cold-cranking amps and reserve capacity of different batteries that fit your specifications. Ideally, car batteries last four to five years, so finding a battery with the maximum of the prior two factors is crucial. Consider the cost of the battery along with any warranty offered on that battery as well prior to purchasing.

How to Replace a Car Battery

Replacing a car battery shouldn’t require a visit to the mechanic’s shop unless your vehicle is uniquely designed with the battery in a difficult-to-reach spot. For the most part, the steps to replace a battery are as follows:

  1. Put your vehicle in park, turn it off, and open up the hood
  2. Locate the battery, typically a little black box, and identify the positive (red cover) and negative (black cover) terminals
  3. Use a socket wrench to remove the negative terminal first, then remove the positive terminal
  4. Loosen any clamps holding the battery in place and gently lift it out of the vehicle
  5. Clean any corrosion off of the terminal connectors
  6. Gently place the new battery into the slot and remove the red and black covers from the connectors
  7. Connect the positive terminal first, followed by the negative terminal
  8. Secure any clamps to the battery

Protection for Your Battery with Endurance

Finding that your battery life has been drained and you are left with a dead battery can be a frustrating experience. Fortunately, having the right extended warranty contract tied to your vehicle can help. The Endurance Warranty Advantage contact, offering three sub-options of Prime, Plus, and Preferred, can help with this issue by offering a bonus of $3,500 in regular covered maintenance protection. One such benefit is the one-time covered replacement of a car battery, which can come in handy when you find yourself stranded in an unknown area with an unexpected dead battery.

Keeping Your Vehicle Safe on the Road

While the battery is undoubtedly one of the most important parts under the hood of your vehicle, it is not the only part. Endurance Auto Warranty offers numerous additional warranty packages which can help to protect your vehicle.

In addition to the Advantage plan, Endurance also offers plans ranging from a basic stated coverage plan, Secure Plus, which is designed for older vehicles, all the way to the Supreme plan, offering coverage that is near bumper-to-bumper. Standard perks for all customers include 24/7 roadside assistance, towing, and lockout services.

In addition, all new Endurance Warranty contracts come with Elite Benefits for a small activation fee, which provides bonuses such as up to $1,000 in total loss protection, up to $500 in collision discount coverage, and more.

To learn more about how Endurance can protect your vehicle, call our award-winning customer service team at (800) 253-8203 to request a FREE quote. You can also shop online to see your price now.

More like this

Get started with a FREE quote.

        Get a FREE Quote