When was the last time you thought about your car’s battery? If you’re like most people, as long as the car starts and runs normally, there is nothing to worry about. So how long do car batteries last? Well, I can tell you honestly that it is not forever.
This is especially true if you have an Electric Vehicle (EV) Hybrid that contains a combination of different types of batteries. This article will provide you with information about the different types of battery technology and how to identify and prevent potential problems.
What is a car battery?
Simply put, a battery stores electrical energy that is later used to provide power to a device. In cars, that can range from simply starting the gas engine and powering auxiliary devices to powering the electric motors used for propulsion.
There are basically 2 types of batteries that are used in cars today, lead-acid and lithium-ion. If your car is all-electric or a gas-electric Hybrid, it would use lithium-ion batteries for propulsion and lead-acid for auxiliary devices. If your car uses a conventional gas engine, then it would only have a lead-acid battery.
Car battery health
Cars designed and built over the last few years include a lot of sensors that monitor every system in the car. This is especially true with EV hybrids because of the dependency on the batteries for propulsion. But even with all of the sophisticated monitoring, some problems can still slip through undetected. For this reason, car manufacturers recommend a regular maintenance schedule to check the health of the batteries periodically.
How long do car batteries last?
Each type of battery has a different life span based on the job it is required to perform in the car. Here is a breakdown of the useful life for car batteries:
How long do car batteries last?
- A lead-acid battery used in a conventional gas engine car will last about 3 to 4 years
How long do hybrid car batteries last?
- A lead-acid battery used for auxiliary devices in a Hybrid car may last about 5 to 6 years
- The lithium-ion batteries used for Hybrid car propulsion will last about 8 to 10 years
How long do electric car batteries last?
- A lead-acid battery used for auxiliary devices in an electric car may last about 5 to 6 years
- The lithium-ion batteries used for electric car propulsion will last about 8 to 10 years
How do I know if my car battery has expired?
Symptoms when you need to change your car battery
For a lead-acid battery the symptoms of potential failure include the following:
- Engine turns over slowly
- The Check Engine Light comes on
- The battery is more than 3 years old
- One or more of your car’s accessories do not function properly (radio is at the top of the list)
For lithium-ion batteries the symptoms of a potential failure include the following:
- Batteries are not holding a charge or they discharge much faster than normal
- It takes longer to charge the batteries than when they were new
- Degraded performance of your car in extreme temperatures
- Dashboard light indicating a fault was detected in one of the battery packs
For lead-acid batteries, the conventional method for diagnosing problems include the use of a multimeter to measure voltage. If you can gain access to the battery, here are a few things that you can do to identify a problem:
- The measured voltage is lower than 12Volts
- The fluid level in one or more battery cells is low
- The battery case looks bloated
- There is a leak in the battery
For lithium-ion batteries, the way to diagnose potential problems is by using temperature as your guide. Here are the top ways to identify an issue:
- You notice excessive heat radiating from the area where the battery pack is located
- The cabin temperature is hotter than normal
Tips to maintain car battery, car battery scheduled maintenance?
For lead-acid batteries here are a few suggestions for ensuring that the battery is well maintained:
- Watch for and take immediate action if you observe any of the symptoms
- If your battery is more than 3 years old, proactively check for any of the warning signs listed in the diagnosis section
For lithium-ion batteries here are a few suggestions for ensuring that the batteries are well maintained:
- Do not charge your battery to 100% and then let it sit for a long period of time
Generally, charging to 100% is very stressful on these type of batteries. The rule of thumb is that if you do not need a 100% charge then don’t do it. Most batteries do best when they operate in the 30% to 90% charge range.
- Never deep discharge the battery
This is almost as bad as charging the battery to 100% because again, the battery does best in the 30% to 90% charge range. Leaving the battery charged below 30% for a long period of time may harm it in the long run.
- Be wary of extreme temperature conditions
Keep in mind that heat is the enemy of these type of batteries. Performance of the battery will be impacted by extreme weather conditions.
- Plan ahead for extended storage
If you are planning to leave your car for an extended period of time then set the charger at 50% and you should be good to go.
- Periodically “fully charge” and balance your batteries
Balancing will maximize your batteries capacity and even out the distribution of charge across all battery packs. Most modern systems include a balancing feature but it does not hurt to also perform your own balancing. About every 3 months, fully charge the batteries to 100% then immediately take the car out for a drive. Remember that it is not a good idea to ever leave the car fully charged for a period of time (rule #1).
If you notice any of the potential failure symptoms associated with your batteries, you need to take action immediately. In most cases, a battery will not fail all at once although this is not true in every case.
If you observe symptoms of an imminent failure, then you will usually have some time to react. If you ignore the symptoms then you may, at best, get stranded or worse, you could experience a complete meltdown of your EV.
It is always a good idea to periodically have your batteries checked by an experienced service technician. Remember, when it comes to car batteries (lead or lithium), an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so don’t ignore the warning signs.
Bonus: How to Change a Car Battery