In today’s economy, incurring automotive maintenance fees can be a real nightmare! You can certainly save yourself a lot of money and grief by understanding your vehicle, how it runs, and the problems to avoid. One item of knowledge that is very valuable concerns your car battery. Heck, no one wants to turn on their car only to hear the dreaded clicking sound of an engine that refuses to turn over!!
When you switch on your vehicle’s ignition via key or push-start, it signals the car battery to start a lead-acid chemical reaction. This delivers a short burst of electrical energy that enables the starter motor to crank the engine.
The amount of electric potential in your car’s battery is called voltage and most vehicles use a 12-volt battery. Even a small decrease in the voltage will have a big effect on your battery’s performance.
Once the engine is running, the vehicle’s charging system takes over. At the heart of this charging system is the alternator, which maintains the battery’s charge. When a battery dies, it means its voltage has been depleted and is not being recharged.
One of the most common repairs for mechanics is charging a dead battery. Even though this is considered a standard repair, it’s best to inform yourself about what is involved and the best deals. The more knowledge you have, the more you can save!
First, what are the different car battery types? It helps to understand the various types so you’ll know what they can do and what they can’t do. Batteries come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and configurations.
Wet Cell (or Flooded) Batteries
These batteries carry liquid – usually a combination of lead, sulfuric acid, and water. This liquid is referred to as the battery’s “electrolyte”
Wet Cell batteries are usually more affordable than dry cell batteries. Although more affordable, they are less convenient and less reliable than Valve Regulated Lead Acid (VRLAs) batteries. VRLAs are also referred to as “Sealed Lead Acid Batteries” (SLAs). Wet cell batteries need regular maintenance to replace lost electrolytes.
Starting, Lighting, and Ignition Batteries
If you own a vehicle, chances are, it operates with a Starting, Lighting, and Ignition (SLI) battery. SLI batteries power cars, lights, radios, and ignition.
SLI batteries have something called a “shallow charge cycle”. A charge cycle is the time it takes the battery to charge after draining its energy source.
Deep Cycle Batteries
Deep cycle batteries, on the other hand, provide sustained power to vehicles. They can run low on charge many times without suffering any damage.
These batteries provide energy to the auto’s electrical components while the engine is off. But deep cycle batteries do not have the strength to deliver electricity to large engines.
This type of energy works well with water vehicles, small recreational vehicles, and golf carts.
Valve-Regulated Lead-Acid Batteries
VRLA batteries are low-maintenance and don’t need water added to the battery cells. They don’t spill if tipped over or inverted. Because of their low maintenance, however, in most cases, these batteries cannot be serviced. They must be replaced instead.
The Valve Regulated Lead Acid (VRLA) Battery is a type of rechargeable battery. They are also commonly known as sealed batteries or maintenance-free batteries. There are two car VRLA batteries: Absorption Glass Mat (AGM) batteries and Gel Cell batteries.
Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM)
AGMs are the newest trend in car batteries. Mats of glass contain electrolytes instead of free-floating electrolytes around the battery. They deliver a higher burst of energy in a shorter time than other car battery types. They accomplish this with the fast reaction between electrolytes and the fiberglass surface melt. One advantage of AGMs is that they’re lighter than lead batteries. Because of their weight and design, you can install them in places other than under the hood.
AGMs can maintain a charge during long periods of disuse and degrade very slowly. Because of their lightweight design, they are also more expensive. AGMS are costly, but you can expect a long life from this type of battery.
Gel Cell Batteries
Gel cells have a sophisticated valve design that prevents electrolytes from spilling. They are much harder to jostle or disrupt than other car battery types. In addition, they are stable at extreme temperatures and can be used in dangerous conditions. They are also less expensive.
By the way, all car batteries have temperature limits, so you need to make sure to check the temperature rating for any battery you buy.
CAR BATTERY GROUPS
Car battery types have three distinct groups that are classified by the position of their terminal posts.
If you plan to replace your car battery, you should consider keeping the same configuration. Maintaining the same configuration ensures a tight fit and sturdy connection.
Side Post Batteries
On side-post batteries, the side-bolted posts leave the top of the battery smooth. General Motors has used side post batteries for many years. Some people love them; some people hate them.
Side post batteries were designed to reduce corrosion but connecting a set of jumper cables can prove clunky and awkward. For this reason, many people exchange their side-post battery for a top-post battery.
Standard Top Post Batteries
Standard top post batteries are self-explanatory as they are the auto industry standard. When you open your car hood, chances are, you’ll see a top post-type battery. The positive and negative terminals stick out from the top and usually have little plastic covers on them. People like them because it is easier to make a connection if you need to “jump start” them.
You can find top post batteries in nearly all Japanese cars, as well as other imported vehicles as well as American cars, trucks, and SUVs.
How to Find the Right Battery For Your Car
As we have shown, not all car batteries were created equal. Some vehicles, such as diesel, need a specific heavy-duty battery. A smart way to find the right battery for your car is to check the online Auto Battery Finder, key in your car’s details, and it will give you the correct battery that will fit.
You can also call Alpha Omega Tire and Auto Services at 346-413-0967 and speak with one of our helpful repair advisors. They will let you know the best battery for your specific situation.
There are five important considerations when choosing the right battery:
- Battery Type: A lead-acid battery or absorbed glass mat (AGM) battery is OK for most modern gas-powered vehicles. These aren’t suitable for electric or hybrid vehicles which use a nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) or lithium-ion battery.
- Battery Group Size: Since batteries are grouped into various sizes, you need to know your old battery’s group size. This will ensure that it will fit your battery case and that the terminals are in the right position. You will see the group size on a label located on your old battery. It is a 2-digit number usually followed by a letter. If you can’t find it, take a picture of your old battery and bring it to the Alpha Omega Tire & Auto shop and we will help you.
- Brand: It’s best if you choose the brand of battery that your car manufacturer recommends – but it’s not completely necessary. If you do go with a different brand, just make sure it matches the specs shown in your vehicle’s owner’s manual.
- Age: Even when batteries aren’t being used, they begin to deteriorate since they have a finite lifespan. The average lifespan of a car battery is from three to six years. Even if it is left unused, the chemical changes that occur will eventually render it useless. For this reason, you’ll want to buy a battery within six months of its date of manufacture.
- Cold-Cranking Amps: Cold Cranking Amps or CCA is a measure of how much energy your battery can provide for 30 seconds at a certain temperature. The higher the number, the better your battery will perform in cold weather (something we have to think about around here more and more!).
Factors That Can Shorten Battery Life
Some of the most common reasons batteries go dead are as follows:
- Headlights or interior lights left on
- Charging system failure
- Exposure to extreme temperatures
- Parasitic drain (when electricity is draining even when the vehicle is off)
- Corroded or loose battery terminal connections
- The battery is old or in poor condition
- Leaving your car parked for an extended amount of time
Signs Your Car Battery Is Weak Or Dead
A simple way to see if your battery is dying is by turning on the windshield wipers. If they are operating slower than usual, your battery is probably on its way out. Or check your exterior lights and dome light. They might appear dimmer than usual if your battery is flat, or they may not work at all. Other signs can include:
- Your engine cranks but doesn’t start
- Your engine cranks slowly
- You have no lights/dim lights
- Your radio doesn’t work
Problems You May Have That Are NOT Your Battery
Worn Starter Motor
When you turn the ignition key or press the start button, the starter motor receives an electrical signal from the battery and it spins the starter motor, engaging the crankshaft which in turn, starts the engine.
A faulty or dead starter motor can be diagnosed by hearing either a continuous or single ‘clicking noise’ when you attempt to start your vehicle. You might also hear this sound if the battery is not quite dead but just not strong enough to engage the starter motor.
Out Of Gas
This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people are just out of gas and don’t realize it. We have seen cars with broken gas gages leading the car owner to think they still have gas. It happens!
Faulty Ignition Switch
If you are positive that the problem isn’t your car battery, the ignition switch might be to blame. This is probably the case if your headlights turn on as normal, but your car still won’t start.
Faulty Fuel Pump
A faulty fuel pump is fairly easy to diagnose. When you start your car, you will hear a faint buzzing sound when you turn the key but before the engine cranks over. It usually comes from the rear of the vehicle and sounds like an electric motor. This sound means that the fuel system is being primed in preparation for the engine to start.
Blocked Fuel Filter
A blocked fuel filter will stop gas from reaching the engine. The fuel filter should be changed an average of every 30,000 miles to prevent this from occurring.
Faulty Charging System
When the charging system fails, the battery keeps losing voltage without being recharged. This will cause the lights to get dimmer as you drive or vary in brightness when you accelerate and brake. In that case, get your car to a trustworthy auto repair shop such as Alpha Omega Tire and Auto in North Houston.
Get Help From A Mobile Mechanic
If you’ve attempted a jumpstart and your car still won’t start, it’s likely the fault of something other than your battery. However, if you have successfully jumpstarted your vehicle, it’s almost certainly either the battery, charging system, or electrical system that’s causing the problem. At that point, you should probably have a mechanic check your vehicle and find out what issues you are experiencing, so they don’t keep occurring.
Look online for a great mechanic at https://alphaomegatireandauto.com/ or give us a call at Alpha Omega Tire and Auto Services at 346-413-0967. We will do everything we can to give you the best customer service possible and make sure you love your car again.