How Does a Car Battery Work? Everything You Need to Know

Car Battery

As the fall weather rolls in, your car battery may be losing its zest for life. The dead of winter is inconveniently the peak online-search season for car batteries — just the time of year you don’t want to be stranded. There’s no better time than the present to have your vehicle’s battery tested (and potentially replaced); here’s all you need to know about your vehicle’s battery.

How Does a Car Battery Work? And Why Do They Fail in Cold Weather?

As noted in detail at, batteries rely on chemical reactions to supply the current. Colder weather slows down those reactions, and “as the batteries run down they quickly reach the point where they cannot deliver enough current to keep up with the demand.”
If you live in a place where temps routinely dip below freezing, consider keeping your daily driver in a garage, insulating your battery, or even installing a trickle charger to keep it warm, because, according to About, “Cold batteries discharge faster than warmer batteries.” Interestingly, though, if you’re just storing a battery, they advise, “It’s good practice to store unused batteries in a cool location,” and perhaps bring it to room temp before you install it and fire it up.

How Often Should You Test Your Car Battery?

If it sounds like your vehicle is straining to start, be sure to have your battery checked today.
Ideally, you should have your car’s battery checked every time you bring it in for routine maintenance, such as an oil change. Most shops will do it for free, so make a point to ask.
Also, if you’re passing one of AutoZone’s 5,000+ stores, stop in and ask the folks there to test your battery. They’ll do it for free.

How Often Should a Battery Be Replaced?

Car batteries tend to last about 3-5 years, and the main differentiator between battery brands is length of warranty, over quality. Have yours periodically tested to ensure your car battery doesn’t fail, stranding you in an inconvenient spot. If an automotive technician or service advisor is recommending you replace your battery, based solely on maintenance schedule, double check before approving it. Either look up your vehicle maintenance schedule online to confirm that’s indeed the case, or ask your tech to see the results of your battery’s test.

What Should You Do When You Have a Dead Battery?

If you’re faced with a dead battery, you’ve got some options –

1)    Call for Roadside Assistance.

If you’re alone and without jumper cables, this option is for you. Worth noting: Openbay offers on-demand roadside assistance, so be sure to check us out,  if it comes to that.

2)    Break out the jumper cables and get started.

Here’s a great, in-depth guide to jumping your vehicle. To summarize those points:

o   Pull working vehicle next to yours, so both batteries are within reach of your jumper cables.

o   Turn off both cars

o   Connect Red (positive) cable to dead car’s positive (+) terminal, then Red to the donor car’s positive terminal.

o   Conect Black (negative) clamp to battery’s negative terminal on donor car. Connect other black clamp to ground point on the donor car’s engine.

o   Let both cars charge for a couple of minutes. Then fire up the donor car for about 5 minutes. Start the (previously dead) car, and wait another couple of minutes. If possible, drive it for a bit, to ensure the battery recovers.

3) Disconnect it and have it charged.

Again, if you bring your battery to an AutoZone, they’ll charge it up while you wait (and presumably while you convince yourself of all the other automotive goodies you need) for free. Of course if you’ve got an unsalvageable battery, you can buy a new one from them, but consider installing it yourself, or with a help from a friend. Auto technicians tend to dislike it when customers bring in their own parts; this article explains why.

When it’s time for you to have your vehicle serviced, be sure to check out Openbay to compare, book and pay for local auto repair service via web and mobile app (iOS and Android).

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