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How does a Car Battery Die? - Reason, Life Cycle and Frequency
When it comes to taking care of your car battery, you need to understand how fast it dies. The first thing you should know is that all batteries die. It's a natural process and it happens in every battery, regardless of its type or how well you maintain it. A car battery doesn't suddenly burst into flames or explode when the time comes, but it simply runs out of juice and eventually stops working to power your vehicle.
So, what do we mean by "dying"? There are several ways for a car battery to "die". First of all, you can have permanent damage done to your battery which no longer can be reversed - this renders the useless for further use. Another way is for your vehicle to stop turning on due to dead or low charge – hence, you would need another car battery (while some vehicles report this as a "jump-start", in fact, the battery is dead). There are also parasitic drains - draining your battery when the vehicle is off can happen – and eventually, this could lead to permanent damage. Finally, there are actual chemical changes that occur as well may end up with reduced capacity and/or shorter life span (due to less cycles). All of these types of failure modes are lumped together under the general term of "die".
In this article we will focus on how car batteries die, why they die, and how fast do car batteries die.
Life Cycle of a Car Battery
Let's first look at the life cycle of a car battery. A typical car battery dies after about 3-4 years (see reference below), and if you are reading this, it's probably very close to that time. Let's examine what causes our batteries to die.
There are basically three major reasons for why your car battery dies:
Long Term Discharge
Excessive discharge over a long period of time results in permanent damage from which most batteries will never recover. Eventually, all lead acid batteries should be replaced as no additional cycles can be extracted – but discharging too deep repeatedly may permanently reduce the total number of cycles available for our rechargeable batteries. This excessive discharge could be from leaving your lights on too long, not charging them up enough between cycles or just simply wearing the battery out.
Short Term Overcharge
Excessive charge over a short period of time can cause gassing and/or boiling within the electrolyte which will ultimately vent off the high-pressure gas (and sometimes even liquid) and damage the internal workings of our batteries. This rapid release of pressure can blow apart any sealant used in battery construction and no longer keep things sealed properly. This will normally happen if you leave a charger connected to your car battery without monitoring its progress, such as overnight, or if you have a defective battery charger that does not stop charging once full capacity is reached – like often with cheap, low quality car battery chargers.
The Result is a Mess
Sulfation and corrosion, dry-outs from gassing, acid spillage on the ground from blowout of caps or venting. This all leads to reduced cranking power, higher resistance and ultimately more weight (due to water loss). It can take quite a while for this entire process to happen which is why it's so important not to leave your battery unattended when you are charging it with either a proper charger that stops once full capacity is reached or simply by applying an intelligent routine maintenance routine that includes fully discharging your battery every month or two in order for it to rest in between standard use cycles.
How does a car battery die overnight?
A car battery can die overnight because of the deep cycle (rapid discharge, recharge) that most vehicles on the road these days are put through. Vehicles start every morning and batteries get drained to zero before being charged back up again each day. This leads to a very slow death overtime for any battery that's not properly maintained with occasional complete discharges.
How fast does a car battery die?
The life span or lifespan of a standard lead acid battery is about 2-5 years but it can be much longer if you know how to take care of your vehicle's battery. Some users may have their fleet for 10+ years with an original starting battery. So, with proper maintenance there is no reason why you should need to buy another replacement unless you just want a better battery for performance reasons.
How fast your car battery drains depend on several factors including the type of vehicle you drive, how far you drive and what accessories are attached to your vehicle such as air conditioning, heated seats, an aftermarket alarm system or any other devices that draw power when in use.
You don't have to look very far around town to see vehicles with flickering dash lights and dead batteries because they were left on accidentally during someone's forgetful moments or sometimes even intentionally by thieves who know enough about cars to know where to find the wiring under the dashboard.
How often does a car battery die?
A car battery is not supposed to die too often and if it does, there is usually a maintenance problem added to one of the two causes described above.
With proper maintenance, you can have minor issues and not bail out your battery as often but you should still fully charge or replace it around every three years.
Normally, the alternator will be able to maintain a 13.2V-13.8V output throughout most of its life span and this is considered normal even if the cell voltage is down by 0.5V from new when it is at 100% state of charge (SOC). The only time you should have concern with a weak alternator is if there are any warning lights on or the voltage falls below 12.5V at 80% SOC for an extended period of time such as 10 days during a 5-day trip that uses GPS, computer accessories, interior lighting and headlights all for about 2 hours each day per day.
Now that you understand how car batteries die, you should take care of your better. If you have any questions, please reach out and we will help you.