Car Battery: A critical system

September 16th, 2013 by

Die hard battery pictureAll of the systems in your car are symbiotic, together they make up the whole, and in a perfect symphony keep your vehicle moving forward and stopping safely.  However, while your car will run with no brakes, it will even run for awhile without any fluids, it is dead in the water without the battery.  This one single item, can shut the whole process down.

Just about everyone has had the unfortunate experience of having a dead battery.  Most often this only occurs when you are in a hurry, have hungry and tired kids in the car, or you are in the middle of nowhere with no cell reception.

First:  What is the Battery?

A car battery is type of rechargeable batter the supplies energy (electricity) to your vehicle.  The battery ignites the starter motor, the lights, and the ignitions system of your vehicle.

Most car batteries are usually lead-acid type, and are made of six galvanic cells in series to provide a 12 volt system.  Each cell provides 2.1 volts for a total of 12.6 volt at full charge.  Heavy vehicles, such as highway maintenance trucks or tractors, are equipped with diesel engines,  and may have two batteries in series to create a 24 volt system, or parallel strings of batteries.

Car batteries are made up of plates of lead and separate plates of lead dioxide, which are submerged into an electrolyte solution of about 35% sulfuric acid and 65% water.  This causes a chemical reaction that releases electrons, allowing them to flow through conductors to produce electricity.  As the battery discharges, the acid of the electrolyte reacts with the materials of the plates, changing their surface to lead sulfate.  When the battery is recharged, the chemical reaction is reversed:  the lead sulfate reforms into lead dioxide and lead.  With the plates restored to their original condition, the process may now be repeated.

Ok, that was the very technical description of what your car battery is.  In summary: it’s the power source for your vehicle, and without it, it will not start, or keep running.

The last thing you need is for your vehicle to fail when you need it.  You can avoid expensive service, stress, or costly tow charge by checking your battery frequently, and taking care of it, as you would any other vehicle system.
BreakdownUnfortunately, like many of our vehicle systems, we forget about them until they fail.  There are many factors that can shorten or prolong your battery life. Like many of the systems on your vehicle, environmental and use affect the life of your battery.   Because batteries often fail when the weather turns cold, this leads to the false belief that the cold is hardest on your battery.  In actuality hot regions and weather deplete your battery quicker than cold.  In addition, short trips and many start and stops shorten the life of your battery.

Sulfation occurs when a battery is not fully charged.  The longer it remains in a discharged state the harder it is to overcome sulfation.  This may be overcome with slow, low-current (trickle) charging.  Sulfation is the formation of large, non-conductive lead sulfate crystals on the plates; lead sulfate formation is part of each cycle, but in the discharged condition the crystals become large and block passage of current through the electrolyte.  The primary wear-out mechanism is the shedding of active material from the battery plates, which accumulates at the bottom of the cells and which may eventually short-circuit the plates.  Once a cell is dead or damaged, it cannot be repaired.

In the heat, the battery will discharge without use, in the cold, it holds its charge longer.  When you start your vehicle this requires a discharge from the battery.  An example would be a hot summer day, your battery is already discharging (slowly), you start your vehicle, which causes a discharge from the battery.  Now, once you are moving the vehicles systems will work to recharge it, however, if you are just running to the store a 1/2 mile away, the battery will not receive a full charge.  You then get back in the care, start it, discharging the battery, and drive the car home.  Your car battery is now less than fully charged.  If you drive this way frequently your battery will not have the opportunity to fully charge and will fail months faster than you expect.

If you live in a warm climate and do a lot of short, trip driving you should slow charge/trickle charge your battery about once a month.  If you live in a cooler climate, and do lots of longer range driving, you can stretch this out to every 3 months or so. This will help extend the life of your battery.

If you are unsure of the status of your battery, be sure to discuss it with your service advisor. We recommend a factory trained and certified advisor versus your neighbor or uncle. A professional service advisor will know the type of battery that is best to use with your vehicle.  They will be able to review and test your battery to check if it has bad cells, if it is at the end of its life, or just needs a little water.

Car battery in engineHow long your battery will last will, as mentioned, depend on your environment and driving habits, but the type of battery you purchase is also very important.  Again, consult with your service advisor, and your vehicles operation manual to determine the best battery for your vehicle.  Not all batteries are equal, and while they can be expensive, it is not generally something you want to get a “bargain” on.  Like many items for your vehicle, there are generally cheaper or less expensive options.  However, you will often need to replace them more often, which does not calculate to less expensive in the long run.  Especially if it fails quicker, and tow bills or other mechanical expenses become involved.

Generally changing out your batter is fairly simple, however, the ease is relative and varies by vehicle make and model.  If you are not comfortable, please take it to a service location and have them perform this task for you.

We hope that you have found this useful.  To schedule your vehicle in for your regular maintenance and have your battery checked, please contact us at:

Call 1-866-99MOTOR

Posted in News