When to change the car battery?


#1

My battery is a 60-month/5-year battery that just turned SEVEN years old. It’s a basic brand battery; not a heavy duty battery. Today the battery was tested when I had the oil changed at a quick lube shop. It was hooked-up to an “Interstate Batteries” meter. The print-out says my battery’s rating is 500 CCA and the result of the test was “good battery” at 494 actual CCA.

I live in a mild winter climate. Is there a certain point where I should install a new car battery (even if the current one is working fine)?


#2

I would continue your routine. Have it checked annually. However, if you see any signs of a weak battery (such as headlights not being as bright) if would consider a change then


#3

Going 2 years past the warranty is an achievement, but the battery will start to show signs eventually, if it begins to have trouble starting then It will be time.


#4

“I had the oil changed at a quick lube shop”

Stay away from quick lube shops. They are famous for screwing things up. Like said above, Your battery is ok and will start to show signs when its dieing. Just pay attention.

Hot climates are harder on batteries than cold climates


#5

@HondaGuy70

7 years is great. You did really well.

Here are 2 possible scenarios . . . out of many

  1. Get the battery replaced now, when it is convenient for you

  2. Get stuck with a dead battery in front of the liquor store in the bad part of town

Personally, I would choose the first scenario


#6

Replace it now. You’ve gotten 7 years out of a 5 year battery.


#7

One way a battery can fail with age can take out your alternator.

As batteries age, the active material on the plates will slowly break off and build up in the cavity reserved for it at the bottom of the battery. In some cases that “build-up” is high enough that it shorts out two adjacent cells, turning your 12v battery into a 10v battery.

When that happens, your alternator’s current (and heat) rise due to the drop in resistance at the battery. That heat will kill an alternator.

This scenario isn’t frequent, but it does happen. Be forewarned.


#8

I’m glad that JoeMario added the info about an old battery having the potential to kill an alternator.

The bottom line is that practicing extreme thrift–by trying to eke out every possible month from an old battery–can be much more expensive in the long run, in addition to having the potential to strand you in an inconvenient place, at an inconvenient time.


#9

It’s perfectly sensible to replace it now if you want to reduce the chance of a breakdown. You’ve gotten your money’s worth. That’s what I do.

Do you plan to keep the car for somewhere around three to five years? If so, then this is an easy call, as you’ll need one more battery sooner or later, so it might as well be now.


#10

I think its harder in a cold area then hot, in a cold motor the oil is thicker flows harder then in awarm area but 7 years is a long time, anything after 4 years I would be happy and budget for a new one.


#11

I would pro-actively replace it. A weak battery can damage your alternator. Seven years is very good service for a standard battery.


#12

@HondaGuy70,

You don’t say what kind of car you own, but surprisingly, it matters.

My Honda Civic has a pretty small battery, and a pretty small engine. When my battery starts to go, I notice my engine cranking a little slower than it does normally, and I know it’s time to get the battery tested (for free at an auto parts store). Sometimes, when the battery has lasted longer than I expected, and it starts to show signs of age, I just replace it instead of getting it tested.

If you drive a similar small car, and you notice things like a slow-cranking starter, and you carry jumper cables, there is no reason to replace a good, but old, battery. I’d keep driving, and get the battery tested again in six months. It won’t cost you anything.

If, on the other hand, you drive something with a big engine and a big battery, you might not notice when your battery is nearing the end of its life, and replacing it proactively might make more sense. I’m cheap though, so I would never replace a good battery. Instead, I’d make sure I have a good set of jumper cables in the car. I also have a lifestyle that wouldn’t suffer if, one day, my car breaks down. I have an understanding boss and a job where nobody will die or suffer if I can’t make it to work. If you have a different lifestyle, and a breakdown would cause significant hardship, replacing a good battery might make sense.


#13

Another vote here for replacing your battery now. My wife had a “perfect” battery according to her and did not want me to replace it. When she did call me for help the battery was completely dead and the weather was below freezing. She was, of course, about 30 miles away in a crowded shopping center parking lot in the middle of the night.


#14

@badbearing: “Hot climates are harder on batteries than cold climates”

That depends what you mean by “hot climates.”

When I lived in Jacksonville, my batteries lasted four years. It was like clockwork. At the four year mark, my engine would start cranking slower, I’d get the battery tested, and sure enough, it needed to be replaced.

Before I lived in Jacksonville, I lived in Miami, and I currently live in Stuart, FL. My batteries last much longer living down south. My last battery lasted five years. It started its service life in Jacksonville though, so I will be interested to see how long the new battery lasts. I’m guessing it will last 5-6 years.

I know Jacksonville isn’t exactly in the Great White North, but the temperature does drop below freezing several times each winter. We almost never get freezing temperatures where I live now, and it makes a difference in how long my batteries last.

I guess if by “hot climates,” you mean locations where the temperature exceeds 100 degrees Fahrenheit, you’re probably right, but in most parts of Florida, even in Key West, the temperature almost never gets that high. The high summer humidity makes it feel that hot, but it never actually gets that hot here.


#15

Batteries in the southern states last about 5 years. Hear in the North East 7-10 years is typical. I’ve had one battery last over 12 years. Heat really kills a battery. Cold helps preserve a battery…but if the battery is weak the cold really shows how weak it is.


#16

Time to simply replace and be happy. I replaced my 5 year old Delco last year just because it was 5 years old and needed to sit out at the airport for a couple weeks. Look at it this way, the battery cost is about $15-20 per year. So if you lose one to two years that it might have gone yet, you lost $15 to $40. That compared to a possible service call in a parking lot some night when you are in a hurry and it just isn’t worth it.


#17

I replaced the battery in my 2011 Toyota Sienna because it was outgassing and the terminals kept corroding. I fought the problem for more than a year. I finally bit the bullet, replaced the battery and terminal clamps. My car was purchased in March of 2010 as a 2011 model, so the battery was more than 3 and a half years old.