5 Car Battery Problems (And How To Fix Them)

Posted by Ben Davidson about 4 months ago

The thing about car batteries is they don’t last forever. On average, vehicle owners should replace their car batteries every three to five years. Many will still function longer than that time, but with reduced capacity.

One fact about car batteries you may not know is they fail prematurely - and the source of the problem is how they got maintained. Vehicle batteries are simple devices, and it’s extremely rare for them to fail due to manufacturing defects.

If you’re new to vehicle ownership or believe in the mantra that “prevention is better than the cure,” this blog post is for you! Here are five of the most common car battery problems and what you can do to fix them (or prevent them from happening in the first place):

1. Incorrect battery capacity

Take a trip to your local auto parts store, and you’ll soon discover the vast array of different car batteries on offer. Sure, there will be various brands available to buy. But what you should note is how there are so many different capacities.

Small engines typically require low capacity batteries, whereas larger ones and diesel motors need high-capacity batteries. If you’ve got an incorrect battery capacity, you might find it hard to start your vehicle or power various accessories such as your heater blower.

It’s worth checking your owner’s manual or contact your car’s manufacturer to determine the correct battery capacity for your vehicle.

2. Infrequent driving

When you drive your car, the alternator recharges your battery. Many people don’t realize that alternators only replace the power used by the engine and your car’s accessories. Alternators don’t fully recharge car batteries!

If you’re an infrequent driver, you should know that your battery’s charge will drop due to a small drain from your car’s electronics and your alarm system. Other factors that impact battery charge include cold weather.

The good news is you don’t need to keep buying new batteries or jump-starting your car every time you’ve got a flat battery. Instead, all you need to do is carry out a maintenance charge from a battery charger.

There are different chargers on the market depending on your battery type and capacity (see https://zenaracing.com for details). Ensure you use one appropriate to your battery and check it offers a ‘maintenance charge’ option.

3. Parasitic drain

Did you know that a common reason for flat batteries is due to a constant drain from something electric inside of your car? The usual suspects are car stereos, aftermarket alarm systems, aftermarket backup cameras, and even faulty wiring, causing a short circuit.

You can confirm whether your car battery is victim to a parasitic drain by doing a simple test with a multimeter. Once verified, you’ll then have the fun job of tracing the source of the drain.

Usually, it makes sense to pull your fuses one at a time, and to check if the drain from your battery suddenly becomes small. You can then narrow down which electrical circuit is the culprit and check all wiring and connected accessories to find the source.

Many videos demonstrate how to check for parasitic drains over at https://www.youtube.com. Alternatively, ask your friendly local auto electrician for help.

4. Faulty alternator

When a car battery rapidly loses its charge, some car owners will assume it’s because they need to get a new battery. However, if the issue persists with a replacement battery, the cause is often attributed to a faulty alternator.

As you know, it’s the alternator’s job to charge your car battery as you drive. If there are internal faults in the alternator, it might undercharge it to the point where having a flat battery is commonplace.

Fortunately, alternators are relatively straightforward to diagnose and replace. Again, you can use a multimeter to test that it’s operating correctly. Car alternators usually become faulty due to failing rectifiers or regulators.

In case you wondered, rectifiers are the components in alternators that convert AC to DC electricity (your car uses DC electricity). And regulators monitor and control the battery charging process.

5. Faulty starter motor

Last but not least, another component that can make your battery seem like it’s faulty is the starter motor. As you’ve probably guessed, the starter motor is an electrical device that starts your engine when you turn on your ignition.

Starter motors require substantial power to turn the flywheel that, in turn, rotates your internal engine parts and starts the combustion process. There are tell-tale signs when your starter motor fails, such as:

  • Your car’s engine taking a long time to start;

  • A screeching or scraping noise after the engine starts.

The starter motor on some vehicles can be challenging to replace. But, the part itself is usually inexpensive to replace. If you’re good at DIY car repairs, you can replace the starter motor yourself. Otherwise, have a mechanic do the work for you.
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