How To Check Your Car For A Battery Drain
A battery drain can be caused by one or more malfunctioning systems (a bad ground or a defective relay/fuse for example). This leads to a draw of power from the car battery when the engine is not running and the ignition is switched off. You will want to check and test your systems to find the cause of the drain to prevent a dead battery and a car that will not start.
Tools You Need:
How To Install A Second Battery
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What Is A Car Battery
A car battery is a plastic box divided into six cells that is filled with an electrically conductive sulfuric acid solution called an electrolyte. This chemical interacts with the battery's electrodes, or metal plates containing lead and lead oxide, to produce 12 volts of electricity.
The car battery has three basic tasks. First, it provides the initial power to start the engine of a car. Second, it keeps itself recharged and generates power when the car's engine is not running. Lastly, it can maintain a low current to power the lights, horn and other electrical devices for a short period.
The rating used to define a battery's ability to start an engine in cold temperatures is called Cold Cranking Amperage (CCA). The CCA of an auto battery is the amount of current a given battery can deliver for 30 seconds at 0 °F (-18 °C) without dropping below 7.2 volts for a 12 volt battery. To find the power of a car battery we multiply the CCA number by 7.2 volts. For example,
P = IV
P = (600 A)(7.2 V)
P = 4320 W
Most modern cars require relatively low cold cranking amps that range from 400 to 600. Sports cars and light trucks require higher cranking amps ranging from 700 to 1000 A.
What Is A Dead Car Battery
A dead car battery is one of the most common problems facing the automotive public. I'm sure at one point you have gone out to your vehicle and found a no start condition due to a dead battery.
The question is, what to do next. The first thing to address is how long will a car battery last. On average, a car battery will last for about three to five years. In most cases you will find that it will last towards the shorter end of this scale and need to be replaced at the three-year mark.
There are many variables that will determine how long a car battery will last. Some of the things that will send it to an early grave are as follows.
Many short trips can reduce the life of your automotive batteries. If your vehicle has an average run time of less than 20 minutes, your alternator will not have the opportunity to recharge it fully. Many starting cycles, coupled with short run times will leave your battery below the ideal charged specification for most of it's shortened life.
Another reason for a dead car battery would be exposures to extreme temperatures. The internal cranking power is created by a chemical reaction. The outside temperature affects this chemical reaction. This is why you will find that many batteries are encased in an insulated jacket. This insulation allows it to go through its normal temperature changes slowly and can extend overall battery life. One of the big mistakes that the do-it-yourself and professional mechanics will make is when they replace a car battery they will discard this insulated cover. This will also shorten the life span. The manufacture put this insulated cover on for a reason so you don't want to forget to reinstall it.
Dead Battery Diagnostics
When your car battery goes completely dead, there are a few factors that will determine your next step. If it is more than three years old, you're best bet would be to replace the battery.
If you're not sure how old it is your next step should be to charge and test the battery. Note: You should always wear safety glasses and protective clothing. Battery acid is dangerous stuff!
Battery chargers and testers have come down in price in recent years. These are good tools to have around. This way you will have what you need when faced with the dead battery problem.
How To Take Care Of Your Battery
If you take care of your battery, it will take care of you. Regular maintenance is a good habit to get into. If you want your battery to last to the five-year mark, you're going to have to take care of it. This is not to hard to do. The stuff to use is called terminal protector spray. If you apply this product to a new or clean terminals, it will greatly reduce the amount of corrosion that builds up. Corrosion can prevent the proper automatic charging of the battery from the vehicles alternator.
Following this procedure every six months, will help it last much longer. This is one of those situations where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Checking the electrolyte levels periodically is also a very good practice to get into. Making sure the levels are above the plates. If the levels are below the tops of the plates, a top-up using distilled water will cure the problem.
A dead car battery is a fact of life. Being prepared for when this happens is also simpler then you may think. To avoid being stuck somewhere, you want to make sure that you have a good set of battery cables and safety glasses in your vehicle.
You also want to be familiar with the hook up and operation of these cables. An even better solution to the dead battery problem is to have your own jump box. Having your own battery jump box can avoid the problems of hooking up the jumper cables to another vehicle. It is also nice to be able to jump your vehicle without having to ask somebody for help. These jump boxes have also come down in price over the last few years. These units may be overkill for the do it yourself mechanic and they have no reverse polarity protection so you better hook it up right. Testers, jump boxes and chargers can give you piece of mind and some independence. Most use simple indicators of green and red that can take the guessing out of diagnosing your automotive battery on your own.