You have heard that failing batteries can be reconditioned to extend their life. You are not quite sure if they are safe or if they will give you even more trouble than the failing one. Do reconditioned batteries work and is it worth reconditioning yours?
Your car battery is acting up. It takes several tries before you can get the car started properly and it doesn’t hold charge very well. You are dreading having to spend a bundle on a new battery so you are overjoyed when the mechanic says you don’t have to buy a new one. Can you fix a battery that won’t hold a charge? Lead acid batteries can be restored or reconditioned. Sadly a large percentage of car batteries are discarded prematurely. They can still be used a few times over.
Do Reconditioned Batteries Work?
One of the best parts about reconditioning your car battery is that it saves you money. The average cost of a new battery is between $85 and $100. If you choose to buy a reconditioned one, it will cost you a fraction of that. This option has not always been known to many but has gained popularity over the years. It is now lucrative business. Many auto experts earn a good chunk of their profits from sale of reconditioned car batteries.
Another reason you should opt to have your battery reconditioned even if you can afford to buy a new one, is that it is environmentally friendly. A single reconditioned battery is one less battery sent to a dump yard where it contaminates the environment.
How to Recondition Car Batteries
You could choose to buy a reconditioned battery or, if you are a DIY kind of person, recondition it yourself. Here is how to do it yourself.
After a few years of use, your battery will probably have some corrosion built up on the posts. Clean this out using steel wool and a paste made from distilled water and baking soda. If there is a lot of corrosion, let the paste sit for a few minutes then scrub it off. It may foam up but that is completely normal. Once it is clean, wash it down with a mixture of baking soda and water then wipe off the excess water and allow it to dry.
Before starting the actual reconditioning process, it is important to check the battery’s voltage. You can use a voltmeter, which is fairly straight forward to use. If the voltage is less than 12.6v, your battery does need reconditioning. If the voltage is at 0, then it has suffered some sort of damage and you have no choice but to replace it.
Pour acid out
At this point, make sure to protect yourself from injury as a result of accidental spillage of acid. Wear goggles, chemical-resistant gloves and a dustcoat or apron.
Use a screw driver to remove the battery caps. Keep the caps safe to make sure none of them gets lost. Pour out all the acid from the battery into a plastic bucket. Make sure to hold it away from yourself to make sure any spills fall away from you. Pour about half a pound of baking soda into the acid in the bucket. This helps to neutralize it so you can then dispose of it safely.
Clean out cells
Mix about half a pond of baking soda into half a gallon of distilled water. Use a plastic funnel to pour this mixture into each cell. When all cells are full, replace the battery caps and ensure that they fit tightly. Next, shake the battery vigorously for a few minutes to clean the inside of the cells.
After that remove the caps and pour the mixture into the bucket. This leaves the cells clean and ready for fresh fluid.
Make a fresh electrolyte using distilled water and Epsom salt. Dissolve half a pound of Epsom salt into half a gallon of boiling, distilled water. Stir it thoroughly to make sure all the salt is dissolved. Let it cool to room temperature before proceeding. This solution increases voltage and amps. It also stops sulfating on the plates which kills the battery over time. Use a plastic funnel to pour the liquid into each of the cells, making sure that all are 100% full. If any of it is left over, put it away carefully for use later.
Put the battery caps back on and give the battery another good shake. It is now ready for charging.
- Charge reconditioned battery
Before starting on this step, take the battery caps off and place them loosely over the openings. Charging may produce some gas which must not get trapped in the battery. With your battery charger as far away from the battery as possible, connect the terminals. As in any other connection, have the positive lead connected to the positive battery terminal and the same for the negative terminals. Let it charge for 24 to 36 hours.
- Test reconditioned battery
Again, use a voltmeter to measure battery voltage. If it is at 12.3v and above, it is ready to be tested on your car. If you have less than 12.3v let it continue charging for a few more hours. Check the cells for electrolyte overflow. If there is any, fill them up again with the left over solution. After a few more hours of charging, you should achieve 12.3v.
How Long Does A Car Battery Last?
The standard answer to this question is 4 to 6 years. This is how long a car battery used under normal conditions is expected to work without problems such as inability to achieve full charge. Another answer to this question could be 10 years or more. The average car owner is unaware that when their car battery starts to fail, it doesn’t have to be discarded. It can be reconditioned and be almost as good as new. How long will a reconditioned car battery last? It should give you uninterrupted service for about 2 years. After that it can be reconditioned another 2 or 3 times.
How Long Will A New Car Battery Last If It Is Never Used?
How long do car batteries last? You can expect your car battery to last between four and six years. There are several factors which determine just how long yours lasts. Weather conditions, driving habits and depth of discharge are a few details to think about.
- Weather conditions
Environmental temperatures have a huge impact on the lifespan of a battery. Batteries operate best in moderate temperatures, which is between 65° and 90° Fahrenheit. Extremely high temperatures shorten a battery’s life and extremely low temperatures reduce overall performance.
- Driving Habits
Believe it or not, your driving habits play a role in determining how long your battery lasts. If you frequently take very short drives, you may be damaging your battery. Here is how. Every time you start your car, a huge amount of electrical power is drawn from the battery. This power should ideally be restored by recharging the battery as you drive. If you only drive for a few minutes and stop, the battery will not yet be sufficiently charged by the time you stop. If you start the car again and take yet another brief drive, more power is drawn to start the car but it again lacks sufficient time to recharge. You end up with a fully utilized but grossly undercharged battery. This drastically shortens its lifespan.
- Depth of discharge
This basically asks how many accessories in your car are being powered by the battery at the same time. If all you have is a car stereo, then the battery doesn’t get discharged very quickly. If you have several accessories drawing electric power from the battery such as a stereo, air conditioning, GPS equipment and windshield wipers you are depleting the battery of power. If you do this consistently, the battery definitely cannot last as long as it could.
A key disadvantage of lead acid batteries is that they continue to discharge even when they are not in use. You could have a brand new car battery sitting idly on a shelf in your garage but it continues to discharge with each passing day. The general estimate for self-discharge is 1% per day. This rate increases in high temperatures and decreases in lower temperatures.
Will A New Battery Die If Not Used?
Here is the bummer: There is a threshold below which a battery should not be allowed to discharge. If it discharges below 10.5 volts it begins to get irreversibly damaged. Remember the sulfates which coat the plates but are driven back into the solution once the battery is charged? If the battery discharges below the threshold, these sulfates crystalize. Once crystallization takes place, they cannot be driven back into the solution. The concentration of sulfuric acid is permanently reduced to the extent of crystallization of the sulfates. The same goes for a brand new battery. The bottom line is that there is a good chance the brand new battery which has been sitting in your garage for ages is permanently damaged if not completely dead. A new car battery lasts 2 to 3 years if it is never used or charged.
Battery Care for Long Term Storage
What should you do if you have to leave town for a job or an extended vacation? If you just park your car in the garage and leave it there, you are sure to come back to a dead battery and perhaps a host of other mechanical issues. To keep the battery alive, organize to have someone start the car and drive it for about 15 minutes at least once a fortnight. If that is not possible, you have two other options. The least complicated one is to disconnect the negative battery cable. This will mean you lose any radio presets, clock and other settings. If you don’t want to lose your settings, purchase a battery tender. This device connects to your battery on one end and a wall outlet on the other. It ensures that a small but sufficient amount of electrical power is channeled to the battery to keep it charged.
Does A Weak Battery Affect Car Efficiency?
When your car battery is weak, it takes a little longer than usual to start the car and your lights may not be as bright as they were before. Other than that, is there anything else a car owner should be worried about when their battery is weak? The battery’s primary function is to provide enough power to start the car. Once the engine is running, the battery is not needed for anything. To prove this, you could actually disconnect the battery when the engine is running and it would continue to run just fine. On the other hand, it would still be correct to say that a weak battery does affect a car’s performance. This is because it has negative effects on some engine and car parts which subsequently affect the car’s performance.
Shortens lifespan of the alternator
As soon as the car is started, the alternator takes over from the battery. It serves to power most car accessories and most importantly, recharges the battery for the next time you need to start the car. When the battery is weak, its voltage drops below the required 12 volts so the alternator is continuously working to recharge it. This overworks it and ends up shortening its life.
Low battery voltage causes a rise in amps, which then causes an increase in engine temperatures. If this is left unchecked, the engine overheats and this could cause damage to some parts of the engine.
Can A Weak Battery Affect Gas Mileage?
For this question, you can get a definite yes. As mentioned, a weak battery makes the alternator work harder and longer than it should. An overworked alternator causes the engine to consume more gas than usual. The accessory belt, which the alternator is directly linked to, is driven by the engine. As long as the alternator is overworked, the engine is indirectly overworked.
Another reason a weak battery causes increased fuel consumption has to do with the car’s computer. A weak battery may interfere with the computer’s sensors. The sensor which determines if fuel consumption conforms to the rate of exhaust fumes produced doesn’t work properly. Without a sensor to check this, the engine loses more gas via the exhaust.
Causes of a Weak Battery
There are lots of reasons that could be behind a weak battery. These are some common ones.
Sulfation happens when lead sulfate crystals accumulate in the battery cells. The crystals form a coat over the plates and block the pores of the active material responsible for chemical reactions. Without chemical reactions in the cell, electrons cannot be produced. Crystallization is caused by irregular charging or undercharging. They may also form when the battery discharges below 10.5 volts.
Inside each of the 6 cells in a car battery is two plates dipped in a sulfuric acid solution. This solution, also called the electrolyte, is made up of 35% sulfuric acid and 65% water. Ideally the two should be evenly distributed in the solution but sometimes sulfuric acid concentrates at the base of the cell. This leaves the upper part of the cell without any acid. Acid stratification is caused by incomplete charging of the battery even when it is being used as normal. A common cause of incomplete charging is when you take frequent but short drives. This means large amounts of electrical power are being drained to get the car to start but there isn’t enough time to recharge it fully.
Even if you made a point to buy the best quality car battery in the market, it will not last forever. You can expect it to last anywhere between 4 and 6 years. This is an average figure given on the assumption that the car is operated under normal conditions. Some users say their batteries have lasted up to 10 years but these are an exception. If you use your car at least three times a week, it is perfectly normal if your battery begins to weaken after four years or so.
Signs of a Weakening Battery
Anyone who has had to deal with the inconvenience of a dead battery will do anything not to get caught flat footed again. You need not wait until your battery is totally flat to get it replaced. It is possible to get it before it gets you. Here are some classic symptoms of a dying battery which should not be ignored.
Low power for accessories
Your headlights will probably be the first to warn you of imminent battery problems. If the battery is completely dead, the lights will not come on. Before it gets completely drained, the headlights go dim. Internal lights may also appear dim. Other car accessories powered by the battery may show signs of weakness. The car radio may fail to come on and the windows (if electric) may drag when you roll them up and down.
Sluggish engine crank
This is a classic sign of battery trouble. The main function of a car battery is to provide power to the starter to crank up the engine. It usually only takes one turn of the key in the ignition to get the car started. Now with a weakening battery, it may take several tries. You may have to rev the engine to be able to start moving smoothly.
Backfiring is rarely associated with battery problems but it can be caused by a weakening battery. When the battery is weak, sporadic sparks can cause fuel to accumulate in the cylinders. When this fuel fires up, it does so abruptly and with a lot of force. This is what causes engine backfiring.
Does Draining A Car Battery Damage It?
Discharging in this context refers to utilization of the battery’s power. Battery discharge happens every time it starts the engine, runs the car radio or illuminates the headlights. When this happens, the plates in the cells slowly get coated with lead sulfate. This is perfectly normal because it is completely reversible. If you sit in the car and listen to the radio for a couple of minutes as your passenger runs out to run an errand, the plates undergo a little sulfation. When your passenger returns and you turn on the engine to drive away, the battery is recharged and sulfation is reversed.
If you happen to leave the headlights or radio on overnight the battery gets drained because the lights and radio are drawing power from the battery when it is not getting recharged. Some drain is permissible but if it drains or discharges too far, it gets damaged.
Why Discharging a Battery Too Far Is Damaging
How far is too far? As discharge continues (without recharge) voltage drops. If it drops below 10.5 volts, it is considered fully discharged, at which point the battery will suffer irreversible damage. How so? Normal sulfation as described earlier is reversible as soon as the car is started again. In the case of a discharged battery, the soft lead sulfate crystalizes. Once crystals are formed, the sulfation cannot be reversed. The crystals remain in the plate and this permanently reduces the battery’s available output.
Can A Completely Dead Battery Be Recharged?
Many drivers wonder whether it is best to replace or recharge a battery after it has been drained. The purpose of the alternator is to keep the battery recharged. It was not designed to pick up a completely drained battery. If the battery is completely dead consider jumpstarting it.
How to Jump Start A Dead Battery
Do I need a new battery if it dies? Probably not. It can be jumpstarted to bring it back to life. Before starting the process, make sure that all the cables attached to the battery are secure and free of corrosion. If there is any corrosion, clean it with a stiff brush.
- Park the car with a functional battery as close to the one with a faulty one, but ensuring that the two do not touch. You could choose to have the cars next to each other facing the same direction, or nose-to-nose.
- Make sure the engines of both cars are off.
- Connect the first positive end to the positive terminal on the dead battery. After that connect the other positive end to the positive terminal of the charged battery. Positive jumper cables are red.
- Connect one of the ends of the negative cable to the functional battery’s negative terminal. Negative cables are generally black.
- On the car with the dead battery, attach the remaining end of the negative cable to a grounded metal surface. You can use chassis, frame or any other suitable component as a grounding surface.
- Once all the connections are properly done, start the engine of the car with a charged battery. Current will flow into the dead one and begin to charge it.
- Let the engine of the car with a charged battery run for five minutes. This will allow the dead battery to accumulate charge of its own.
- Try to start the other car’s engine. If it has gathered enough charge it will start without a problem. If it doesn’t start, give it more time and then try again.
- Once the car which had the dead battery starts, you can now disconnect the cables. Remove them in reverse order of the way you connected them. Start by removing the grounding cable, then the negative cables and then the positive ones.
- Let the car which had the dead battery run for another five minutes. This allows the alternator to recharge the battery.
- Now go out for a drive. Drive around for at least 20 minutes to let the battery charge fully. Drive continuously because stopping may leave you in need of another jumpstart.
What Might Cause A Car Battery To Die While Driving?
Every driver has experienced the frustration of a dead battery. There are many possible reasons behind this. These are some of the most common.
Lights left on: You are late for work so you hurriedly jump into the car only to find that the car will not start. The battery is dead. It was perfectly fine when you got home last night so what happened at night? You forgot to turn off the head lights! This is by far the most common reason drivers end up with dead batteries, especially if you often get home exhausted and park in a well-lit garage. Lights gradually drain power from the battery and by morning there is none left. The same would happen if you happen to leave one of the car doors ajar overnight. Interior lights or dashboard lights stay on and drain the battery dry.
Parasitic drain: When you turn off the car, a vast majority of components stop operating. Parasitic drain occurs when some components continue running, or drawing power from the battery even when the ignition is off. Some parasitic drain is normal because certain components require uninterrupted power supply. These are such as your car clock, alarm system and radio presets. If there is an electrical glitch, some components which need not be powered throughout continue to draw power from the battery even when the ignition is off. A common example of abnormal parasitic drain is when glove compartment lights or trunk lights remain on even when the ignition is off.
Frequent short drives: Most power is drawn out of the battery when starting the car. After that it is charged as you drive. If you frequently drive very short distances and stop, then power is drawn from the battery to start the car, but there isn’t enough driving time for it to be charged. It takes several hours of continuous driving for a battery to be fully charged.
Extreme weather conditions: Extreme heat or cold could cause your car battery to die on you. Intense heat (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and extreme cold (less than 10 degrees Fahrenheit) can cause a buildup of lead-sulfate crystals. These crystals can drastically reduce the lifespan of the battery.
Do reconditioned batteries work? A reconditioned battery can have up to 80% of the ability of a brand new battery. It will not be perfect but it can definitely serve you for a year or two. If you are cash- strapped and are looking to cut costs, a reconditioned battery is definitely a good option. However, it should not be considered a permanent solution but rather a stopgap measure to keep you moving until you can afford a new unit.
How long should I use my current battery before replacement?
Your car battery is meant to last for around 3 to 4 years. After, this you will start noticing some slowdown in power. An unreliable battery is can lead you in trouble especially when traveling long distance. There some types of batteries that can last up to 5 years but a battery continues emitting charge it becomes less effective. The biggest problem in identifying a faulty battery is that most of the car’s power actually comes from the alternator, so it may take you some time to identify a deteriorating one.
How do I dispose of my old car battery?
Once you realize that your old car battery is no longer viable for use the next step is disposal. You cannot dispose it in your trash can like you do with other household waste. Batteries do contain considerable amounts of environmental hazard metals. The lead in the battery can contaminate the soil and if consumed cause serious health problems. The first disposal place to check is your local disposal center. You can Google for recycling center near you and bring your battery. If none exist you also have the option of taking your battery to the auto parts shops. Since these people constantly deal with used cars they have established mechanisms for safe battery disposal. You can also try out the seller of the battery or scrap metal dealers. You can use the later especially when you do not have receipt of proof of purchase for the battery.