Does it seem to you that car batteries aren’t lasting nearly as long as they used to? Have you noticed that that vehicle batteries die after just a few years? These days, they don’t seem to make it to the 5 to 7-year average that we were used to just a couple decades ago.
This is one case where technology has advanced, but not every aspect has improved. Ever since the rechargeable lead-acid battery was invented by French physicist Gaston Planté in 1859, the automotive industry has continued to innovate. Now, 160 years later, drivers are complaining that the battery hardly outlasts their new car’s warranty.
It’s not just your imagination. It’s true – modern car batteries have a shorter lifespan. Here’s why. A battery today is under a lot of pressure because of car buyers’ changing demands and habits. There are five main factors which have negatively impacted battery life:
- More electronics demanding power,
- Smaller battery dimensions,
- Pressure to make cheaper batteries,
- Extreme temperatures, and
- Poor battery maintenance.
Part of the problem is explained by as simple supply and demand. Today’s cars have more electronic components and equipment which demand more power from the car battery. Older cars didn’t have to power much more than the lights, radio and heat. Now, the battery is drained faster by things like power steering, power windows and seat controls, air conditioning, touchscreen monitors, heated seats and navigation systems.
Then, there is a whole host of components which use battery power even after the car has been turned off. For example, the computer controlling the transmission, onboard computer and security system all continue to drain the battery while the vehicle sits still. It’s referred to as ‘parasitic drain,’ and some amount of this is normal.
These days, car buyers also have a lot of gadgets to charge up during their drive. Charging your mobile phone, GPS system, laptop and tablet draws energy from the car’s electrical system. Plus, leaving them plugged in when the car is not running can decrease the battery’s capacity over time.
The trend in technology has always followed consumers’ demand for smaller, lighter, more mobile devices. This applies to car batteries as well. As the auto industry tries to make cars lighter in order to increase fuel efficiency, there has been pressure to decrease the size of batteries. Limiting the dimensions and weight also limits the amount of power that the battery can store. Combined with the increased demand for power, this means that batteries are now required to be leaner and meaner than they ever were before.
As with all consumer goods, price is a factor. Buyers want a bargain, and this has indirectly caused the manufacturers of vehicle parts to look for ways to decrease costs. Both OEM and after-market batteries are made using less material, and in some cases cheaper material, then they were decades ago. This helps lower the final price tag for cars on the lot at the dealership.
Manufacturers are happy to meet consumer’s demands for less expensive cars, but in the end, car owners may be less satisfied with their purchase. If the battery dies after just a few years, or right after the new car warranty has expired, owners might actually feel cheated.
Cars are also being put to the test by environmental factors more and more. Extremely cold temperatures, like those we experience during the winter in Pennsylvania, make it harder for vehicle batteries to work. As more consumers rely on their vehicles even when the weather is challenging, batteries are subject to a greater amount of stress.
The cold slows down the chemical process which allows the battery to produce and store energy. Batteries reaching the end of their lifespan are more likely to be affected by a drop in the temperatures. A cold snap may leave your car almost completely drained or dead.
The average car buyer wants a car that doesn’t require a lot of care. Producers have tried to please consumers by marketing ‘maintenance-free’ products. Yet, with the increased strain that we are putting on the battery, maintenance becomes more important.
Here are some easy ways that you can help the battery to last longer:
- Avoid using the car for short drives.
- If you frequently use your car just for short drives, fully charge your battery using a charger weekly. This is especially important during the winter.
- Turn off car equipment (don’t forget the lights!) and unplug electronics when you turn the car off.
- Keep the terminals rust-free.
At Badell’s Collision, we know you rely on your car. That’s why we work to help you keep it running well. For auto body repair, vehicle painting and glass repair services, stop by our shops in Aston and Malvern, Pennsylvania or use our online estimate form.