Even for the least initiated among us, the car battery presents little mystery when compared with the rest of the automotive repair world. A dead battery can usually be recharged with a jump from another battery. Having a dead battery, mind you, doesn't always necessarily mean a new battery needs to be purchased.
A car battery is usually manufactured to last around five years, based on optimal conditions. If a car battery dies before that time, it could be due to driver error, which means it was completely avoidable in many instances. Some of the main ways in which a car battery can meet a premature end is through lack of proper maintenance and subsequently the corrosion of cables and posts that connect the battery to the engine. Extreme weather conditions can also reduce the life of a battery, such as very hot or cold weather. Of course, the most common way to kill a battery is to leave your lights on when the engine is off. Double check your lights before leaving your vehicle and avoid unnecessarily being convicted of battery manslaughter.
Recharging the Dead Battery
Naturally, no matter how good our intentions, sometimes we will find ourselves with a prematurely dead battery. The good news is this: You may not need to replace the battery right away. If the battery dies around the five year mark, you should definitely get a new one. Otherwise, jump start the battery using either a battery pack (found at all auto part discount stores and many big box stores such as Walmart) or a good Samaritan's juiced-up battery. After jumping the car, let it run for at least 20 minutes to let the engine recharge the battery. If it holds the charge, you should have nothing to worry about. If not, it's time for a new one.
Whether or not your battery will hold its charge is a matter of pure speculation, even if you just bought it yesterday. Therefore, make sure you drive to a safe zone after jumping the car. You don't want to park out in the middle of nowhere, only to find the battery lost its charge when you go to start it up again. Drive home or to a place where you know you can get a second jump if you have any apprehensions about the battery being able to fully recharge itself from the engine.
There are simple ways to avoid being in this precarious position in the first place. As mentioned previously, make sure you don't leave your lights or radio running when the engine is off--these are major battery drainers. Second, practice good battery maintenance once a season to extend the life of your car's electrical source. This can be done simply by inspecting the cables for wear and using a wire brush to get rid of any corrosion found around the terminals.
Hybrid Car Batteries
On the other end of the cost spectrum are the batteries used for hybrid cars. These new gas saving autos have recently become the hottest new trend in reducing carbon emissions and saving money at the service station, but the batteries they run off can cost a pretty penny if they lose their juice. Fortunately, considering these batteries can run for as much as $3,000, they are designed to last the life of the car, or at least through a ten year warranty period. However, when they do fail, replacement is the only viable option.
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