Normally, you might take the car battery for granted, but an integral part of this kit is the only power source used to start the car. If you’ve ever had a battery problem, you know that your car can’t run without this part. In fact, battery failure is one of the most common causes for the breakdown.
So how do these batteries work, how do you take care of them and when do they need to be replaced?
What is a battery?
A battery is a device that directly converts the chemical energy contained in active materials into electrical energy through an electrochemical oxidation-reduction (redox) reaction. This type of reaction involves the transfer of electrons from one substance to another through an electrical circuit.
Although the term battery is often used, a cell is an actual electrochemical unit used to generate or store electrical energy.
To understand the difference between a cell and a battery, depending on the desired output voltage and capacity, one or more cells in series, parallel, or both should be considered a battery.
What is a Car Battery?
A car battery or automotive battery is a rechargeable battery used to start a motor vehicle. Its main purpose is to provide an electric current to the electric-powered starting motor, which in turn starts the chemically-powered internal combustion engine that actually propels the vehicle.
When the engine is running, the battery continues to supply power to the vehicle’s electrical system, and the alternator charges the battery as demand increases and decreases.
Most of these car batteries use lead-acid chemical reaction. Each cell has two plates, one made of lead and the other of lead dioxide. These plates are immersed in sulfuric acid, which acts as a catalyst and causes chemical reactions between them.
This reaction produces electrons that generate electricity. Electricity then flows from the battery to start the car’s engine. This reaction is reversible. So, the battery is recharged while the engine is running and why you can jumpstart it when it’s flat.
When you turn on the car’s ignition, it sends a signal to the battery to start a chemical reaction. The electricity produced by this reaction powers the starter motor, which turns the engine. At the same time, the battery powers the spark plug, which ignites the compressed air-fuel mixture in the engine’s ignition cylinder.
The electricity supplied by the battery is replaced by the alternator. The alternator supplies most of the current to the vehicle’s electrical system and keeps the battery charged.
How Do Car Batteries Work?
Most car batteries use lead-acid chemical reaction to get things moving and grooving. These batteries are placed in the “SLI” category. SLI stands for Start, Light, Ignite. This type of battery provides short bursts of energy to power lights, accessories, and engine.
When the battery starts the engine, the car is powered by the alternator. Most cars come with a generic SLI battery from the factory. Learn more about other types of car batteries.
How do Car Batteries work?
- A typical SLI battery has six cells. Each cell has two plates or grids. One is made of lead and the other is made of lead dioxide. Each cell can produce approximately 2 volts of energy. Most car batteries have 6 cells, resulting in a 12-volt battery.
- The plate is immersed in sulfuric acid, which causes a reaction between the two plates. Scientifically, acids act as catalysts.
- This acid causes a reaction on the lead dioxide plate and produces both ion and lead sulfate on the plate.
- The ions produced by the lead dioxide plates react with the adjacent plates to produce hydrogen and lead sulfate.
- As a result, a chemical reaction occurs that produces electrons. Electrons rotate around the plate and generate electricity. Electricity flows from the battery terminals to start the engine, turn on the headlights and play the radio.
- This chemical reaction is completely reversible, so you can jump start the battery and keep it charged for the rest of its life. By energizing the battery with the proper voltage, lead and lead dioxide form on the plates, allowing the battery to be reused!
Are There Any Warning Signs That May Indicate My Battery Is On The Fritz?
Fortunately, there are several signs and symptoms that may indicate that your battery needs to be replaced:
- Engine cranks slowly: When you try to start the vehicle, the engine cranks slowly and takes longer than usual to start. “Rur rur rur” is the initial noise.
- Check Engine Light: The Check Engine Light may appear when the battery is low. Strange system indicator lights, such as a check engine light or low coolant, can indicate a problem with your battery. (It may also mean you need more coolant).
- Low battery fluid level: Car batteries usually have a transparent part so you can always check the battery fluid level. You can also remove and check the red and black caps if they don’t seal (most modern car batteries seal these parts permanently).
- Bottom line: If the fluid level is below the internal lead plate (energy conductor), it’s time to test the battery and charging system. A low fluid level is usually caused by overcharging (heat).
- Swollen battery case: If the battery case looks like it has eaten a very large meal, this could indicate a failing battery. Excessive heat can cause the battery case to swell and reduce battery life.
- Eww, Rotten Egg Smell: Sometimes there is a strong rotten egg smell (sulfur odor) around the battery. Cause: battery leakage. Leakage also causes corrosion around the posts (where the + and – cable connections are). The gun must be removed or the car may not start.
- 3+ years of battery life is considered old. Batteries can last more than 3 years, but after at least 3 years, the current condition should be checked annually. Battery life is 3-5 years depending on the battery. However, driving habits, weather and frequent short trips (less than 20 minutes) can significantly reduce the actual life of your car battery.
Why do batteries go flat?
A car battery can last about five years or more depending on how it is cared for. Depending on the type of driving, the car battery shows signs of aging after about 3 years.
In fact, when you use the battery to start the engine, the battery dies in an instant. Then it is gradually charged by the engine while driving. After several short trips, the battery may not be able to fully charge before being used again, and the battery may wear out prematurely. This means you should replace it sooner than you regularly drive long distances.
A number of factors also affect the health of a car battery, such as the outside temperature and the needs of the car’s additional electrical systems.
- 7 Things That Can Drain Your Car Battery
- How to Clean Battery Terminals?
- How To Jump Start a Car?
- How to Charge a Car Battery?
How Do I Determine If My Battery Is Too Old?
For one, you can find the 4-digit or 5-digit date code on the battery case cover. The first part of the code is important. Look for letters and numbers. Each month is assigned a letter, such as A for January, B for February, and so on.
The next number represents the year, such as 9 for 2009 and 1 for 2011. This code indicates when the battery was shipped from the factory to the local wholesaler. Additional digits indicate where the battery was manufactured.
The average life of car batteries is 3-5 years. Be careful, there are also signs of a weak battery to watch out for, such as cranking the engine slowly with low fluid levels. If the battery compartment bulges or swells, the battery smells like rotten eggs, or the Check Engine light comes on, trouble may be just around the corner. Consider it time to watch carefully.