Just like your TV remote or fancy electric toothbrush, your car needs a battery to run. If it dies, your car won’t start, leaving you stranded or stuck at home. You know your car battery is important, but do you really understand how it powers your engine, lights, and radio? Follow along as we break down the complexities of a battery and explain how does a car battery work! If knowledge is power, you’ll be in great shape.
What is a Car Battery?
A car battery is a rechargeable battery that is used to start a starting motor and power the electrical systems in a vehicle. It is typically a lead-acid battery, which consists of a series of lead-based cells that are connected together in a specific configuration. The cells are filled with an electrolyte solution, which allows for the flow of electricity through the battery.
A car battery uses lead-acid technology to turn chemical energy into electricity. It accomplishes this through the usage of cells, most standard car batteries contain typically have six cells arranged in a row within a plastic casing. Each cell produces two volts per cell—which is why a car battery is often referred to as a 12-volt battery.
Each cell contains a positive and negative plate immersed in a chemical solution called an electrolyte. When the battery is connected to an electrical circuit, a chemical reaction occurs that generates electricity. This electricity is then used to power the vehicle’s electrical systems.
The car battery is typically located in the engine compartment of the vehicle and is connected to the electrical system through cables. It is used to start the car by providing the necessary power to crank the engine. It also helps to maintain a stable electrical system in the vehicle by providing a consistent source of power for the various systems, such as the headlights, taillights, and dashboard lights.
The battery is rechargeable, which means that it can be recharged by the vehicle’s alternator or by an external charger. It is important to keep the car battery charged and in good condition, as a dead battery can prevent the vehicle from starting and may cause other problems with the electrical system. It is recommended to have the car battery tested regularly to ensure it is functioning properly.
What’s Inside A Car Battery?
How does a car battery work?
A car battery uses lead-acid technology to turn chemical energy into electricity. It accomplishes this through the usage of cells, which contain and store the energy until needed.
Most standard car batteries contain six cells that are situated in a row inside the plastic casing. Each cell contains a lead dioxide plate and a lead plate. Which together produce two volts per cell—which is why a car battery is often referred to as a 12-volt battery.
The rows of cells are submerged in sulfuric acid, which initiates a chemical reaction between the lead dioxide and lead plates. This process generates lead sulfate and ions. As the ions move between the lead plates, another chemical reaction occurs, resulting in the production of hydrogen and lead sulfate.
The movement of ions generates electricity, which is distributed to the positive or negative terminal of the battery. From there, the electricity is carried through two wires to the starter motor and other essential electrical systems in the vehicle.
Here is a step-by-step explanation of how a car battery works:
- The battery is connected to the starter motor and other electrical components of the vehicle through a series of wires.
- When the ignition switch is turned on, electricity flows from the battery through the wires to the starter motor.
- The starter motor uses electricity to spin a small gear called the pinion gear, which engages the engine’s flywheel.
- The flywheel is a large, heavy gear attached to the engine’s crankshaft. When the pinion gear engages the flywheel, it causes the crankshaft to rotate, which in turn starts the engine.
- Once the engine is running, the alternator begins to generate electricity and charges the battery. The alternator is a small generator that is driven by the engine’s belt.
- The battery supplies electricity to the vehicle’s electrical components, such as the headlights, radio, and dashboard gauges, even when the engine is not running.
- When the engine is running, the alternator generates electricity and charges the battery, replacing the electrical energy that was used while the engine was off.
- If the battery is not properly charged, it may not be able to start the engine or power the electrical components of the vehicle. It is important to keep the battery properly charged and to replace it when it becomes weak or fails.
The 5 Functions of a Car Battery
- Starting the engine: The car battery supplies the electrical current needed to start the engine by turning over the starter motor.
- Powering the ignition system: The ignition system requires a strong burst of electricity to fire the spark plugs and ignite the fuel in the engine. The battery supplies this electricity.
- Providing power to the electrical system: When the engine is not running, the battery powers the electrical components of the vehicle, such as the headlights, taillights, and dashboard lights.
- Stabilizing the electrical system: The battery helps to stabilize the electrical system by providing a consistent level of voltage.
- Serving as a backup power source: In the event of a power outage or other electrical issue, the battery can serve as a backup power source to keep the vehicle’s electrical system functioning.
Types of Car Batteries
There are several types of car batteries available, each of which has its own specific features and characteristics. Some of the most common types of car batteries include:
1. Flooded Lead-Acid Batteries.
Flooded Lead-acid batteries are the most common type of car batteries and have been in use for over a century. They are made up of lead plates and sulfuric acid, which react to produce electricity through a process called electrolysis. The lead plates are separated by insulating materials, and the sulfuric acid is contained in a series of cells that make up the battery.
When the battery is being used, the lead plates release electrons, which flow through the electrical system of the vehicle to power various components. At the same time, the sulfuric acid reacts with the lead plates, releasing hydrogen gas and creating a negative charge on the plates.
This process is called discharging. When the battery is recharged, an external source of electricity is applied to the battery, causing the lead plates to absorb electrons and the sulfuric acid to react with the lead plates again, creating a positive charge on the plates. This process is called charging.
Flooded Lead-acid batteries are relatively inexpensive and have a long service life, but they can be heavy and may require more frequent maintenance. They are typically found in older vehicles or vehicles with less demanding electrical systems.
2. Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) Batteries.
AGM batteries are a type of sealed, lead-acid battery that use a fiberglass mat to hold the electrolyte in place. The mat is soaked in sulfuric acid, which reacts with the lead plates to produce electricity. The fiberglass mat provides a high level of insulation, making AGM batteries resistant to vibration and shocks. They are also sealed and do not produce any gas, making them safer to use in enclosed spaces.
AGM batteries are generally more expensive than lead-acid batteries, but they have a longer service life and require less maintenance. They are often found in newer vehicles with more demanding electrical systems, such as high-performance vehicles or vehicles with advanced electrical systems.
3. Gel Batteries.
Gel batteries are a type of sealed, lead-acid battery that uses a silicone gel to hold the electrolyte in place. Like AGM batteries, gel batteries are resistant to vibration and shocks and are sealed, so they do not produce any gas. The silicone gel provides a high level of insulation, making gel batteries more resistant to temperature changes and allowing them to perform well in a wide range of environments.
Gel batteries are generally more expensive than lead-acid batteries, but they have a longer service life and require less maintenance. They are often used in vehicles with high electrical demands, such as recreational vehicles or boats, as well as in vehicles that are subjected to extreme temperatures or rough driving conditions.
4. Lithium-Ion Batteries.
Lithium-ion batteries are a newer type of car battery that uses lithium-ion technology to store and release electricity. They are becoming more common in hybrid and electric vehicles, as well as in some high-performance vehicles with demanding electrical systems.
Lithium-ion batteries are generally lighter and more expensive than other types of car batteries, but they have a longer service life and require less maintenance. They are also more efficient, as they can discharge and recharge more quickly than other types of car batteries.
This makes them well-suited for use in hybrid and electric vehicles, which rely on the battery to power the vehicle and require frequent charging.
5. Silver Calcium Battery.
A silver calcium battery is a type of lead-acid battery that uses a calcium-alloyed lead-positive grid and a silver-coated negative grid. The use of these materials in the battery construction improves the battery’s performance and lifespan.
One of the main benefits of silver calcium batteries is their ability to resist corrosion and sulfation, which can reduce the battery’s performance and shorten its lifespan. The calcium-alloyed lead and silver-coated grids are more resistant to these issues than traditional lead-acid batteries, which can help extend the battery’s service life.
Silver calcium batteries also have a higher cold cranking amperage (CCA) rating than traditional lead-acid batteries, which means they can deliver more power when starting the vehicle in cold weather. They also have a lower self-discharge rate, which means they lose less of their stored energy over time when not in use.
In addition to their use in automotive applications, silver calcium batteries are also used in other applications where a high-performance, the long-lasting battery is required, such as in boats, recreational vehicles, and backup power systems.
Overall, silver calcium batteries offer improved performance and longer service life compared to traditional lead-acid batteries, but they may be more expensive. Consult with a mechanic or refer to your owner’s manual to determine if a silver calcium battery is the best option for your vehicle.
6. Enhanced Flooded Battery (EFB).
An enhanced flooded battery (EFB) is a type of lead-acid battery that is designed to improve the performance and lifespan of traditional flooded lead-acid batteries. It is often used in vehicles with stop-start systems, which turn off the engine when the vehicle is stationary to save fuel and reduce emissions.
EFB batteries are similar to traditional flooded lead-acid batteries in that they use lead plates and sulfuric acid to produce electricity. However, they use a different type of lead alloy in the positive grid and have a higher density of lead in the negative grid. This helps to improve the battery’s performance and lifespan.
EFB batteries also have a higher cold cranking amperage (CCA) rating than traditional flooded lead-acid batteries, which means they can deliver more power when starting the vehicle in cold weather. They also have a lower self-discharge rate, which means they lose less of their stored energy over time when not in use.
Overall, EFB batteries offer improved performance and longer service life compared to traditional flooded lead-acid batteries, but they may be more expensive. Consult with a mechanic or refer to your owner’s manual to determine if an EFB battery is the best option for your vehicle.
7. Deep Cycle Battery.
The deep cycle battery is a type of lead acid battery and can be flooded or sealed. It uses a thicker battery plate in its cells and has a denser active material.
The deep cycle battery type is designed for sustained power with a lower current draw over extended time periods. It’s better suited to recreational vehicles, golf carts, and marine vehicles — which is why it’s also called a marine battery.
8. Nickel Metal Hydride Battery.
The NiMH battery (nickel-metal hydride) is often used in hybrid vehicles but is successful in some electric cars. This hybrid battery has a longer life cycle than the lithium-ion or lead-acid battery.
However, they have a high self-discharge rate, are expensive, and generate a lot of heat at high temperatures. This is why the NiMH battery is less effective for rechargeable electric vehicles and is focused on hybrid cars.
It is important to choose the right type of car battery for your vehicle, as using the wrong type can lead to problems with starting and overall performance. Consult your owner’s manual or a mechanic to determine the best battery for your vehicle.
Can A Bad Battery Harm the Charging System Or Starter?
Yes, a bad battery can harm the charging system or starter of a vehicle. If the battery is not functioning properly, it may not be able to hold a charge or provide the necessary power to start the engine. This can cause the charging system to work harder than it should in order to keep the battery charged, which can lead to problems with the charging system.
Similarly, if the battery is not able to provide sufficient power to the starter motor, it may struggle to turn the engine over, which can cause damage to the starter. In some cases, a bad battery may also cause problems with other electrical components of the vehicle, such as the ignition system or the vehicle’s electrical system as a whole.
It is important to keep the battery in good condition and to replace it if it is not functioning properly in order to avoid these issues. If you notice any problems with your battery or your vehicle’s electrical system, it is a good idea to have it checked by a mechanic as soon as possible.
How to Tell How Old a Car Battery Is?
The most common sign that a battery may need replacement is a slower-than-normal engine crank phase when you try to start it. It will sound as if the engine is struggling to start. If you notice this, you can also check battery strength by turning on the headlights while the car is off. Dim headlights are an indicator that the battery may be approaching the end of its life.
But how do we know the Actual age of the Car battery?
The first step is to locate the battery under the hood and look for a sticker with date information printed in a recognizable convention. For example, “3/15” would simply mean the battery was manufactured in March 2015.
If there is no date sticker, the battery will have a strip, engraving, or heat stamp with a decipherable alphanumeric code.
To read a battery date code, look for a series of letters and numbers stamped on the battery. The date code is usually located on the top or side of the battery, near the manufacturer’s name or logo. The letters and numbers in the date code typically correspond to a particular month and year.
Here is an example of how to read a battery date code:
- The first letter of the date code represents the month that the battery was manufactured. For example, the letter “A” could represent the month of January, “B” could represent February, and so on until “L” which directly corresponds to December.
- The second and third characters of the date code represent the year that the battery was manufactured. For example, “05” could represent 2005, “20” could represent 2020, and so on.
- So, using the example date code of “F05,” we can determine that the battery was manufactured in May of 2005.
It is important to note that different manufacturers may use different date code systems, so it is always a good idea to refer to the manufacturer’s documentation or contact the manufacturer for clarification if you are unsure of how to read the date code.