How Long Should a Car Battery Last?

Whether you’ve purchased a new battery or you are still running with the original battery, it’s important to understand how long car batteries last. Find out today what you can expect from your battery and signs to look out for that indicate it’s time to replace your battery. If it's time to replace your battery, head to America's #1 battery destination.

Average Battery Lifetime and Charge

The latest batteries are designed to perform at full charge right up until the time they fail. While this is a benefit if you’re attempting to make it back to your garage or auto store before your battery fails, it also means that you’ll have few warning signs that your battery is about to expire.

It’s incredibly difficult to put an exact date on a battery. There are dozens of factors that can increase or decrease the lifespan of your battery. Here are a few factors that will affect your battery life:

  • Extreme hot or cold temperatures
  • Increased electrical use
  • Driving time
  • Alternator and drive belt condition

It’s important to remember that no battery lasts forever. Whether you’re keeping your car in storage all year or driving it every day, you’ll still need to replace your battery at some point. Typically, a car battery will last between three and five years. Pushing a battery longer than five years, even under perfect driving conditions, could cause your battery to fail without notice. For that reason, many manufacturers recommend a replacement schedule of five years.

When your battery is reaching three or more years old, consider having it tested. A battery test is often free at your local auto store and can give you more detailed information about the current condition of your car battery. A battery test will give you a clear understanding of your battery’s current state, which can give you a clearer estimate of a replacement schedule.

Warning Signs That Your Battery May Fail Soon

Because modern batteries are designed to use all available charge before failing, there’s few signs that alert you to a low battery. Older batteries reduced their output and caused headlights to dim, causing starting to become difficult and sudden power fluctuations. The best way to determine if a modern battery needs a charge is to keep track of its age and to perform a battery test. Otherwise you may end up with a dead battery and be unable to start your vehicle.

Best Ways to Improve Your Car Battery’s Life

If you think you’re replacing your battery too often, there are some ways to help extend its lifespan. Because many of the factors depend on your driving style, a few changes can help you get the most out of your next battery investment.

First, consider your driving conditions. If you’re constantly driving on backroads and bumpy dirt trails, your battery could be suffering from a poor connection. Poor connections are inefficient ways to conduct electricity, so simply tightening your battery cable connections and the battery hold-down clamp may help improve your battery life.

Automotive batteries are like any other type of rechargeable battery; It’s best to leave them fully charged when in rest. Avoid playing the stereo or leaving the lights on for an extended amount of time when the engine isn’t running. This could weaken your battery and cause the alternator to work harder decreasing the lifespan of both components.

An easy way to remember to periodically test your battery is to check it every time you change your oil. If you change your own oil, consider investing in a battery tester for convenient checkups or stop by your local AutoZone for a free battery test. For car owners who’d rather take their vehicle to their trusted mechanic, ask them to include a battery test in your oil change routine. This gives you a good warning sign if there’s any issues with your battery holding a charge or that it may be weakening.

While you may not be able to avoid driving in cold temperatures, you can factor that in when you consider the lifespan of your battery. For drivers in more northern climates, you may not be able to get the full five or more-year lifespan out of your new battery. However, keeping your vehicle in a heated garage and minimizing trips in extremely cold temperatures could help improve its lifespan.

What to Know When Replacing Your Battery

Routine testing and keeping track of your battery’s lifespan will give you a clear idea of when to replace a car battery. As your battery nears the end of its life, it’s time to consider the best battery replacement. Many mechanics will tell you that premium batteries, particularly ones with longer warranties, have a longer, more productive lifespan than affordable alternatives. Other professionals suggest purchasing affordable batteries for long-term savings.

Either way, the important thing is to keep track of your battery and know when you need to test or replace it. You may not experience any warning signs, but a battery test and consistent schedule are essential for preventing sudden failure. Whether you replace your battery every three years or extend its life to six years or more, carefully monitor its power and ability to maintain a charge. This will reduce your odds of being stranded and keep your vehicle powered as you cruise down the road.

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on AutoZone.com and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

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