If you’re a regular driver, you probably don’t give that much thought to your battery on a daily basis. You don’t have to - that’s what your alternator is for, charging the battery every time you drive. It’s got a pretty vital job, as your battery loses charge very gradually when you’re not using it. Now, we should say that a dead battery isn’t normally something to worry about - your alternator is specifically designed to counteract this issue, unless your car is left for months on end. (Dead batteries were a very common issue for drivers returning to their cars after the first UK lockdown.)
It’s a pretty irritating situation to find yourself in, but the good news is that it’s probably not going to be an issue you encounter short of any more lockdowns - and as long as you keep in mind the general lifespan of your battery. Most standard batteries last a maximum of about five years, but some might start to fade after only about two or or three. Like most other components it really comes down to usage - if you drive long distances every day, it’s naturally going to take a harder toll on your battery than someone driving relatively short distances more infrequently.
Batteries aren’t hugely expensive, and if you’ve got the requisite mechanical knowledge, you can find plenty amongst our online car auctions. But in case you need some, here are a couple of handy tips to make sure you’re not caught off guard.
Spot any electrical issues?
First off, are your electrics all functioning the way they should be when you start up the engine? A few giveaways that things aren’t as they should be include - your headlights being dimmer than usual (as well as being a nuisance to drive with, they also put the safety of you and other drivers at risk!), your radio receiving less signal than it would normally, and your phone charger failing to function properly.
Another thing to keep in mind going forward is that newer cars tend to have more electrical components, and as a result, drain their batteries more quickly. In many cases you’ll get a longer battery life from older or used cars, with fewer or more simple electrical features.
If you notice any of these things, it’s probably best to go and get your battery checked as early as you can.
Check the charge
Think fast - how much charge do you have left on your battery? If you didn’t know the answer off the top of your head (and don’t worry, the vast majority of people wouldn’t), then it’s something you can generally work out simply by thinking about how many jump starts you’ve had recently. If it’s been, say, more than two in the space of a week, then there’s a reasonable chance that your battery might be failing.
As annoying as it is to have an issue trying to tune into your favourite station, or heating your seat, batteries don’t just affect the electrical components of your car. In some cases, they can have serious consequences on the hardware in your engine.
When it all backfires
Electrical functions might not be obvious initially, but you’re probably not going to miss a backfire. Failing car batteries have a tendency to create random sparks which lead to fuel accumulation in the cylinders (in case you’ve not got a tonne of mechanical knowledge, it’s basically a bad thing). When this is ignited suddenly, a strong combustion takes place outside the engine (this is also not a good thing), that causes your car to backfire. It’s honestly pretty hard not to notice - it’s an explosion, and it’ll sound like one. Backfiring can also cause damage to your exhaust and intake if left unchecked so make sure you test your battery so you can rule it out as a cause!
Struggling to get started?
We know we all like to think we know our own cars; all their little noises, vibrations and cranks are just part of what gives them their own little personalities in our minds! Unfortunately, as much as we don’t want to believe it, these characteristics sometimes aren’t just lovable quirks, but can often be symptomatic of a deeper problem. If you notice that your engine is taking longer to start than usual, don’t ignore it. This can be another sign that your battery is nearing the end.
And finally, is your car failing to start at all? Again, you don’t have to have a lot of specialist mechanical knowledge to notice this one. We hate to break bad news to you, but at this point, if you’ve tried a few times to start your car and it still won’t have it, it’s very likely that your battery is completely dead.
The good news is that if you find that you have indeed got a dead battery, they’re fairly cheap to replace. New batteries usually range between £40 to £90. Just bear in mind that this doesn’t include the cost of fitting, so make sure you get a quote to avoid getting caught off-guard! If you are a professional mechanic, you’ve probably got the skills and equipment to tackle the job yourself. If you’ve not got professional experience though, we’d recommend leaving it to someone who does.
But if your car is getting on a bit, and the cost to repair it outweighs what you’re willing to spend, you can always sell it on one of our online car auctions. (You can often get a pretty good replacement for a bargain, too!) Our auctions are refreshed on a daily and weekly basis, so there are always new deals to be had, and we’ve got vehicles from a range of leading manufacturers including BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen. Why not take a look around, and see what you can find?