When is it time to change the battery?

There are two basic criteria determining the service life of the battery in a serviceable car. Those are automobile mileage over 70–100 thousand km and operating period exceeding 2–3 years. These criteria indicate the design and technology potential of an average battery with standard electrical characteristics. Low-budget options of batteries correspond to lower values of these indicators, therefore it is always useful to pay attention to the warranty obligations of the manufacturers.

Operation of batteries exceeding these criteria is a roulette game where the result depends on many components, such as:

  • Intensity of operation and storage conditions of the automobile, driving modes (city-highway);
  • Technical condition of the car, characteristics of its electrical equipment;
  • Availability of power consumers installed in addition to the factory-supplied vehicle configuration;
  • Routine checking of the condition and maintenance of the battery.

Notably, the lifespan of the battery depends on many parameters, including the number of charge-discharge cycles, depth of discharge, discharge current and charge voltage. For instance, if the car runs as a taxi, the battery will last for 1–1.5 years, while a private car owner who drives out to his summer cottage on weekends can use the battery for 4–5 years, if it is checked and maintained.

Battery deep discharge significantly reduces the service life of a battery, and in the winter, low electrolyte density results in its freezing and subsequent deterioration of the electrodes.

In the course of battery operation, its performance naturally and gradually decreases, and there comes a time when the battery that can easily start the engine in warm seasons stops “cranking” at negative temperatures. Therefore, aged batteries are commonly recommended for change prior to the onset of frosty weather.

A simple criterion for the degree of battery “wear” is cleanness (transparency) of the electrolyte, which can be assessed during density measurement during charging. If the electrolyte becomes cloudy and non-transparent, it is the first sign that the battery service life will soon expire.

There are many specialized electronic devices that help assess the battery condition. Remember that the testing should be performed on a fully charged battery with good contact between the tester terminals and the battery terminals, otherwise a significant measuring error occurs.

Practically, battery operation “until last breath” results in a failure of the car to start at the worst possible moment, interrupting plans and business. Assess the potential of your battery in advance, by yourself or using specialists’ help, and be sure to replace your old battery in advance with a new one.

Andrey Osipov
Head of the Testing and Research Service
Akkumulator Innovatsiy CJSC