Your car battery gives your engine the boost it needs to start your car. Without some juice in your battery, you’re not going anywhere.
Fortunately for drivers, batteries are relatively low maintenance.
Most modern cars house a single 12-volt acid battery that requires little to no maintenance over it’s five to seven-year lifespan. However, like all batteries, a car battery slows over time. After several years, the device loses its ability to hold a charge, meaning you’ll be jumpstarting your car on a regular basis.
Thankfully, car battery replacement is not only inexpensive, but you can do it yourself.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to:
- Tell when it’s time for a car battery replacement
- Replace your battery at home
- Prolong the life of your battery
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about car battery replacement.
5 Signs It’s Time for a Car Battery Replacement
If you’re like the average car owner, you don’t fully realize something is wrong with your car until you’re sitting in an empty parking lot wondering how you‘re going to get home.
You’re not alone – almost every car owner has been there at one point.
An aging battery is just one of the problems that may leave you stranded. Fortunately, a car battery doesn’t merely quit on you; there are recognizable warning signs.
1. Your Check Engine Light Is On
Your check engine light may seem enigmatic, especially if you have an old car.
However, weak battery power triggers this problematic light. So, if your light continues to turn on and everything else is working fine, check out your battery.
2. Your Battery Fluid Level Is Low
Part of the battery case should be translucent so that you’re able to see the battery fluid level.
Low fluid levels occur when the fluid falls below the energy conductor or lead plates.
If the fluid is low, test the battery’s charging system: it may be time to replace it.
3. The Battery Is Leaking
Some batteries leak once they get too old. Leaking not only results in corrosion around the positive and negative posts – where you get the power – but may prevent your car from starting.
A temporary solution for a leak is simply to clean up the battery by removing the fluid from the posts. But you may be in the market for a new power source sooner rather than later.
4. Slow Engine Crank
Aging batteries struggle to get going. If turning the key elicits a sluggish, cranking noise that sounds a little like how you feel when your alarm goes off in the morning, your battery is getting too old.
5. Your Battery Is Over 3 Years Old
Checking the battery should become part of your maintenance routine once your current battery reaches three years old.
If you care for your car, then your battery should last significantly longer than three years. But it’s around the three-year mark that problems begin to show up. Add it to your annual inspection list until one of the above issues begins happening.
Recognize any of these five common issues?
To see whether a car battery replacement is around the corner, have your car battery tested with the AVR test. The AVR test compares your current battery to a brand new one to see how it stacks up.
The test ranges from $20 to $50, but some repair shops will throw it in for free as part of your maintenance plan.
A 10-Step Guide to Car Battery Replacement
Like an oil change, changing a car battery is a simple process that requires little to no knowledge of engines or other car technology. In fact, the most challenging part of the car battery replacement process is lifting it because it’s so heavy.
Read These Tips First
Before you dive into the details of car battery replacement, let’s first look at a few safety tips. Although these seem like common sense when you read them, you may realize how important they are until it’s too late.
First, turn off your car before you touch the vehicle. Don’t just put it in park – turn on your emergency brake.
Second, batteries are filled with acid. Avoid spilling it on your person or your car. Acid corrodes and will ruin your skin and your car’s paint job.
Third, connect the right wires to the battery terminal. More on that in the following section.
Fourth, don’t dump your battery in the trash. Throwing away batteries is illegal in most cities, and you don’t want to waste the money you saved on a mechanic by being forced to hire Stony Plain Family Lawyers.
You can earn some extra cash or store credit by handing it over to an:
- Auto Parts Store
- Scrap Yards
- Auto Repair Shops
Otherwise, dispose of it properly by recycling it with your city or your local mechanic.
10 Steps to Car Battery Replacement
These ten steps are so simple that anyone can follow them.
The entire process should take approximately one hour. It also requires a few basic tools including:
- New battery
- Battery wrench or pliers OR open wrenches or sockets
- Battery terminal puller
- Safety glasses
- Battery cleaning fluid or baking soda/water mixture
Once you’ve got your gear, follow these instructions to replace your battery in no time.
1. Prep Your Car
Turn off the engine, turn on your emergency brake, and pop the hood to locate the battery.
Once you’ve found it, remove the black (negative) cable from the battery by loosening the nut with battery pliers or a battery wrench. However, a combination wrench also works in a pinch.
2. Remove the Negative Cable
Once it’s detached, pull the end of the cable to remove it. If it doesn’t come off right away, you may need help from your battery terminal puller to avoid damaging your wires.
Don’t use another tool to pry it out; you’ll damage the battery or even break off the terminal.
3. Remove the Positive Cable
Use the same process to remove the red (positive) cable.
4. Take Off the Clamp
Use your open wrench to remove the hold-down clamp from the battery.
5. Pull Out the Battery
By now, you’ve removed all the pieces that keep your battery in place, which means its time to remove the whole battery from the engine.
If your battery has a handle, lift it out using the handle. No handle? Use two hands to grab the base of the battery and lift.
Be sure you’re prepared for the weight by bending your knees slightly and protecting your back.
6. Clean the Tray and Parts
Old batteries tend to leak or leave behind other corrosion, so you’ll want to clean the surface of your tray, hold-down clamp, and battery cables before installing a fresh battery.
Choose either a battery cleaning solution or a mixture of baking soda of water and scrub it with an old rag or toothbrush to prepare a fresh surface for your new battery.
7. Install the New Battery
Once the surface is clean, your car is ready for a fresh battery. Pick it up safely from the cart or the ground safely by lifting with your knees and not your back.
Place the batter in the tray before using your wrench to put the freshly-cleaned hold-down clamp back in place.
8. Protect Your Battery
Corrosion wears down your battery life. Protect even new batteries by using an anti-corrosion spray or solution.
9. Attach the Cables
In the final step, you’ll attach your battery cables using your pliers or wrench.
Start with the red (positive) cable. Attach it to the post and tighten it.
Once the red cable is on, attach the black (negative cable).
Note: ALWAYS attach the positive cable first. Connecting the negative before the positive could short out the battery.
10. Double Check Your Work
It never hurts to check your work. Try to move the battery to make sure you’ve tightened everything correctly. If anything moves, tighten it further.
Without a tight fit, you won’t be able to get the electrical connection required to start your car.
How to Lengthen the Life of Your Car Battery
Want to avoid replacing your battery every few years? Follow these tips for extending your battery life:
Clean Up Corrosion
Batteries corrode over time. Scrub them with a battery cleaner or a mixture of baking soda and water to remove corrosion every six months.
Turn off the Lights
Don’t push your battery’s boundaries by leaving the lights on or using electronics when it’s idling. Get in the habit of treating your car battery’s energy like your home energy bill and unplug whenever you turn off your car.
Check the Fasteners
Allowing the battery to rattle around in its case causes weak connections and even damage. Tighten the hold-down clamp when necessary to ensure it stays in place.
Test It Regularly
Once your battery is two years old, ask your mechanic to test it whenever you bring your car into the shop. Alternatively, purchase your own car battery tester to avoid running your battery into the ground.
Become Your Own Mechanic
Car battery replacement is a basic process that any driver can learn. Not only does this skill empower you to understand more about your car, but it saves you both time and money.
Want to learn how to perform more repairs? Download your car’s service repair manual from Certified Master Tech today.