If you think your car battery doesn’t last as long here in Arizona (and especially if you live in the Phoenix area), you’re right. Car batteries are supposed to last three to five years, but in Arizona, a battery lifespan hovers just around two or three years.
Why so short? The answer starts with heat: Batteries are full of fluid and heat causes it to evaporate. Other factors contribute to the drain, too: constantly running the air conditioner at full speed, road vibrations, stop-and-go traffic, and even charging our cell phones while driving.
Signs That Your Battery is Dying or Already Dead
If you pay close attention, your car may signal in advance that your battery is on its way out. Here are some of the signs that it’s either dying or already dead. If you notice any of these, be sure to have your mechanic perform a battery check.
WHEN YOU TRY TO DRIVE:
Your engine takes longer to turn over, or just buzzes, stutters or clicks: If your engine seems to need to crank itself to life, it could be a sign your battery is about to die. If your engine makes a clicking sound, and the headlights and dashboard lights come on but the car won’t turn on, it could also be a battery issue.
The engine starts but then dies: You could have just enough battery power to make the engine turn over, but then the battery fails.
Your car won’t start at all: If your car won’t even make an attempt to start when you try to power it up, your battery is very possibly dead.
Your electrical doesn’t seem to be running at full power: Because the battery powers all of your electronics in your vehicle, you might notice some issues, such as dim headlights or dim interior lights, or a weak air conditioning flow.
It smells like rotten eggs or sulfur: This could indicate that your battery is leaking or damaged. Don’t drive if you sense this smell — call your dealer or mechanic.
The battery indicator or check engine light comes on: If your car is relatively new, it’s equipped with dashboard warning lights, including one for the battery. Your vehicle may also signal a battery issue via the check engine light.
WHEN YOU PEEK UNDER THE HOOD
The battery looks misshapen: If your battery appears bloated or deformed, take your car to the mechanic right away.
The battery’s terminals are corroded: This is caused by hydrogen gas being released from the sulfuric acid inside the battery. It looks like a bluish-green substance, and it limits the battery’s ability to receive a charge.
What to do if your battery is dead:
If your battery is dead, don’t fret. Jump starting it, then driving to charge the battery will usually give it enough oomph to get home or to your mechanic where you can swap out the battery if needed. If you’re not able to jump start your vehicle, call roadside assistance.
What you need to have on hand: A portable jump starter (which can transfer power from a portable battery to your vehicle’s discharged battery) or jumper cables. It’s always a good idea to have one of those items in your car.
If you have jumper cables, call a friend or family member who can provide a “donor” car. The front end of your car should face the donor car without touching, about 18 inches apart. Both car engines should be off and shifted into “Park” or “Neutral” with the parking brakes on.
Using your jumper cables:
Jumper cables come in a set of four cables: two red and two black. Here’s how to use them to jump start your battery.
- Attach the clip at the end of the red cable to the positive terminal ( + ) of the dead battery.
- Attach the other red cable to the positive terminal ( + ) of the donor car.
- Attach a black jumper cable clip to the negative terminal ( – ) of the donor battery.
- Finally, attach the other black jumper cable clip to an unpainted metal surface on your car.
- Start the donor car, and let it idle to charge your battery.
- After a few minutes, attempt to start your car. If it doesn’t work, let the battery charge for a few more minutes, and try again. You can also try revving the engine of the donor vehicle.
- If you do get your vehicle running, don’t shut down the engine. Remove the negative clamp of the jumper cables, then the positive clamps. Make sure not to let the cables touch each other.
- Keep the engine running and drive your car for 15 to 20 minutes, allowing your alternator to continue to charge the battery.
Your next step will be to see about replacing your battery. Have your battery tested at your mechanic or an auto parts store that offers that service (many will do it for free). If it is time to replace your battery, make sure to check the warranty before you spend money on a new one. Often in Arizona, your battery will wear out before the warranty expires, so you may not need to pay to replace it.
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