How Do I Know When My Car Battery Needs to be Replaced?

I hopped in my Baja Bug, pumped the gas once and turned the key like I always do and the engine began to turn. It sounded slow to me, but then again, I hadn't owned the car that long and didn't have a lot of experience with 1974 Volkswagens, so I didn't really know how it was supposed to sound (you can watch the video below). Luckily, I happen to work for a car battery company and I have a hand-held battery load tester in my garage. 

After I attempted to fully-charge the battery, a quick load test revealed the battery was in fact on it's way out. While it is easy enough for someone who works for a car battery company or a professional mechanic to determine when a battery needs to be replaced, how does someone who doesn't work directly in that industry figure things out with their own car battery? It's really not much more difficult.

Most quality auto parts retailers can load test your battery for you and many will do it free of charge. You don't even need to remove your battery from your vehicle. However, before getting a load test done on your battery, you should first make sure the battery is fully-charged (or as fully-charged as it can be), because load-testing a partially-discharged battery may not return accurate results. That brings us to perhaps the most-important point about knowing when to replace your car battery.

Many batteries that end up getting replaced are just "discharge-only" batteries, which as the name suggests, are just discharged and work fine, if someone took the time to properly-recharge them. So why doesn't that happen? Perhaps many folks don't realize that's even an option. The reality is, charging a battery is one of the easiest maintenance tasks you can perform on your vehicle.

If you know where your battery is located (most are under the hood, but some are in the trunk or interior now), it's simply a matter of connecting a battery charger and letting it work. OPTIMA battery chargers & maintainers are about the easiest out there to use and can pay for themselves the first time they recharge a battery that you might've otherwise replaced. These chargers are smart enough to know if you've hooked up the charger incorrectly and will let you know if that's the case. They also have no-spark technology, if you accidentally touch the positive & negative clamps together.

Keeping your battery fully-charged whenever possible will maximize the performance of your battery and extend it's useful lifespan. It may also reduce wear and tear on other related items in your vehicle, like the starter and alternator, which are even more expensive to replace. So don't buy into all the bad diagnostic battery advice floating around on the Internet, just get your battery charged and load-tested.