How Often Do You Need a New Car Battery?

Tips & Support
OPTIMA Batteries
Milwaukee, WI

Does your engine sound sluggish when starting or does it not start at all without jumper cables connected to your battery? If so, it could be time to buy a new battery. However, as much as we'd like everyone to buy OPTIMA batteries, we don't want anyone's business before they really need to give it to us. Many folks want a magic number answer when asking how often they should be buying a new battery, but the truth is, the frequency with which a vehicle needs a new battery can vary based on several factors.

Some vehicles and some environments are more demanding of batteries than others. A 1969 C-10 pickup driven every day by a retiree in San Diego probably doesn't need to get replaced very often and could last seven to ten years or more. That old truck is probably fairly-simple and undemanding from an electrical standpoint. The battery voltage is always properly-maintained because the battery never gets deeply-discharged and the vehicle is driven on a regular basis in a temperate climate. However, if a horseman near Phoenix, Arizona has a 2017 3500 HD pickup, that he only uses a few times a year for equestrian events, he may be needing new batteries much more frequently. In that scenario, the heat of Phoenix will accelerate the demise of the batteries in that truck (and every other vehicle in that climate), while OnStar and other accessories that remain active even when the engine is turned off, will also slowly and deeply-discharge the batteries, further accelerating their demise. If not properly-maintained, that 3500 HD could potentially need new batteries every few years. Even if they are properly-maintained, the heat typically found in the Phoenix area will definitely and negatively impact battery lifespan.

So if you find your vehicle may be showing signs of needing a new battery, you should consider several factors-

  1. Is the vehicle driven on a regular basis?
  2. Does it seem like the vehicle would demand a lot from the battery?
  3. Is the vehicle located in a climate with hot or cold temperature extremes?

If you answered "yes" to all of those questions, then it could be time to purchase a new battery. The first course of action should be to have your battery tested by a local battery sales professional and many auto parts stores can perform this service for you for free. In order to get an accurate test, the battery may need to be charged first, as testing a discharged battery may produce inaccurate results. Fully-charged, most batteries will measure at least about 12.6 volts, so making sure the voltage is good before charging is important.

If the battery has trouble even getting charged to 12.0 volts, then it may be time to replace the battery. If the battery charges up fine and passes a load test, then you may want to consider what could've led to the battery being discharged in the first place- Was a light left on overnight? Was the vehicle sitting unused for an extended period of time? Did it recently go in for service, where a mechanic may have left doors open for several hours at at time? Is there an accessory plugged in or installed, like a car alarm or aftermarket stereo, that could be discharging the battery?

We recently watched a video on YouTube, where someone had a battery charger connected to one of our YELLOWTOP batteries overnight, but the charger showed it was only putting out 11.8 volts and the battery barely measured over 12 volts when he checked it (YELLOWTOPs are fully-charged at around 13.0 volts) He suspected he had a bad battery. However, when he took the battery to a local auto parts retailer to have it tested, they were able to get the battery to charge up to a higher voltage level and it did pass a load test. While he assumed there was an issue with his battery, given the test results, he should now be wondering if the charger he was using was properly-connected and functioning properly or if there was something in his vehicle that was discharging his battery and making it harder for the charger to do it's job.

If he was never properly-maintaining voltage in his battery, then he was probably diminishing the battery's performance and shortening its useful lifespan. Maintaining at least 12.6 volts in your battery whenever possible is the first step to maximizing battery performance and lifespan. Even if you drive your vehicle on a regular basis, if those trips are of short duration, like a series of five to ten minute drives around the Houston area, your driving habits may be slowly discharging your battery. If you have the air conditioning and radio on during those drives, the energy consumed from your battery to start your vehicle may not be replaced during those short drives, especially if you have a newer vehicle with lots of electrical accessories and components.

Regardless of what vehicle you own, where you live or what battery is starting your engine, maintaining proper voltage will help lengthen the intervals for battery replacement. Regular use of a quality battery maintenance device, like the OPTIMA Digital 400 or Digital 1200 is a great place to start. Are you ready to replace the battery in your vehicle? Enter your vehicle information on the battery finder at the top of this page.