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What To Know Before Replacing Your Car's Battery

Car battery replacement may be required at nearly any stage of the battery's life. While the task is usually associated with old age, some need replacement for various reasons. We'll look at what you should know about changing this vital component.

A mechanic pulling a car battery from the hood of a vehicle.

Check Your Warranty

Depending on how the car is used, batteries can die in as little as a few weeks, but the standard average is between three to five years. This is somewhat unfortunate news, as car warranties often only cover a battery for two years (even if the larger warranty lasts for 36,000 miles). If you think there might be a manufacturer's flaw in the battery though, it's worth checking your vehicle's warranty to see if it's covered.

Know Your Third-Party Installer

Changing a battery isn't necessarily difficult, but you will need to prep for it. Because it can be time-consuming for many people, many sellers offer free installation. You may choose to install it on your own if you can't sync your schedule or if the seller doesn't offer the service.

Before buying anything, you should have your current battery tested first. Ideally, you should regularly test your battery so you can replace it before you end up stranded. If you have an auto store near you that offers free testing, make it a habit when you need to pick up anything for your car.

Prepare for Replacement

There's a lot to know about replacement if you're planning on doing it yourself, but we'll give you the basics so you have a general map in mind.

  • The engine needs to be cool before you can safely work on the car.
  • The positive terminal is typically under a red cover. You'll see a "Plus" sign on the red cover to identify the post. The negative terminal will be stamped with the corresponding "Minus" sign.
  • Remove the clamps that hold the battery in place (have a socket extension ready if needed). Never let a metal object touch the ends of the battery, and try to avoid tools as much as possible when removing.
  • Keep your hands steady when removing the battery. Wear gloves and safety glasses in case of acid spills. Please note that batteries may come with a handle for easier removal. Collect everything in a bowl so nothing falls back into the car.
  • Check for corrosion (greenish residue) on the terminals and battery tray. Clean it off with a wire brush and a solution of baking soda and water. Make sure everything is dry before continuing.
  • Use anti-corrosion washers on either end of the posts when installing the new battery. Install the battery so the terminals match (e.g., negative with negative) and then replace the clamps.
  • Connect the battery to the positive terminal first, then repeat on the negative side. Ensure the battery, clamps, and cables are secured. Recover (if needed), close the hood and start the car.

Because batteries can be toxic to the environment if they're disposed of incorrectly, most cities and states will have specific requirements about how to throw them away. Check on the restrictions to ensure you're following the rules or talk to your local mechanic to see if they can dispose of it.

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