The Real Reasons Your Car Battery Keeps Dying

Modern car batteries are designed to start your car or truck, run all of the electronics, and maintain the vehicle’s computer memory. But over time, batteries do eventually run out of juice — sometimes way before their time. Here are the real reasons your car battery dies, or keeps dying, and what you can do to get the most out of it.

Les Schwab Tip: If your battery seems to die while you’re driving, it could be an issue with your vehicle’s electrical components or charging system. You might need to visit your mechanic or stop by Les Schwab so we can double-check your battery and connections.

Why Your Car Battery Keeps Dying

While car batteries slowly die over time, high heat, brutal cold, excessive use of vehicle accessories (after-market equipment), and other mechanical issues can shorten the life of even the toughest battery. Read How Your Battery Works to understand why batteries die over time. The top six reasons batteries die include:

  • Lights left on. That can be your car headlights, dome light, light in the glove box, or trunk light. Even vanity mirror lights can drain a battery if left on overnight.

  • Parasitic draw. Your car battery can drain over time from stereo components (subwoofers), phone chargers, and anything you leave plugged into vehicle outlets that continue to draw power from the battery after the car is turned off. Other power drains include interior and below-vehicle LED lights.

  • Loose or corroded connections. A loose connection can damage the battery and/or drain it. Check your battery cables often for corrosion. If you find any, clean it off to ensure a tight connection.

    Corrosion on a car battery terminal.

  • Excessive heat and cold. It seems like batteries die most often in the winter. You go to start your car, and the battery just cannot turn the engine over. But it’s not the cold that kills most batteries. Hot summer months can deteriorate your battery. Then, you notice that lack of power in the winter. To help avoid damage to your battery from heat, park your vehicle in a garage or under a shelter on hot summer days.

  • The alternator has issues. Once your car is started, the alternator helps it stay charged. But if the alternator is going bad or the alternator belt is slipping, it might not recharge your battery.

  • Quick trips or leaving your car parked too long. Too many quick trips (less than 15 minutes in length) can degrade a battery. Additionally, letting a car sit for too long without being started (weeks or months) can cause issues.

  • Age. Batteries don’t last forever. How often you start your vehicle, how far you drive, the health of your alternator, the hot and cold conditions in your region, and more can affect the lifespan of your battery.

How to Prevent Your Battery From Draining, and What Causes It

The life of your car battery depends on where you live, how much you drive, and more. If your car needs a new battery, Les Schwab is here to help with batteries for everything you drive. Here are a few tips to help keep your battery from draining.

  • Unplug Extra Accessories: Known as parasitic draw, your car battery can drain from stereo components and phone chargers that continue to work when the car is turned off. Also, be on the lookout for glove-box lights, trunk lights, and interior lights that remain illuminated.

  • Take a 15-minute drive: At least once per week, take your car for a short drive. As long as your alternator is working correctly, this will help maintain the battery state of charge.

  • Don’t leave your headlights on: Turn the switch to the “off” position, even if your lights go off automatically.

  • Avoid deep discharging: Don’t leave the lights on or the stereo going while the car is turned off. This can result in a dead battery.

  • Tighten and Clean Battery Connections: If your battery terminals are loose or corroded, they can drain or damage the battery. It could also cause your car to stall. If you do find corrosion, it’s easy to clean with a stiff-bristle brush (an old toothbrush works great), and a mixture of one part baking soda to three parts water. With a little elbow grease, the corrosion will vanish. Just be careful not to get any of the baking soda/water mixture in your battery or on other parts of your engine or vehicle.

What to Do When Your Battery Dies

Dead batteries happen to everyone. It can be frustrating, especially when you’re late for work. Having a set of jumper cables or a jump starter can get you going again. We’ve put together a jump-start how-to video to help get your car or truck started.

When you’re a Les Schwab customer, you’re welcome to call us during regular business hours. If we’re available, we may be able to drive to your location and give you a jump start.

Two cars together with one being jump-started

Need More Help? Give Us a Visit!

Les Schwab gets a charge out of checking your battery. Come on by and we’ll perform a free inspection. Whether it just needs to be recharged or if you need a new battery, we can help, including new batteries for most vehicles.

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