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How long should a car battery last?

The rechargeable lead-acid battery was invented in 1859 and has not changed much since.

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The lead-acid combination delivers the surge of current needed to turn over the engine. Once started, the job of providing current passes to the alternator, which keeps the battery charged. Unfortunately, batteries do not last forever.

Researchers are trying to make better batteries from new metals, nanowires and graphene. Electric cars with indestructible batteries are coming; for now, look after the one you have.

Ways to destroy batteries

Modern cars contain more circuitry than ever. Although most power is provided by the alternator, the battery shares this extra burden. Batteries last longer if kept fully charged; therefore, burning lights or radio when the engine is off is a bad idea.

Lots of short journeys do not let the battery recharge in between. The school run is a disaster for your battery – a little more walking in this car-addicted age is better for your car and for you!

Electrical shorts or poor alternators drain and damage batteries. Check other components before putting a new one into a still faulty car.

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If your car is not driven for a while, charge decays. Some people remove batteries and keep them charged with a solar panel.

Similarly, batteries stored on a garage shelf for months will not be pristine. Checking the date can be difficult: the best guarantee is a reputable supplier with a decent turnover in batteries.

Overcharging, or topping up with tap water, are other good ways to kill it.

When should I replace my battery?

The best time to replace your battery is not when it is already dead and you are marooned! A battery can last five years; however, as they are not looked after, only 30 per cent reach this ‘natural lifespan’. Not waiting until a crisis gives you the chance to buy car batteries online, often at a better price and with greater choice than you will be offered by the nearest garage.

Identifying the battery

Some online suppliers, such as http://www.grovesbatteries.co.uk/, provide tools to help you identify exactly the kind of battery you need.

Batteries are rated according to amp hours and cold cramping amps (CCA). Amp hours indicate how long the charge will last without recharging, while CCA rates the power to turn over an engine (diesel engines need more).

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