If you own a car, one of the things you should know is how and how long does it take to replace a car battery. Of course, you can always bring your car to an auto service center. But, it is always a big plus if you know how to do it yourself.
How long does a car battery replacement take? It actually depends on the type of car, but, normally, it will only take less than 30 minutes to replace a car battery.
How Do You Know That Your Car Battery Needs To Be Replaced?
A large majority of cars manufactured after the mid-50s are equipped with 12-volt rechargeable lead-acid batteries. These batteries contain lead plates (negative and positive), separators and electrolyte, a solution made of water and sulphuric acid.
The main function of your car battery is to start up your car and to provide power to some of the car’s electronic accessories while it is parked. It uses its charge to accomplish these functions. When the car is being driven, the alternator takes over the function of powering the electrical system as well as recharging the battery.
As time passes, a battery’s ability to hold a charge diminishes and its capacity decreases. There will come a day when your car will just refuse to start, and, it is most likely to happen during the cold season. Of course, the immediate remedy is to jump-start the engine, which is not a very good idea, especially if you do it quite often.
To prevent this unfortunate scenario, you should already replace your car battery before its capacity deteriorates to a critical point.
Generally, car batteries are given a lifespan of three to five years. But with proper and maintenance, their service life can be extended. If you keep your battery always fully charged and you drive it daily, you can prolong its life. But, if your car is parked for extended periods more often than it is driven, your battery could fail sooner.
Also, a battery gradually loses its efficiency each time you charge it. After three years, nearly all car batteries start to become unreliable. This could cause some serious reliability and safety problems.
Signs Of A Battery Nearing Its End
It is easy to detect if your battery is approaching the end of its lifetime. There are discernible signs that will alert you of its impending demise. Here are the giveaways:
1.The engine cranks but it does not start
When you turn the ignition, and the engine cranks up but does not start it could be caused by several things; a defective starter, poor fuel pressure or a dead or dying battery. In a lot of cases, the battery is the culprit.
When this happens, the immediate solution is to jump-start it. This would give you a few worry-free days, but if it is the battery, it could happen again soon. The most prudent thing to do is to already think of replacing the battery.
2. The engine does not crank and start and the lights don’t work
When the engine refuses to crank up and start when you turn on the ignition, and even the lights – headlights, dome light, dashboard light, etc- don’t work, the most probable cause is a weak or dead battery.
When the car is parked and the alternator is not working, the electrical system draws power from the battery. If the engine is dead and the lights are dim or are completely inoperable, the battery must be in a very serious condition.
3. Intermittent starting up problem
One morning you have no difficulty starting the engine, but the next morning it refuses to start. If this scenario gets repeated several times during the week, the problem could be:
a. The battery terminals. They could either be calcified, corroded, broken or loose.
Calcification and corrosion of battery terminals are two of the most serious causes of sulfation, a cause of an early demise of a battery.
b. There is a parasitic drain in your car. This means that an electrical accessory which is to be turned off when you switch off the ignition continues to draw power from the battery.
A parasitic drain could drain your battery below the full discharge that could kill it.
4. Slow cranking or extra effort or energy needed to crank the engine in the morning
Batteries have an assigned CCA or cold cranking amps needed to crank up your engine in the morning. If you are frequently applying more energy, turning the ignition several times to rev up the engine, at the start of the day, in all probability, this situation is caused by either battery terminal issues or a parasitic draw.
If this happens regularly, your car battery must be nearing its death.
5. When you have boosted the engine or jump-started it three or more times in a week
Frequently jump-starting a battery could cause serious damage to a battery. A battery that is being boosted three times a week already needs a replacement. Frequent jump-starting could not only ruin a battery, but it could also damage the alternator.
How To Change A Car Battery
As mentioned earlier, changing a car battery will only require less than thirty minutes to do. That is the usual time it takes if you have it done in a car service station. But, why go to a service station to have your car battery replaced when it is quite easy to do it on your own.
It may take a little more time, but you not only save a little, but you also get the satisfaction of being able to do what car owners should know how to do.
Here, let me show you how to do it.
I. Preparation phase
Step 1 – Prepare your working area
Working on a car battery requires some precautions. It is better done in the driveway where it is an open-air area, or inside the garage, but with ample space and ventilation. Whether it is inside the garage or on the driveway, see to it that the ground is level.
Step 2 – Clear the area
Don’t smoke or have an open fire close to the working area. Clear it also of any materials that could be a cause of a fire. Set a pail of water close by that can be used to wash off any spill or douse a fire.
Step 3 – Prepare the tools and materials
Here are the things you will need:
● A fully charged new battery
● Battery terminal puller
● Wrench or pliers
● Stout wire brush
● Dry, clean and lint-free rag
● A solution of water and baking soda
● Grease, vaseline or anti-corrosion washer
● Rubber gloves
● Safety goggle
II. Removal of the dead battery
Step 1 – Locate the dead battery
You can check the car’s owner manual to find out where the battery is located. In most cars, the battery is under the hood. But, there are some, where it is placed under the floorboard, trunk or behind the wheel well.
Step 2 – Identify the negative and positive terminals
The negative and positive terminals or posts are identified either by color or distinctive markings. The cover of the positive terminal and the cables attached to it are usually colored red and there is a + sign beside it, while that of the negative terminal is black with a – sign beside it.
Step 3 – Clean the area surrounding the terminal posts
If there are gunk and dirt surrounding the terminal posts, remove it with the brush then wipe the surface clean with the rag. The greenish-white gunk that you will see are signs of corrosion. Not a particle of that gunk should enter the battery. (At this stage, you must already be wearing your safety goggles and rubber gloves)
Step 4 – Disconnect and clean the cables of the terminals
When disconnecting the terminals, always start with the negative terminal.
By the way, check this related article on which car battery terminals to connect first.
Loosen the bolts that secure the cable to the negative terminal. Hold still the bolt head of the negative terminal with one plier or wrench, while with another wrench, turn to loosen the nuts or bolts that secure the cable to the post.
Once it has been loosened, pull off the cable and set it away from the battery. Better yet, wrap it with a rag so that it does not come in contact with any part of your body or the car’s body.
Inspect the condition of the terminal cables. Make sure that they are clean and free or corrosion. If you see the greenish-white gunk at the top of the cables apply a dollop of the water and baking soda solution and, with the stout wire brush, thoroughly clean the cable ends.
Once they are clean, wipe the cable ends dry then apply a small amount of grease or even vaseline on the cleaned cables. Clean the terminal post as well, but make sure that no particle of grime, gunk or debris enters inside the battery.
Repeat the procedure for the positive terminal.
Step 5 – Remove the old battery
First, disengage the retaining system or the braces that are holding the battery secured to the battery tray. Keep the braces or fasteners in an accessible area where it won’t be misplaced.
Next, hoist the battery out of the tray carefully with the barest minimum of jostling and shaking. A battery is not exactly lightweight, a carrying strap can be used for this procedure if the terminal posts are on top of the battery.
Once the battery is out of the battery tray, clean the tray thoroughly with the baking soda and water solution using the stout wire brush.
III Installation of the new battery
Once the old battery is out of the way, you are now ready to put in the new one. Here are the steps to do it.
Step 1 – Position the new battery
Set the new battery in the battery bracket or tray in such a way that the positive and negative posts are lined up with the corresponding cables. Secure the new battery to the bracket with the retaining system which you earlier removed when you took out the old battery. Make sure that it is properly and firmly secured to prevent it from moving.
Step 2 – Attach the cables to the posts
This time you start with the post of the positive terminal.
Remove the plastic cap covering the positive terminal post and thinly apply anti-corrosion washer to it.
Place the red (positive) cable on top of the post then tighten the connection, first, manually, then with the use of the wrench,
Go through the process again for the negative terminal.
Step 3 – Test the stability of the new battery
Just to make sure that the newly installed battery is snugly and properly secured in the tray, try wiggling or shaking it a little. If it does not budge, it means that you have satisfactorily replaced the battery to your car.
For more information on how to install a battery, then click here.
How long does it take to replace a car battery is easy to answer if you are doing the replacement work yourself. It may take a shorter time if done by experienced mechanics, but doing it yourself will give you more satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishment.