How often should I replace my car battery?

Garwin Beukes - Almost every car owner has dealt with a flat battery, whether you bought the car with it or yours just ran out of steam.

Well today we take a look at the more complex and in-depth side of why you may find yourself asking people to push your car.

When it comes to maintaining the standard of your vehicle, "normal" is determined by several factors that exist in theory but are definitely never going to be the case unless you live in perfect conditions.

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For instance, a battery has an average normal lifespan of four years under normal conditions. "Normal" in this case means the battery goes through full charge cycles (driving long enough distances per trip), isn't subjected to extreme temperatures (not applicable in most parts of Namibia), is attached to a reliable and consistent charging system and isn't providing power for a ton of accessories.

See, normal just isn't normal, well at least in Namibia. In the real world, temperature extremes, vibration, short trips down the street and listening to music for hours while the engine is not running takes a toll on the battery.

If you look at a typical lead-acid maintenance-free car battery, it's easy to make sense of why these factors affect normal battery life (this might seem complex, but hold tight). Inside the plastic box are plates of materials like lead and lead dioxide. The plates are suspended in a mix of water and sulphuric acid, which forms an electrolytic solution. This solution allows electrons to flow between the plates -- that flow of electrons is essentially electricity.

Quite a few factors can disturb this chemical reaction. Vibrations from a rough travel through poorly tarred suburbs in Windhoek like Rocky-crest or a poorly-secured battery can result in the shaking of the battery causing damage on the plates. Extreme heat speeds up the chemical reaction, shortening battery life, while extreme cold can sometimes prolong battery life by slowing down the reaction. This is why some batteries are covered by an insulating sleeve to keep extreme temperatures in check.

Driving style can affect the reaction too. Starting the car takes a huge jolt of electricity, so the charging system has to step in to basically charge the battery. If you take lots of brief trips, the battery never gets fully charged. The result is a shorter battery life, even though the battery shows up as working on routine tests.

Counting all these factors might just get you up to a year off your promised four years.

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