Should you bother testing your car's battery, or should you just wait until you need a new one and replace it? While there's no sense in replacing a battery that still works, battery testing can save you time, trouble, and money. On the other hand, waiting for disaster can mean leaving yourself stranded in an unfamiliar location or even stuck on the side of the road.
Of course, you don't need to stick a multimeter on your battery terminals every time you leave the house. In fact, this simple home test often won't provide reliable results, and it's usually better to rely on a shop with dedicated battery testing equipment. But, when should you schedule one of these tests? If any of the following three signs apply to your car, it's probably time to have your battery tested.
1. It's More Than Two Years Old
Car batteries typically last longer than two years, but this is around the age that you can expect low-quality or weak batteries to start failing. If two years seems a little too soon, consider looking at the warranty on your battery. Testing your battery a few months before your warranty runs out can be an excellent way to spot a dud before you need to pay for a replacement.
When considering battery age, it's critical to look at the manufacture date of the battery. Many batteries may sit on the shelf at the parts store for a year or more, and your battery began degrading long before you ever installed it in your car. As a result, the manufacture date provides a much more reliable estimate of your battery's likely lifespan.
2. You Just Got Through a Hot Summer
People often misunderstand the relationship between batteries and temperature. Cold temperatures will reduce your battery's ability to output power, but they won't cause long-term damage to the battery. Instead, hot temperatures can degrade the battery's internal chemicals, permanently weakening it and shortening its lifespan.
Batteries often fail during the winter due to the combination of lowered output from cold weather and prior damage from the summer. Testing your battery after a hot summer can ensure that it's still healthy enough to get you through the winter ahead.
3. You've Had a Few Hard Starts
Your battery will output fewer amps in cold temperatures, so it's somewhat normal for your car to struggle a small amount in cold weather. However, a healthy battery should still get your engine turning over relatively quickly. If your car turns over slowly or takes several attempts to start in cold weather, that's a sure sign that something is wrong.
Scheduling a battery test in these cases is helpful to find out your battery's condition and rule out other problems. Hard starting can have numerous underlying causes, so a quick test will reveal whether you need a new battery or your car requires further diagnosis.