Most people know the battery is what helps start their car, but what other uses does a battery have? How long do car batteries last? How do you remove a car battery and connect a new one? How many volts is a car battery? How do you charge a car battery or jump a dead one? It turns out there is a lot to know about your INFINITI’s battery — after all, it’s what makes getting from point A to B possible! We cover these battery questions and many more in this comprehensive guide to your INFINITI’s car battery.
How Do Car Batteries Work?
Everything in your car’s electrical system begins with the battery. Without it, the car simply wouldn’t start. Nor would you be able to listen to the radio, roll down the windows, or use any number of electrical accessories with the engine off. Yet, without an external power source, batteries must generate their own electricity to start the car. How? By harnessing electricity created by chemical reactions in their cells. The lead-acid batteries found in cars get their name from the lead plates and acid solution they use to generate electrical current.
Within a car battery’s hard plastic outer shell are six cells. Each cell contains two thin metal plates, one made of lead and the other made of lead dioxide. These plates are submerged in a water-sulfuric acid solution. The hydrogen and sulfate ions in the solution are polarized due to their attraction to the separate lead plates. While the positively-charged hydrogen ions bond with the lead dioxide plate, the negatively-charged sulfate ions bond with the lead plate. In effect, this creates a positive and a negative side of the battery. Each cell generates approximately two volts, meaning most car batteries have an output of 12 volts. The electrons on the negative side of the battery can then be channeled from the battery’s negative terminal to the starter and throughout the rest of the vehicle’s electrical system. The current will flow through the wiring harness until it completes the circuit at the battery’s positive terminal.
The battery is not meant to power your car alone for very long. If you leave your headlights on with just battery power, for example, you’ll soon end up with a drained battery. That’s why your INFINITI’s battery works with the other key components of the electrical system to keep everything powered after the engine starts.
How Long Do Car Batteries Last?
On average, car batteries can last around three to four years before they show signs of decline. But there are a few factors that can shorten the lifespan of your INFINITI’s battery.
CLIMATE – One of the most significant factors in determining how long a battery lasts is climate. Despite what you may have heard about batteries in cold weather, it’s actually heat that does more damage to car batteries. In hotter climates, the water inside a battery’s chemical solution is more susceptible to evaporation. Less water makes the solution more acidic and speeds up the effects of corrosion. That, combined with general heat damage, tends to shorten the lifespan of lead-acid batteries faster than in colder climates.
DRIVING HABITS – Another consideration is your driving habits. Starting your car, especially in cold weather, takes a great deal of power from the battery. The battery depends on the alternator to recharge while you drive so you can start your car again the next time. If you find yourself making frequent short trips in which the battery doesn’t have enough time to fully recharge, your battery may wear out prematurely. In contrast, going for long periods of time without turning on your car could also leave you with a drained battery. Ultimately, batteries just aren’t made to last forever. The highly corrosive acid solution inside the battery, along with the process of “sulfation” — in which lead sulfate builds up on the battery’s plates and reduces its ability to hold a charge — naturally causes the battery to break down over time. You can expect to replace the battery several times over the life of your INFINITI.
How to Tell When Your Battery Is Dying
There are several telltale signs that a battery is beginning to fail. First, pay attention to the age of your battery. Problems will likely start to arise around the four-year mark, though this depends on factors such as frequency of use and climate. Once you’ve had the battery for a few years, it’s a good idea to start regularly checking its condition to avoid getting stranded on the road with a dead battery.
The most effective way to assess the condition of your battery is with an electronic multimeter. You can purchase your own or simply bring your car to the INFINITI of Lafayette service center, where our technicians will test your battery free of charge. A quick voltage test will tell you whether or not your battery is underperforming. Alternatively, check your battery for signs of wear such as corrosion and green-ish flaky buildup around the terminals. Avoid directly touching any of the buildup, as it is partially made of sulfuric acid and could burn your skin. You can also check the battery for the smell of rotten eggs, which indicates that its sulfuric acid content may be too high. Finally, check if you have trouble starting the car or if you notice the headlights dimming. These may indicate that your battery isn’t producing enough voltage — though sometimes it can be hard to tell if such issues are battery-related or caused by the alternator. Get your battery tested to be sure.
How to Remove and Install a Car Battery
Removing an old car battery and installing a new one is not as daunting as it may seem. All you need are a few basic tools, a pair of gloves and safety goggles, some clothes you don’t mind getting dirty, and your INFINITI owner’s manual.
LOCATE THE BATTERY – Turn your vehicle off and locate the battery. In most cases, a car’s 12 volt battery is found under the hood in the engine bay. Many modern cars use plastic covers over the battery, which may have to be taken off to properly remove the battery. Consult your owner’s manual if you’re having trouble finding the battery.
DISCONNECT THE TERMINALS – Next, you need to disconnect the positive (+) and negative (-) terminals. These are the two metal nodes on top of the battery that transfer electrical current throughout your vehicle. Some cars come with quick-release clamps that make it easy to disconnect the terminals. In most cases, however, you will need to use a wrench. Start by removing the bolt around the negative terminal, which is marked by a “-” sign. Once the bolt is loose, lift up the terminal end and place it to the side. Next, follow the same procedure for the positive terminal. The positive terminal is likely underneath a small plastic lid marked with a “+” symbol. Take care not to touch the wrench to both terminals at once or to any other metal part of the car, as this can draw current and cause sparks to fly.
REMOVE THE HOLD-DOWN BRACKET – Once the terminals are disconnected, you have to remove the battery hold-down bracket. This is usually a metal bar or plate used to secure the battery in place. For this you will need a socket wrench with the appropriate socket attachment for the hold-down bolts. Simply loosen the bolts and remove the bracket — just be careful not to drop any parts into the engine bay as they may be very difficult to retrieve.
REMOVE BATTERY AND CLEAN TERMINALS – With everything disconnected, you’re ready to take out the old battery. You might be surprised at how heavy it is, so make sure to get a firm grip on the battery when lifting it out of the car. Before you put in the new battery, inspect the terminal ends that you disconnected earlier. If you see any of the green, flaky buildup on the inside of the terminal ends, it’s good practice to clean that out so the terminal connections stay strong.
INSTALL THE NEW BATTERY – Finally, you’re ready to install the new battery! Once you’ve put the battery in, it’s simply a matter of working backwards to get everything properly connected again. First reattach the hold-down bracket to secure the battery in place. Before reconnecting the terminal ends, cover the terminals in a light coating of protective grease to keep them from getting dirty or damaged. This grease usually comes with any new battery purchase. Reconnect the positive terminal first, taking extra care not to touch any other metal parts. Next, reconnect the negative terminal and replace any plastic covers you removed. Finally, clear the engine bay of any tools or materials and start your car to test the battery connection.
How to Jump a Car Battery
A dead battery can happen unexpectedly and leave you stranded, so it’s a good idea to always have a pair of jumper cables stored in your vehicle. Then, all you need is a passerby who’s willing to help (or a number for roadside assistance). With your jumper cables ready to go and another car around to supply power, follow these steps:
- Position the second car with its front end near enough for the jumper cables to reach the batteries on both vehicles.
- Put both vehicles in park, and ensure the engines are off.
- With jumper cables in hand, first attach one of the red clips to the positive (+) terminal on your battery.
- Attach the second red clip to the positive (+) terminal on the other car’s battery.
- Attach a black clip to the negative (-) terminal on the other car.
- Attach the second black clip to a metal surface on your car. Make sure the metal is unpainted and not next to the battery. This is called the “ground.”
- Double check that the jumper cables are in the right spots and that you placed them in the correct order.
- Turn on the other car and let it run for a few minutes to charge your battery.
- Start your car.
Once your engine starts, make sure to drive around for at least 15 minutes to fully charge your battery before shutting your car off. If the battery doesn’t start after attempting to jump it, or if it won’t start again the next time you try to drive, the battery may need to be replaced entirely.
Has it been a while since you’ve given your battery some attention? Shop for genuine INFINITI parts to keep your battery running smoothly and your electrical system operating like it should.