Car Batteries Explained: Look, Cost, Replacement, etc.

The car battery is a vital part of any car. All cars have them and they’re responsible for many tasks such as getting the car started, powering the car when the engine isn’t on, etc.

Let me explain what the car battery is, what it does, and how to locate it.

Check also the article from our car expert Canaan on typical problems with car batteries.

Role Of A Battery In A Car

The car battery stores energy in a chemical form so that it can release electricity when needed. This electrical power powers components like the starter motor, ignition system, and other primary electronic systems.

When you turn the ignition key (or press the ignition button in newer models), your car battery supplies the energy required for the engine to start.

On top of that, your battery also powers the vehicle’s accessories like headlights, air conditioning, radio, and other electronic devices when your engine is not running or when the alternator can’t provide enough energy.

It’s essential to remember that the car battery operates in collaboration with the alternator. While the battery supplies power initially, the alternator takes over once the engine is running. The alternator’s primary role is to supply power to the vehicle’s electrical components and recharge the battery when needed.

What Do Car Batteries Look Like?


A car battery is a rectangular box, usually with two terminals on the top or side. These terminals connect the battery to your vehicle’s electrical system. Most car batteries have a plastic casing that contains the battery cells and a liquid electrolyte.

There are different types of car batteries, such as:

  • wet cell batteries
  • dry cell batteries
  • and deep cycle batteries.

Wet cell batteries are the most common type that you’ll find in vehicles.

Dry cell and wet cell batteries operate similarly but dry cell types have the added benefit of being spill-resistant and can be positioned in any orientation.

When it comes to the size and shape of car batteries, there can be some variation. Standard car batteries usually measure around 12 inches in length, 6.5 inches in width, and about 9 inches in height. However, the dimensions may differ depending on the make and model of your vehicle.

To give you an idea of their capacity, car batteries are rated in terms of cranking amps (CA) and cold cranking amps (CCA):

  • CA indicates the number of amps a fully charged battery can deliver continuously at 32°F for 30 seconds while maintaining at least 7.2 volts.
  • CCA, on the other hand, refers to how much power the battery can generate when starting the engine in cold conditions.

Where is the battery located on a car?

In most vehicles, the car battery can be found under the hood. It’s typically near the front of the car, either on the left or right side. In some cases, it might be a bit hidden, so you might have to look around a bit to find it.

Look for a rectangular box, often with a “+” and “-” symbol on it.

car battery position

The car battery is usually covered by a protective cover or strap. To access the battery, you might need to remove this cover or strap, but this task is usually straightforward.

Nowadays, some cars have the battery placed in different locations, like under the seat or in the trunk. This could be to save space or better distribute the car’s weight.

If you’re not sure where to look in your specific car, just check your owner’s manual. It’ll give you all the details on locating your battery.

Remember, car batteries can be heavy and contain hazardous materials. When working with batteries, always take proper precautions. Wear gloves and safety goggles, and make sure to always disconnect the negative terminal first. That way, you’ll keep yourself and your car safe.

Life Expectancy Of Car Batteries

The average life expectancy of a car battery is between 3-5 years. It’s important to keep in mind that even under perfect driving conditions, pushing a battery longer than five years could cause it to fail without notice.

That’s why many manufacturers recommend a replacement schedule of five years.

The battery in my Ford Fusion lasted 4.5 years (110,000 miles), so that fits perfectly with the 3-5-year mark.

Factors like the climate (mainly cold winters), how frequently you drive, and the overall health of your vehicle’s charging system can affect the lifespan of your car battery. If you live in an area with extreme temperatures, or if you frequently make short trips, your battery may wear out more quickly.

It’s a good idea to have your battery tested at regular intervals, especially as it reaches the three-year mark. This can help you identify any issues before they cause a failure. Remember, even though your battery may last longer than the average estimate, it’s better to be proactive and replace it on time to avoid being stranded with a dead battery.

Cost Of Car Batteries

New car batteries can range from $100 to $200. If you’re shopping for a top-of-the-line model, you may even come across some that cost up to $300. On the other hand, you can find used batteries at scrap yards for significantly lower prices, although the specific price will vary depending on the battery’s condition and the scrap yard.

Here’s a simple comparison table to give you an idea of both new and scrap yard battery pricing:

Type Price Range
New Battery $100 – $200
Scrap Yard $15-80

When you’re considering a battery from a scrap yard, make sure to do a thorough inspection of the battery’s condition, since you wouldn’t want to end up with a battery that doesn’t last long or fails to perform well in your vehicle.

Cost Of Battery Replacement

When it comes to battery replacement, you’ll want to consider the labor costs involved. While the price of a new battery itself can vary, the labor cost is a separate expense that you need to factor into your budget.

Most mechanics charge an hourly rate for their services, which can range from $50 to $100 per hour. In most cases, replacing a car battery takes about an hour or less. So, you should expect to pay somewhere between $50 and $100 for the labor cost of battery replacement.

What Happens When a Car Battery Fails?

When your car battery fails, you’ll notice some signs indicating that it’s not working properly. For example, your car might be slow to start, or it might not start at all.

You could also experience dimming lights or no lights at all, along with a loss of power to essential components of your vehicle.

You shouldn’t continue driving with a faulty car battery. Your car battery plays a crucial role in providing power to your vehicle’s electrical system. Without a functional battery, your car won’t start, and even if you manage to somehow get it running, most of the electrical components, like the headlights, radio, or power windows, will not work properly (or at all).

Can You Replace a Car Battery Yourself?

To save some money, you might want to consider replacing your car battery yourself. With some basic tools and a bit of know-how, you can often swap out your old battery for a new one without any professional assistance.

Just follow some simple steps and take necessary safety precautions, and you’ll have your car battery replaced in no time.

First things first, gather the tools you’ll need, such as:

  • a socket wrench or adjustable wrench,
  • safety goggles,
  • and gloves.

Before you start, make sure your car engine is turned off and the car is parked on a flat, dry surface. Put on your safety goggles and gloves, and ensure that your hair is tied back if it’s long.

Start by identifying and locating the battery in your car’s engine compartment. Once you’ve found it, look for the negative (-) and positive (+) terminals. Make sure you take note of which is which, as this is essential for reattaching the new battery.

Next, grab your wrench and begin loosening the bolt on the negative cable. Carefully disconnect the negative cable from the terminal before moving on to the positive cable. Repeat the process for the positive cable, ensuring that the cables are kept separate and don’t touch each other or any metal parts.

Once both cables are disconnected, you can remove the old battery. It will typically have a strap or bracket holding it securely in the vehicle. Once the strap or bracket it removed, the battery is ready to be taken out of the vehicle. Be prepared, as batteries can be quite heavy. Place the old battery aside, taking care not to spill any battery acid.

When you’re ready, carefully place the new battery into the engine compartment, aligning the terminals (- and +) in the correct positions. Secure the hold-down strap or bracket on the battery to prevent it from moving. Reattach the positive and then the negative cables to the respective terminals on the new battery, and securely tighten the bolts.

After you’ve replaced the battery, check your car’s manual to see if your vehicle has any specific instructions or requirements for battery replacement. Some newer models may require you to reset certain electronic systems.

And that’s it!

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