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How to Make Sure You're Not Stuck if Your Car's Battery Dies

Save Yourself the Hassle of a Dead Battery

Car stuck on the roadside

There's nothing worse than hopping in your car for another epic summer road trip and turning the key in the ignition, only to hear that dreadful dead battery ticking noise. Since the pandemic started more than a year ago, many people are spending more time at home, only using their vehicles a few times a week for essential outings.

While these safe practices might have led to savings on gas or tire wear and tear, other things like your engine and battery will benefit from occasional starts and weekly driving. It's best to drive your car at least once a week to keep it in top shape. If not, components like the battery could fail and leave you stranded. That's why AAA suggests motorists pay extra attention to important components of the vehicle like the battery, gas and tires as more people travel this summer.

Warm summer months are some of the best times to travel, but the heat can have a significant impact on your vehicle's battery. Before any big trip, you'll want to look for telltale signs of a low or failing battery, and take simple steps to extend its lifecycle. That way you're less likely to end up stranded with a dead battery in the middle of nowhere.

How Long Does a Car Battery Last?

According to AAA, car batteries typically last from three to five years. This varies between states depending on the temperature and environment. AAA shares that in the northern parts of the U.S., it's common for a vehicle battery to last nearly five years or more but to last only 41 months in hot southern areas. Both the heat and moisture can degrade the battery in your vehicle.

Telltale Signs of a Low or Failing Battery

  • Your headlights are dim at idle and get brighter when you rev the engine
  • You need to press the gas pedal to start
  • The starter cranks slowly, barely starting the car
  • You have to get frequent jump-starts

Causes of a Low Battery

  • Frequent short trips
  • Too many accessories left on or added
  • Battery terminal corrosion
  • Excessive use of the radio or air conditioning when idle (especially in the summer)

When to Replace Your Battery?

If your battery is getting older and no longer holds a charge like it used to or needs jumping fairly often, consider replacing it before it becomes an unexpected emergency. It's also possible that you may have alternator wiring problems that prevent the battery from fully charging. If that's the case, schedule a service appointment. If your fan belt is loose, frayed, cracked or glazed, have it serviced or replaced.

While you shouldn't change your battery solely based on its age, older batteries can start to shows signs of wear or have performance problems. Check the manufacture date, which can be found on a sticker affixed to the top or side of the battery. It should contain an alphanumeric code, with the numbers zero through nine representing the last digit of the year and an alphabetic code of A through L corresponding to the month, with A for January and L for December. A battery with a manufacture date of October 2019, for example, would include the code 9J and/or J9. If it's a bit older and needs a jump often, it may be time for a new one.

Regular Battery Use and Maintenance

Regular maintenance on your vehicle's systems is important, especially when many haven't been driven for long periods of time. If you combine this with the effects of hot summer weather on vehicle batteries, it's essential you make sure your battery is up to par.

To avoid being stranded, owners should be proactive about servicing and replacing their car's battery. If you only take short trips to and from work or the grocery store, the battery may not get enough time to charge back up between starts. Try to take longer trips or reach highway speeds at least once a week. You'll also want to pay attention to lights, accessories or phone and/or laptop chargers being left on. Turn off and unplug devices when you exit the vehicle.

Some other measures include having a mechanic check your battery charge, ensuring that the terminal fittings are clean and tight, and then making sure it's securely mounted in the engine bay and battery tray.

Have a Set of Jumper Cables

Jumper cables

A good fail-safe is always having a set of jumper cables in your vehicle, in the back seat, or in the trunk. Being able to flag down a nearby driver and jump-start your car is a great way to ensure you don't get stranded somewhere.

Just remember that if your car battery is dead enough to require a jump-start, you'll want to drive it for more than 10 to15 minutes after so the alternator can charge the battery. Otherwise, you risk the battery dying the next time you try to start your car.

AAA Battery and Service

AAA battery replacement

If you need a new car battery, consider getting one from AAA. Each battery from AAA comes with a six-year warranty and three years of free replacements. The company will do on-the-spot testing or replacements if you're stuck on the side of the road. The company even offers disposal and recycling of your old battery.

Furthermore, AAA members save a minimum of $25 off the price of a replacement battery when buying a new one.

Sign Up for AAA Membership to Protect Yourself

Risks are everywhere, especially when traveling. However, they could be minimized by preparing for unforeseen events or having coverage from AAA if something happens. Stay protected with an AAA Membership, which provides world-class roadside assistance during your travels or day-to-day driving.

Having travel insurance that protects you and your family on road trips can ensure your safety when you need it. That way, you never end up stranded on the side of the road with a dead battery and no way home.

Get an AAA battery or membership for you and your family today.

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