When you turn your key, press the ignition button or flip on your headlights, do you know where all that power is coming from? A car battery is a critical component that many car owners may not know much about. Learn how a car battery works and why it’s important to understand its basic components. Spot the signs of an old battery before it stops powering essential automotive components.
What Are the Components That Make up a Car Battery?
Batteries work by storing electrical energy in the form of chemical energy. This stored energy is then translated into electrical energy to power your car’s starter, headlights and other electrical devices. Most automotive batteries are lead-acid batteries, which are made up of the following components:
- Sulfuric acid
- Positive and negative plates
- Battery paste
The terminals are connected to the negative and positive straps at the end cells, which help send electricity to your electrical systems and charge the battery. Lead plates are submerged in battery acid, which acts as a catalyst. The acid and lead dioxide work together to create lead sulfate and ions.
The ions then react to other plates to create hydrogen. The result of all those chemical reactions is electrons, which generate electricity. Unlike other chemical reactions, this one is reversible. This crucial fact is what allows your battery to be rechargeable with a battery charger or an alternator.
There are some issues that can prevent this chemical reaction from occurring. Letting your battery completely discharge can cause permanent damage. Serious discharge can occur if you run electrical items too long without recharging your battery, but it can also occur if your battery is stored for two months or more without being recharged. Even perfect maintenance can’t keep your battery going, so expect to replace it after three to five years of use.
Why You Should Understand How Your Car Battery Works
You may feel like an in-depth look at automotive batteries isn’t important, but it’s a key step in proper battery care. Understanding how your battery works helps you spot the signs of a worn battery and helps you understand why proper maintenance and protective gear is important.
Your battery is a sealed system, but it contains lead plates swimming in a sulfuric acid and water bath. This means any cracked casing or other physical damage to your battery could be a serious issue. Be extremely cautious when handling or storing an old battery to avoid injury.
Once your battery has reached the end of its lifetime, or if you think you may have drained it completely, it may be time to test your battery. A professional battery tester gives you the information you need about the current charge and whether it’s time for a new battery.
Shop at your local auto parts store or use an online VIN number lookup tool to receive the replacement battery your vehicle deserves. Now that you know the anatomy of a lead-acid battery, take care of your battery to keep your car running and your starter working reliably.