Aaron Widmar
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Should I Recharge or Replace My Dead Car Battery?

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car battery with jumper cables attached to terminals
Photo: The News Wheel

I’m not the only person this has happened to: It’s a frigid winter morning, and the cold temperature has drained your car battery overnight. Your car won’t start at all. Now what do you do? Do you jump-start the car and bring it to a mechanic or auto parts store for a recharge? Or do you reach into your wallet and pay for a brand-new battery? Here are a couple of factors to consider when deciding.

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How voltage and age affect a battery’s ability to recharge

Before you give up and immediately purchase a new car battery, use a voltmeter to check the battery’s current voltage. Even if your car isn’t starting, that doesn’t mean the battery has zero juice left in it. It just might not be enough to reach the necessary threshold.

According to NAPA Auto Parts, a healthy car battery shows 12.4-12.7 volts. If it’s slightly below that, jump-starting and driving your car for an hour should be enough to recharge it. If it’s around 11-12 volts, you’ll need to use a dedicated charger (like a trickle charger) or bring it to the shop. Any lower than that, and there’s a solid possibility that even a charger can’t bring it back to life.

Apart from its voltage, the other factor you need to consider is the battery’s age.

The average lifespan of a car battery is 3-5 years, notes NAPA Auto Parts. Of course, that depends on the quality of the battery. Most OEM batteries that a vehicle original comes with aren’t made to last as long as top-of-the-line aftermarket batteries are.

If your car battery is around 4 years old or more, you probably should consider just replacing it with a brand-new one. Even if you do recharge a battery this old, it will likely lose its charge again very soon. The deterioration the battery has experienced reduces its ability to hold a charge and perform as needed.

Dead batteries are a common problem during winter, especially this year when so many people are staying at home and leaving their cars untouched for days at a time. If this describes you, save your car battery before it dies by purchasing a battery maintainer or a battery warmer. They’re a lot cheaper than a brand-new battery!

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