Your Car Battery & Charging System

Your car battery is a critical part of the vehicle, and although it may not seem as important as some other systems, your car won’t even start without it. In conjunction with your alternator, the battery enables your vehicle to power things like the ignition, heaters, windshield wipers, lights, and entertainment system.

In order to power all of these systems, a battery depletes its power supply, and either the battery or the power supply need to be replaced for the vehicle to keep working. Automobiles are made with rechargeable batteries, and a system inside the vehicle that recharges the battery when the engine is running.

The basics of a charging system:

To recharge a battery in a vehicle today, cars are equipped with an alternator and a regulator. The alternator produces an electrical current that your battery can use to power your vehicle, and the regulator controls the voltage released throughout your vehicle. Usually, it’s between 13.5 and 14.5 volts.

What happens when the battery runs out of power?

If the charging system were to stop working, or if the battery was otherwise drained of power without the engine running, you’d end up with a dead battery. This doesn’t mean the battery needs to be replaced, it just means that it needs to be recharged.

Jumping a battery with the help of jumper cables and another vehicle can help get the engine started so that the alternator can recharge the battery on its own, but it will need to run for a while. A portable charging system, hooked up to the battery, can have the same effect.

The way you drive affects your battery!

A lot of things can affect the way your battery performs, from cold weather to the distance you tend to drive at a time.

In the winter, or at the end of the winter, car batteries have been through a lot. Cold weather is especially draining to a battery – literally. Car batteries slow down when temperatures drop, which makes starting your car more challenging. We also tend to use more electrically powered things in the winter: headlights for longer dark hours, heaters to stay warm and melt show on the windows, windshield wipers on wet or snowy roads, etc. Using more power when the battery is already struggling isn’t a good mix.

To help keep your battery in top shape, the following are good practices.

● Turn off electrical items when you start your car, especially for short drives,
● At least once a month, drive a long distance without stopping – get on the highway!
● Drive at least once a week, especially in colder weather
● Have your battery checked before cold weather sets in, and as it warms up.