Three reasons your battery loses energy

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Photo: Battery Centre.
Photo: Battery Centre.

HAVE you ever noticed that when you turn over your car key, the radio briefly powers down or the dash lights dim?

This might not be a “design feature”, and could point to something more serious under the bonnet.

The most likely cause could be that your battery has reached the end of its life cycle, and you need to replace it. But you might wonder how it happened so suddenly. Typically, one of three things needs to happen before it gets to that point.

1. Losing power to parasitic draw

The alternator in the engine recharges the battery as you drive. It ensures that you always have the maximum capacity to operate things like the radio, air conditioner and any USB port for mobile devices.

But, parasitic draw comes from faulty components that don’t switch off with the car. As a result, aftermarket, and third-party installations such as trackers or complex sound systems, can continue to draw power. If left overnight, energy loss could be so significant that nothing is available to start your car.

2. Your alternator isn’t charging the battery

Another common cause of battery power loss is a faulty alternator. If that is the case, your battery won’t recharge as you drive. And if you then use additional components like your radio, headlights or air conditioning, the energy depletion is much faster.

Often, there are no signs or symptoms of a faulty alternator, and you will only realise that something is wrong when your vehicle won’t start.

A qualified battery specialist will do a professional assessment, and some even do it for free. It’s quick, and a report is generated in minutes. Signs of a faulty alternator can include dimming lights, a strange smell or trouble turning over the engine the first time around.

3. Corrosion on the battery

Motorists know that they regularly need to check the engine oil and water, but very few will take a cautionary glance at the battery terminals. A white or blue flaky build-up on the terminals can indicate corrosion.

Any foreign particles on the battery will impact its efficiency, leading to improper charging, impeding the electrical circuit and excessive discharging. It’s easy to spot corrosion on terminals, but you should also go over the electrical cables while taking a look.

A lesser-known reason for battery energy loss is that some unethical second-hand dealers remove high-quality batteries. They are then replaced with low-quality batteries to sell in cheap cars or motorcycles.

As a result, while the default batteries initially perform as expected, they tend to age faster than original equipment manufacturer batteries.

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