By Lloyd L. Beverly, ASE Master Technician – Certified L1 & A9
Ever try and start your vehicle and it’s dead as a doornail or barely cranking over? When was the last time your battery was replaced, let alone properly evaluated? Today’s batteries last only about two to three years. Because of the increased energy requirements of modern vehicles, power is needed for creature comforts like entertainment and navigation systems, and for safety components like traction control and anti-lock brakes.
What exactly does a battery do? The battery sends power to the starter, which then turns the engine, allowing the ignition, fuel, and air intake systems to create internal combustion. Not only is the battery used for starting the vehicle, it’s also essential for almost every other aspect of vehicle operation. Basically, everything on a vehicle starts and ends with the battery.
If you have a truck with a diesel engine, you may be wondering why you have two batteries. Larger diesel engines require higher internal compression and therefore require more energy to start. The two batteries are run in parallel, thus maintaining a 12-volt system while maximizing amperage (energy) output.
It’s important to keep the battery terminals clean and properly tightened. If you are experiencing corrosion buildup, then scrub the terminal ends using an old toothbrush and a mixture of baking soda and water. Dry the terminal ends, apply a battery terminal protectant, and then properly tighten to the battery posts.
As I discussed in the July/August issue of Lake Mary Life, if your vehicle will not be used for an extended period of time, the best solution is to use a smart battery charger that plugs into a wall outlet. This device will keep your battery from being depleted and allow the computer modules to retain memory.
Speaking of computers, vehicles have had onboard computers since the 1980s. But today’s vehicles use an even more sophisticated computer system that networks together a multitude of modules. Entry-level vehicles can have 20 or more modules while luxury and performance vehicles can have upwards of 70 modules. These modules control everything from heated seats, power windows, tire pressure monitors, and management of the engine and transmission.
Because of the complexity of onboard networks, a scan tool is becoming a necessity to reprogram modules when the battery is replaced. Without properly reprogramming modules, the vehicle will not operate correctly and can lead to costly repair bills.
A starting and charging system evaluation should be performed at least twice a year as part of routine maintenance of the battery. While your vehicle may be starting normally, the battery may not be producing enough power for sensitive onboard modules. If this occurs, you may, as a result, experience other drivability malfunctions.
One could easily argue that batteries are now the most important component in a modern-day vehicle. Without them nothing can happen. That’s why it’s imperative to keep them in good working condition for optimal safety, comfort, and enjoyment while driving.