Why Your Vehicle’s Battery Is More Important Than Ever Before

A well-functioning and fully charged battery is essential to the overall performance of your car. Most people know that the battery is responsible for starting the engine – but that is far from the only thing this component does.

Your vehicle battery provides the energy needed to power essentials like air conditioning and amenities like navigation and sound systems in today’s modern vehicles. Therefore, having a well-operating battery might be one of the most critical factors in a comfortable and functional car.

As time goes on, more and more technology is included in cars, and all of it relies on electrical power. This means that the battery only becomes more important as vehicles become more complex. 

Thankfully, the alternator and charging system of your car constantly replenish the power of your battery. However, driving will eventually lead to a battery that can no longer keep all the essentials powered.

So, you can see that having an excellent battery is essential in any modern car, truck, or SUV. We want to investigate that more and give you insight into what the battery is, how it works, and what it does for your car.

The Three Most Common Auto Battery Designs

You might have one of three auto battery designs in your car based on the specific battery technology used by the company that manufactures the component.

A lead-acid battery is the most common choice in a vehicle with an internal combustion engine. These come in two varieties that we classify below:

  • Wet Cell Batteries – These are also called flooded batteries and will need to be topped off with distilled water regularly for top performance.
  • VRLA Batteries – Valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) batteries are sealed and require much less maintenance, which is why they also may be called sealed lead-acid (SLA) batteries. These don’t need to be topped with water and don’t spill if turned over.

The final design is used in electric and hybrid vehicles and is called a lithium-ion battery. In many cases, these vehicles will also have a secondary storage option through an auxiliary lead-acid battery.

But beyond design, batteries also come in various types. So, we’ll go over that next.

The Eight Types of Auto Batteries

It might seem as if having eight types of batteries is overkill. However, there is a good reason for all these battery types. The main one is power, which can vary considerably with modern cars.

So, there are batteries made to meet all sorts of power needs. While there are more than eight available, these are the most common options.

1. Wet Cell (Flooded Lead Acid) Batteries

Wet cell batteries have been around the longest, making them easy to find and inexpensive. Also known as an SLI battery, this means “starting, lighting, and ignition.”

Wet cell batteries are flooded batteries and typically have six cells. Each cell includes a mixture of water and sulfuric acid that creates an electrolyte solution. The battery can provide a voltage of 12.6V when fully charged.

This battery is reliable for starting engines and has extra energy to handle many vehicle accessories. However, the electrolyte solution needs to be topped off occasionally and installed vertically to avoid spills.

If the battery is discharged beyond 50% of its depth of discharge (DoD), this can result in much less impressive battery life.

2. Silver Calcium Battery

Silver calcium batteries were made to be superior to flooded batteries. Both are lead-acid batteries with electrolyte solutions, but this one has lead-calcium silver plates rather than the lead antimony plates in wet cell batteries.

In addition, these batteries are nearly maintenance-free and come sealed in most cases.

Silver calcium batteries can fight corrosion better and handle high temperatures longer than standard batteries, making them ideal in hot climates.

On the other hand, these batteries can deteriorate through damage to the plates and will require a higher voltage to charge.

3. Enhanced Flooded Batteries (EFB)

These batteries are a higher-performance, optimized version of a typical wet cell battery. It still uses a liquid electrolyte mixture, but it’s contained within a sealed space and is made to have twice the cycling ability.

Whereas a conventional wet battery can provide about 30,000 engine cranks, the EFB can handle about 85,000. It was made to offer better performance and durability than other batteries, especially for vehicles with start-stop functions.

4. Dry Cell Batteries

Also known as a gel cell battery, the dry cell was made to be a flooded battery except that it cannot be spilled. These are one type of VRLA battery on the market.

Like a flooded battery, these use calcium rather than antimony in the lead plates. In addition, silica is placed in the electrolyte solution, so it is a gel instead of a liquid. As a result, the cycle life is higher than a wet cell, and it resists shock and vibration better.

While some gel cell batteries still exist, they aren’t used much nowadays as technology has created better options.

5. Absorbent Glass Mat Batteries

The next battery is also a VRLA battery but made to offer a higher level of energy to meet modern demands. It’s somewhat like a wet cell battery, but it has a separator (or glass mat) made of fiberglass that sucks up the solution and keeps it in one place.

Absorbent glass mat (AGM) batteries work better than either gel cell or flooded varieties. It’s capable of charging up to five times faster and has three times the cycle life of a regular battery. It can also go down to 80% of its DoD.

These batteries are valid for use in cars with auto start-stop applications and energy recovery through breaking. But, on the other hand, this battery often costs at least 50% more than a traditional battery.

6. Deep Cycle Batteries

These batteries are of various lead-acid types and can be sealed or flooded. What sets them apart is a denser material and a thicker plate in the battery cells.

The primary use for these batteries is when you need power over a more extended period but at a lower draw rate. They are often used for marine vehicles, golf carts, and recreational vehicles.

7. Lithium-Ion Batteries

Next up is the lithium-ion battery used in electric and hybrid vehicles. These batteries charge fast and can hold a ton of energy. On top of that, they tend to be relatively light, which works well with electric vehicles. The lighter the car, the more distance it can travel on a single charge.

You’ll notice that lithium-ion batteries tend to have a higher price than lead-acid batteries; however, they are also known to last longer. While the typical warranty is about five to eight years, many batteries can last 10 or 20 years.

Another benefit of a lithium-ion battery is that it can be recycled. As such, it’s more eco-friendly than other kinds of batteries.

8. Nickel Metal Hydride Batteries

The last battery used in vehicles is the nickel-metal hydride battery (NiMH), and it’s commonly used in hybrid cars but can also be utilized in a selection of electric vehicles. This battery is made to have a longer life cycle than a lead-acid or lithium-ion battery.

On the other hand, these batteries generate excessive heat at high temperatures, can be expensive, and have a high discharge rate. That’s why these are designed almost specifically for hybrid vehicles.

Now that you have a grasp on types of batteries, it’s time to delve into what they do. As mentioned, it’s far more than just starting an engine and getting you on the road.

The Five Major Functions of Vehicle Batteries

Knowing what auto batteries can do will give you an understanding of how important this component is. The battery is a massive part of an integrated system that ensures your car runs well. Below are the primary functions of a battery and how it affects driving, and more.

Storing Power

The battery in your car is where the power is stored. In most cases, it’s shaped like a rectangular box and holds the energy needed to start your vehicle and keep a charge going. 

While the battery looks like a plastic box with connectors from the outside, there’s more to it than that. The outer shell is acid-resistant and durable to protect everything on the inside. 

On the inside, there is a chemical solution, such as sulfuric acid, and layers of plates that react with the acid to make the energy to start your vehicle.

Car batteries come in various voltage levels, but the most common is 12 volts. The typical battery has six cells, each of which creates 2.1 volts when charged completely. Therefore, maintaining a battery charge is essential to use all this power.

Starting the Engine

The power supply is used to bring the engine to a roar. The plates and acid work together to create both negative and positive charges as well as byproducts. These things react together to build electricity that moves from the battery to start the car.

It might seem that the highest number of cold-cranking amperes (CCA) is the best, but that isn’t always true. The larger the number, the better it does in cold temperatures. The correct CCA depends on your location’s climate.

The battery’s power increases in warm temperatures because chemical reactions happen more quickly. In addition to CCA, you need to consider HCA (hot cranking amperes). The higher this is, the better the battery does in the heat.

At the same time, CCA and HCA are only two factors that matter. All vehicles have a different power load and need different batteries to operate well. Small cars may require less power in some cases than large ones – but that isn’t always the case.

Delivering Electricity to the Ignition

When you push a button or turn a key to engage the ignition, this sends a signal toward the battery. This tells it to start the chemical reaction that creates electricity to activate the power and run the engine.

The battery’s part in this is to blast a large amount of power for a short time. This hits the proper voltage needed to get the starter going to move to the spark plugs and ensure the fuel in the combustion chambers ignites.

Many ignition systems exist, but most cars today use mechanically timed versions with several parts to create an entire circuit. As a result, several processes work simultaneously, quickly, and that results in the battery starting.

The reality is that all the conveniences and ease of today’s vehicles come down to a simple battery and a process involving energy exchange.

Regulating Voltage

As you might know, a power surge is a common cause of damage to electronics. The battery prevents significant power spikes that could damage the car’s computer and ignition system. In addition, circuit protection devices and fuse elements work with the battery to regulate how much power goes to different systems. 

The alternator comes with a regulator that turns the electric current into something that doesn’t damage parts of the car’s electronics. This ensures the highest voltage can be used without causing problems. Extra power is used to charge the battery, which is a backup to protect the systems in the vehicle.

For instance, if the alternator was pulled out of the battery, a surge could occur that damages the car. But with a complete circuit and a battery, the charge is regulated and slower if the alternator gives out and the battery needs to take on the job.

Powering Electronics

Lastly, your battery is used to power all the electronics in the car. As mentioned above, the alternator also has a part in this. That means everything from USB ports to air conditioning and lights to auxiliary devices relies on your battery.

If the battery and alternator aren’t working correctly, you may find that you don’t have enough power for all the modern bells and whistles in the car. That’s why you should always be sure you have the correct battery in your vehicle and that it’s fully charged whenever possible.

Final Thoughts

Sure, your battery starts your car, but it does so much more. Power is at a premium in modern vehicles with sound systems, flashing lights, digital connections, and navigation devices. That’s why the battery is an essential part of your car and may become even more critical as technology improves.

If your battery is experiencing issues, make sure to get it looked at. It’s far less expensive to replace it with a more appropriate model than to handle the devastation that might happen if other electronics are damaged by a battery working at less than its best.

Sources:

https://shift.com/articles/need-to-change-your-cars-battery-here-are-5-of-the-best-options

https://www.repairsmith.com/i/blog/car-battery-types/

https://www.mach1services.com/functions-of-a-car-battery/

Written by Strut Daddy's

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