Car batteries typically last between two and five years. Unfortunately, improper care can cut that lifespan drastically short. Many drivers have bad habits that drain their vehicle batteries, and they may not even realize it until it’s too late. So how do you keep your 2016 Hyundai Elantra battery — or any other battery — from biting the dust before its time? Keep reading to learn what zaps your battery, plus how to keep it in top shape.

How Does a Car Battery Die?

To understand what makes batteries die, it’s helpful to know how each one helps power your vehicle. As you know, your battery supplies the juice needed when you turn the ignition key. The ignition switch sends current to the starter relay, which closes a pair of contacts and allows the battery to power up the starter motor and help the engine crank over. The battery also provides power to accessories such as your radio, climate control system and lights.

With both startup and accessories depending on the battery, so many things can drain its energy. You probably think of the usual culprits — leaving your lights on or going too long without a replacement. But other several other things can sap its power:

  • Parasitic current draws
  • Loose or corroded battery connections
  • Extreme cold or hot temperatures
  • Frequent short drives
  • Bad alternator

Parasitic draws take more power than what your radio or air conditioning consumes while you’re vehicle’s parked. These usually stem from interior lights that are left on or faulty relays. Corroded and loose battery connections interrupt the flow of current. On an older battery, massive temperature swings may cause enough damage to render it unusable. Short drives do not allow the alternator to sufficiently charge the battery, so it drains faster than usual. A bad alternator won’t even charge your battery at all, so it won’t replenish current whenever you drive.

put the battery in the car, auto repair. An auto mechanic is about to put in the battery and tighten a new car battery nut in a car workshop. black car. new battery in the hands of the mechanic

Use the Right Tools To Inspect the Battery

Fortunately, you have a way to keep tabs on your battery before it dies — a multimeter. You can find this handy tool for around $20 at most aftermarket auto parts retailers. Learning how to test a car battery with a multimeter is a valuable skill that can save you from ending up with a dead battery at the wrong time. Testing with your multimeter is easy. You just need to follow some simple steps:

  • Adjust your multimeter to 20 DC volts.
  • Touch the black negative probe to the black battery terminal.
  • Place the positive red probe on the red battery terminal.
  • Check your meter’s readout. It should be at 12.5 volts or higher.

A fully charged battery should register between 12.5 and 12.6 volts. At 12.45 volts, the battery is 75% charged. Anything less than 12 volts signifies a discharged battery.

Finding Your Replacement Battery

When you’re shopping for a new battery, you’ll want to keep a couple of things in mind. First, shopping at a reputable retailer can ensure you get a quality replacement. Also, many auto parts dealers have a VIN lookup. This feature can help you track down the exact battery you need based on your vehicle’s specs.

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