When your car isn't working properly, it can be a reason to panic. You begin to think of any possible reason that could be causing your car to malfunction. 

With the complexities of a car's machinery, you may think that misperformance is part of a bigger problem. Sometimes, however, the cause of your car's strange performance can be as simple as needing to change the battery. 

The lifespan of your car battery typically depends on your location and the conditions in which your car is driving. In a place like Minnesota, weather conditions get extreme, which can cause a battery to die quickly.

Consider this your guide to used car batteries! Ace Auto Parts in St. Paul is Minnesota's local resource for buying and selling used car batteries and other automotive parts.

In this blog, we’ll discuss all of the following:

  • How to tell if your vehicle needs a car battery, so you know the signs to look for.

  • Things to know before buying a used car battery from a junkyard.

  • What makes a quality used car battery?

Is It Time for a New Car Battery? Here's How To Tell 

Has it been a couple of years since you put a new battery in your car or truck? Or, if it's been longer than that, then there's a good chance your vehicle is due for a battery replacement if you want to keep your wheels on the road.

But how can you tell if it's time to put a new battery in your vehicle? Here are the warning signs you'll want to watch for that indicate your battery is close to calling it quits!

Age of the Battery

As a rule of thumb, vehicle batteries should be changed every two to three years for optimal performance; however, age isn't the only factor that impacts battery performance. Your local climate and the frequency with which you drive your vehicle also determine how long your battery will last. Batteries tend to die faster in very hot or cold climates, so be sure to keep that in mind. 

And, if you let your vehicle sit for extended periods, its battery will also wear out more rapidly since it rarely has an opportunity to charge (vehicle batteries naturally charge themselves while you drive).

If you can't remember the last time you installed a new battery in your ride, it's probably time to get a new one. But before you do, check the battery's date to ensure it's past the recommended replacement period.

It's Been a Few Years Since the Battery Was Replaced

If your car battery is over three years old, a good rule of thumb is to take it to a mechanic for an inspection. This will give you an idea of your battery's state and lifespan. Understanding the current status of your battery prevents you from experiencing any surprise mishaps due to an unexpected dead battery.

Dim Interior Lights & Headlights

The battery is the main power source for your car's electric details. This includes your headlights, dashboard, electric clock, radio, and interior lights. When you notice these start to dim or burn out altogether, this is usually a good indicator your car battery is dying. When the battery is dying, powering the lights in and on your car is difficult. 

To find out if your battery needs replacement, you'll either need to take it to a shop for testing or use a voltmeter to test it yourself. If you get a reading of fewer than 11.8 volts, your battery needs a charge, or it needs to be replaced.

Engine Turning Over Slowly or Not at All

Do you feel like your vehicle's engine is starting more slowly than usual? Do you have to try to start it multiple times before it finally works? When your car sounds like it's struggling to turn over, this could mean it's due for a new battery. In Minnesota's cold environment, recharging a dead battery is a common occurrence. 

As your battery wears (all batteries do), it generates charge slower and slower. The slower it generates a charge, the longer you'll have to wait for the starter to turn the engine over when you turn the key in the ignition. 

A new battery can hold its charge and withstand cold temperatures better than an aged battery.

Frequent Jumpstarts

This should go without saying, but if you frequently need to jump your battery to get your vehicle to start, it's time for a replacement. A battery will only hold a charge for so long, and after it exceeds its recommended lifespan, that charge will gradually trickle out any time the vehicle isn't moving. 

If your battery dies while you're at work or overnight in your driveway, or your car requires a jump start more often than usual, it's safe to assume you need a new one.

Warped Battery Casing

Does your battery appear to be a bit swollen or otherwise misshapen? Can you see any cracks? If you see either of these signs, that's an indication that the battery has been exposed to extreme cold or heat, which can compromise its functionality and shorten its life. 

If your battery is any other shape but square, that's a solid sign that it's time to install a new one (or a used one if you're looking to save some cash). 

Odd Odor

Vehicle battery leaks are rare, but when they occur, the hydrogen sulfide gas they produce has a highly unpleasant odor, like rotten eggs' stench. If you smell something like this when you operate your vehicle, do not ignore it. 

Have a professional look at your battery as soon as possible, as the leaking acid could damage other vehicle components. 

The Check Engine Light Is On

While that pesky check engine light could mean any number of issues, it could also indicate a dying battery. If yours is on and you don't know why, swing by an auto parts store and have a pro test your battery. If it's not the battery, you should have them run the trouble codes to find out what's going on.   

Clicking Sounds

Trouble starting your vehicle and strange clicking noises indicate a failing battery. Your vehicle may or may not start if this condition exists. 

The clicking sound will be loud and unusual, so it's hard to mistake whether this warning sign is present. Do not be overly alarmed, though. Your vehicle is due for service, and your battery is the likely culprit. 

Your vehicle may not stay on the road long if this warning sign is present, so consider having your vehicle towed or replacing your battery where your vehicle is stationed.

Corroded Terminals

Check your battery terminals for corrosion if you've noticed any power issues. Although it's normal for terminals to deteriorate over time, corrosion can cause voltage issues. And if the buildup gets bad enough, it may appear as if your battery isn't functioning as well as it should.

You can easily remove any buildup with a baking soda, water solution, and stiff-bristled metal brush. After removing the corrosion, check if the power issues you noticed improve. 

If they don't, getting a new battery before your existing one completely dies is probably in your best interest.

3 Factors to Consider When Buying a Used Car Battery

If you need a car battery but money is tight or do not plan to keep the car for long, consider a used battery. You can often buy used batteries at junkyards and salvage yards. However, as you search the cars in the junkyards for batteries, a few factors determine whether a used car battery will work for your vehicle. 

1. Appropriate Size & Power Output

Installing the wrong size battery in your vehicle can lead to several problems, whether you end up with one that's too small or too large. So before you head to a salvage yard for discount auto parts, take a photo of the battery you want to replace. 

Alternatively, you can bring the battery with you — provided it's not leaking — and ask a staff member to help you locate the appropriate size replacement

2. Battery Age & Warranty Period

Every vehicle battery should have a date stamp somewhere on the battery housing, indicating the manufacture date. But that date stamp isn't always structured in a way that most people are familiar with, so you need to know how to read it. 

If you don't, you could end up with a battery nearing the end of its recommended service period, which you certainly don't want. Here's what you should know:

  • Letters correlate with months. If the first character in the date stamp is a letter, that letter indicates the month during which the battery was made. A means January, B means February, and so on. The lettering stops at L, which indicates a battery was made in December.   

  • Numbers correlate with days. The letter on the date stamp may be followed by one or two digits, which indicate the year the battery was manufactured. 

Not all date stamps are structured with letters and numbers; Some feature two sets of numbers that indicate the month and the year of manufacture. 

If you have questions about whether a battery at a salvage yard is still within its recommended use period, don't hesitate to ask a staff member for help. Most places that sell used car parts offer a warranty on their used parts. 

If they do not offer any kind of warranty, you should be wary of buying from them.

3. Terminal Location

Proper terminal placement is one of the most important – and most overlooked – things you'll want to make sure of before purchasing a used car battery. Not all vehicle batteries are the same, and many have their terminals placed in specific locations designed to accommodate specific vehicles.

To ensure you come home with a battery that will fit properly inside your vehicle, it's a good idea to take a photo of your existing battery or bring it to the salvage yard. If you're unsure what to look for, ask someone from the yard's staff, who can easily point you in the right direction. 

What Makes a Quality Used Car Battery? Things to Look For

While buying a used car battery from a salvage yard is safe and far more affordable than purchasing a new one, you must know what to look for to ensure you come home with a quality part. Otherwise, you'll just end up needing another one sooner than you'd like! 

Knowing what to look for can help you find a used battery with some life left in it. Here's what to keep your eye on.

Check the Age of the Battery

When you are looking to buy a battery, always check the date stamp on the battery. The date stamp indicates when the battery was made. 

Lack of Corrosion

Although corrosion can easily build on even a new car battery in a relatively short period, you simply don't know what a deteriorated-looking used battery has been through. And if it's been through a lot, it won't perform as it should. 

A newish battery may have dirt, dust, or debris from road salt. However, it should not have any orange or green corrosion on it. 

To stay on the safe side and get your money's worth out of your purchase, avoid buying used vehicle batteries that exhibit any signs of excessive wear and tear, such as:

  • Blue, fluffy-looking corrosion around battery terminals

  • A thin film on the top of the battery housing

  • Any indication of a battery acid leak

The Battery Has Enough Power

One of the most common mistakes car owners make when choosing batteries is getting one that is the wrong size and doesn't have enough power. Before getting a used battery, look at the model you already have. Identify its size and power output. From there, you'll simply need to find the same type of battery. 

The Battery Fits Your Car

When you visit Ace Auto Parts salvage yard, you're likely to find a car that is identical to the make and model of your vehicle. If so, we can inspect the battery to see if it's still in good condition (assuming it hasn't been damaged by a collision). 

The battery that is in that car should fit your vehicle. If not, you can also choose from our wide selection of used batteries. 

The Battery Can Hold a Charge

There are a couple of ways we can help you test a used battery. The first is the cold-cranking amp test. We can set the battery in your car and then crank it to see if it works. 

The second is a reserve capacity test. This time measurement explains how long a fully-charged battery can deliver 25 amps of current before the battery is discharged down to 10.5 volts. 

If it only takes a few minutes, the battery is no good. The battery should be able to hold a charge for a considerable amount of time.

Pick Up Quality Discount Auto Parts in St. Paul

The battery is an extremely critical part of a car; it keeps your ride operating efficiently and effectively, from the headlights to the engine. As a car owner, it's important to notice the signs your battery is dying, like dimming headlights, clicking sounds during ignition, and battery age. After all, being stranded in a cold Minnesota winter with a dead battery is the last thing you want to happen!

Need a discount car battery? How about a discount alternator or motor? Perhaps a couple of used tires, a fender, or a windshield? Then visit our team at Ace Auto Parts in St. Paul! For nearly 100 years, we've proudly provided Twin Cities vehicle owners with quality used car parts at deep discounts, and we'd love to help you out, too. 

Check out our parts search tool to locate the part(s) you need, or give us a call at 651-717-4299 to learn more!