What Can Drain A Car Battery When The Car Is Off?

Updated October, 2020
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Many things can drain a car battery. If anything is left running while the car is off, the car loses charge. Not allowing the battery to fully charge between starts eventually kills your battery. Proper maintenance keeps your battery from dying too soon.

5 things that can drain your car's battery

Your car's battery provides electrical power to the rest of the car. Without it your car can't start or continue running. A dead battery stops all actions in your car. Everything from the engine to the dashboard lights and gauges need the battery to work. If you battery is starting to fail you could be draining it. Here are some common battery draining issues:

Left Lights On

Your lights rely on your battery for power. While you're driving the car the alternator charges the battery. If you leave your lights on while your car isn't running what is going to keep the battery charged?

Parasitic Draw

Sometimes your interior lights don't shut off even when your engine shuts off. These draw off your battery. Since your battery isn't being charged by the alternator, your battery is drained.

Too Many Short Drives

Starting your car takes a decent amount of power. If you don't drive long enough to recharge your battery, the next time you go to drive you may not have enough charge to start your car.

Excessive Heat or Cold

Older batteries can struggle with heat or cold. The changes in temperature effects how conductive the battery acid is. Newer batteries don't have this issue.

Corrosion on the Terminals

Corrosion prevents electricity from going in or out of the battery. The corrosion keeps enough charge out of the battery. The corrosion can also keep the car from being able to start at all.

How to extend the lifespan of your battery

The average lifespan of a car battery is 3 to 5 years. Improper maintenance can shorten this even more. If you maintain your battery properly you should get the full 5 years out of it. Here are some tips on how to extend the batteries life span:

  • Clean the terminal regularly
  • Keep the battery away from excessive heat
  • Don't store on concrete
  • Check for torn cables or wear on the terminal clamps.

What are the signs my car battery needs to be replaced?

If your battery can't hold a charge or can't be jumped, it's time for a new battery. To avoid getting to this point, it can help to know what causes these problems. Overloading a battery or improper use can cause these issues on top of other things.

  • If you have a smell or odor coming out of your engine check your battery. A short circuit or damage to the case of the battery can cause a leak. Battery acid leaking in your car is never a good thing.
  • If you notice corrosion on the battery connectors it may be time to change your battery. Corrosion is a white ashy substance that prevents your battery from putting out its full power. Sometimes cleaning the corrosion can help, but sometimes that damage is irreversible.
  • If your battery isn't holding a charge then you may have overloaded it. Plugging too many electronics into your car can drain your battery faster than your alternator can charge it. If this happens it causes damage to your battery's reserve permanently.

How much should a new battery cost?

Batteries can range in cost based on their life expectancy and reserve capacity. Brand name batteries are going to cost more, like Interstate or Optima. Another option is a rebuilt battery. This replaces the battery acid with a magnesium sulfate solution.

  • A rebuilt battery can be done yourself or you can buy one for less than $100. The price is definitely a big pro however the battery has to be messed with and that can be unsafe.
  • Your mid-range battery is between $100 and $200. These batteries are pretty standard and can run most cars and trucks. However, they may not have a high enough reserve capacity for some people.
  • Some batteries can cost as much as $300, even more for a hybrid battery. While the price is a drawback, these batteries have a longer warranty and higher standards.

What do I do with the old battery?

You have 3 options when it comes to battery disposal. You can take it to a hazardous waste recycling plant, your local auto parts store will accept it, or you can exchange it for a new battery at an auto parts store. As long as you safely dispose of your battery you have made the right call. Unsafe disposal causes toxins to be released into the environment.

How to tell when it's my battery or another car issue?

Sometimes an issue may seem like a battery issue, but it's an issue with another part of your car. The most common culprits are your alternator, a blown fuse, or a short in the electrical wiring. Differentiating these from a battery issue is important to save you time and money.

  • If you charge your battery and it doesn't hold that charge, get your alternator tested. The alternator is responsible for charging the battery as you drive.
  • A short circuit can drain your batteries power. If your battery is struggling to hold a charge get it tested as well as your electrical circuits.
  • If your headlights or interior lights are flickering or aren't working and you have changed the bulb, check the fuses. They are easy to replace and cheap to buy.

When the time arises, is my insurance going to be enough?

When it comes to car insurance, there are several factors to consider beyond monthly cost. A policy that covers you when you need it, has a low deductible, and offers several discounts can be hard to find - which is why we've done the work for you.

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Call an insurance expert
Our team will help you find the lowest insurance prices.
866-996-3156