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Dead Car Battery? Here's How to Change It Yourself and Get Your Motor Baby Back on the Road

Illustration for article titled Dead Car Battery? Heres How to Change It Yourself and Get Your Motor Baby Back on the Road
Image: Stocksnap (Pixabay)

Products Needed:
Arcan 2-Ton Low Profile Floor Jack XL20 | $133 | Amazon
Duralast Platinum Battery 35-AGM | $200 | AutoZone
AutoCraft Gold Battery | $160 | AutoZone
Crescent 12" Adjustable Wrench | $20 | Home Depot

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All of us stuck at home and not driving our cars are causing one major problem. Dead batteries. You see, cars are made to be driven and started often. As the car sits and before you know it, dead battery. Now, changing a battery is fairly simple and a great life skill to learn while social distancing. However, there are so many choices! Where you can buy a battery online so you can stay socially distant? Of course, what tools do you need to make the swap?

Where Is My Battery Anyway?

Arcan 2-Ton Low Profile Floor Jack XL20 | $133 | Amazon
Arcan 2-Ton Low Profile Floor Jack XL20 | $133 | Amazon
Graphic: Gabe Carey
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Silly question you think? It might be if you car has the battery under the hood. But some cars have batteries in the trunk, under the back seat or in the wheel well. If you battery is not under the hood it might be a bit tougher to change on your own. If it’s in the wheel well, you may need to jack up the car and remove the tire for access.

What Does My Battery Do?

Some people think that your battery runs all the electrical in your car while the car is running. However that’s not accurate in most cases. The battery helps deliver power to start your car and often powers your electronics. Once the battery helps the car start the alternator kicks in and continues the power from there.

Do I Need an AGM Battery?

Duralast Platinum Battery 35-AGM | $200 | AutoZone
Duralast Platinum Battery 35-AGM | $200 | AutoZone
Graphic: Gabe Carey

If you’ve ever bought a battery, you’ve probably been offered what was told to you as the best battery is for your car: the AGM, or absorbed glass mat, battery. While I generally agree that it’s a fantastic battery, it is quite expensive. You don’t NEED this unless you run accessories like a sound system or heavy duty inverter. However, it tends to be a more reliable start in extreme cold and extreme heat climate and tend to carry a longer warranty than a standard battery.

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What Are CCA?

To put it simply, CCA (Cold Cranking Amps) are a measure or rating used to indicate how well a battery will start in extreme cold situations. The higher the CCA the easier the battery will start in the cold.

Do I Really Need That Long Warranty?

AutoCraft Gold Battery | $160 | AutoZone

Battery life isn’t what it used to be. In my experience, the average battery lasts about 3-4 years now. While a warranty won’t stop the battery from going bad, it will help you get another one for free, for a prorated cost. I recommend buying a battery with a minimum of a three year full replacement and in the ideal world five year proration.

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What Tool Do I Need?

The simple wrench is king. If you have one on hand, you’ll likely be all set. If not, you can buy one at Home Depot. Before you get started on the actual replacement, do your research to make sure that you don’t make any catastrophic mistakes during the replacement.

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Socially Distant Purchasing

Most major parts stores like Advance Auto Parts and Autozone are offering free curbside pickup and delivery options. Decide which battery you need online, make the purchase, and pick it up while remaining socially distant.

Bottom Line

Do your research, determine where your car battery is located and how it needs to be replaced. Make sure you buy the correct size battery for your specific vehicle and proceed carefully.

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Chaya Milchtein is an automotive educator, writer and speaker who's made it her mission empower the average driver. She believes that anything is possible and can be done on your own terms.

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