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3 Common Causes of Automotive Battery Problems

Battery of a car
Your car's electrical system, which includes everything from your headlights to your radio, gets its power from your battery. Ideally, a battery can last for many years with relatively few problems. The battery maintains a constant charge through the action of the alternator. Yet batteries sometimes develop problems that prevent them from working.

Many people have had to deal with a dead battery at one time or another. Yet relatively few people understand the range of potential causes. If you would like to improve your automotive knowledge, keep reading. This article takes a look at three common sources car battery problems.

1. Terminal Corrosion

One of the most frequently encountered battery issues involves excessive amounts of corrosion forming on the battery terminals. When severe enough, this problem may lead to a noticeable lack of power. Worse still, corrosion may even prevent your car from starting at all. In other cases, corrosion may eat through connection wires.

Terminal corrosion breaks down into two main categories, depending on whether it occurs on the positive or the negative terminal. Corrosion on the positive terminal typically has a greenish-blue appearance. Such corrosion forms as lead in your battery terminal reacts with copper in the terminal clamp, often in the presence of moisture.

The copper sulfate that forms as the result of this reaction makes it difficult for electrical current to move out of your battery to your car. As a result, your electrical system will suffer a noticeable decline in its effectiveness.

Corrosion on the negative terminal tends to have more of a whitish-grey color, and forms through a chemical process known as sulfation. Negative terminal corrosion almost always stems from an undercharged battery. In its early stages, such corrosion can be eliminated by ensuring that your battery charges fully. 

If the undercharging problem goes on for too long, however, sulfation takes a more permanent form. Therefore, you should inspect your battery regularly for signs of corrosion. A technician can help you eliminate the problem if caught early enough.

2. Low Fluid Level

In order to work properly, a battery requires a mixture of water and sulfuric acid often referred to as either electrolyte or battery fluid. Battery fluid bathes the plates inside of the battery, ensuring that they remain capable of charging. Over time, a battery consumes water as part of the charging process.

Specifically, charging your battery turns water into oxygen and hydrogen gas, gradually decreasing the depth of the battery fluid. If fluid levels dip too low, your battery may cease to hold a charge. As a result, you will likely find yourself needing to jump start your car on a regular basis.

Fortunately, a technician can restore proper functioning by replenishing your fluid supply. Since sulfuric acid does not evaporate, a battery with low fluid just requires more water. However, not any water will work. Tap water, for instance, contains minerals that can create problems for the battery. Only deionized or demineralized water can restore proper functioning.

3. Internal Short

A car battery may also fail as the result of a short-circuited cell - a problem also known as an internal short. This problem most commonly stems from damage to the separator used to keep the positive and negative plates isolated. Separators often melt as the result of overheating. The resulting internal short only causes more heat, leading to further melting.

Internal shorts may also occur as the result of other factors. Poorly manufactured batteries may contain plates that touch one another, causing a short circuit. If your car battery has ceased to function the way it should, please contact the automotive experts at Corporate Auto Works.