Car batteries are rechargeable and are used to provide an electric current to the motor. This then starts a process of internal combustion which is powered by chemicals and what causes the car to move. Once the car has started moving, the alternator inside the battery helps to charge it as the power demands adjust.
Most modern batteries in diesel and gasoline cars are known as SLI batteries, or starting, lighting, and ignition batteries. These are commonly lead-acid batteries and involve a series of 6 connected cells to make a 12-volt system in most vehicles. Some larger vehicles will have a 24-volt system.
Electric and hybrid car batteries are powered using a high-voltage electric vehicle battery. This is commonly a NiMH battery or nickel-metal hydride. They commonly have a supplemental battery in the form of an automotive or auxiliary battery. This helps the electrical components inside the car to function.
These batteries cannot be thrown into your household waste when they lose functionality. This is because of the acid that is contained within the cells. This can seep out over time as the battery casing breaks down.
This will cause a huge amount of damage to the environment and can contaminate the soil with chemicals and non-biodegradable plastics. In some areas, throwing a car battery in a dumpster or landfill can lead to financial penalties.
How do car batteries work?
As we mentioned earlier, batteries are made up of a collection of individual cells. These are made of lead and lead dioxide plates encased in a plastic shell. This is then filled with an electrolyte, a liquid that is used to conduct electricity. In most batteries, the electrolyte used is a strong form of sulfuric acid.
When the engine is running correctly, the alternator in the car will send an electrical charge to the battery. This is then stored in the form of chemical energy. Each cell of the battery will produce 2 volts of electricity – which is why car batteries are commonly 12 volts. These cells will deteriorate in quality and functionality through use.
There are many different places that you can take batteries to be recycled. These are easily found through a quick internet search. Your local landfill site or dump may also have a recycling program, but we recommend phoning in advance to check.
Some areas will even offer a collection service to save you the journey. You may even get paid for disposing of your battery correctly.
You could also look for places known as ATFs (Authorized Treatment Facilities). These are places that accept scrap cars and break them down for recycling. These facilities will also accept used batteries, or at the least, will pass them on to the appropriate venues.
The batteries will be crushed and separated out into the component parts. The plastic sections are reformed into pellets and the lead is separated into lead grids and a lead paste. Some facilities will capture and recycle the sulfuric acid as gypsum.
Take it to an auto shop
Car batteries are found for sale at auto shops and auto parts stores. These will commonly accept old car batteries for recycling. You can often drop off your old battery as you are purchasing your new one. This could even correspond to getting you a discount on your new battery purchase.
Return it to the manufacturer
Check on the battery to see if there is a core charge. This is found on starter motors, water pumps, batteries, alternators, and other automotive parts. This is a small fee that is added to the cost of some component parts for vehicles.
It indicates that the battery (or other part) contains some materials or components that are able to be reused when the battery’s life is over. This can then be used to make new automotive parts. When returning a battery with a core charge to the manufacturer, they will refund you for the cost of this fee.
Many scrap metal depots will purchase old batteries and parts from you. The amount of money you get will be less, but it will still be better value than simply disposing of the battery. It is a good option if you have lost the receipt for your battery meaning that you cannot reclaim the core charge.
Visit a mechanic
Many mechanics will be happy to remove the old battery from your vehicle and install a new replacement battery. This is a good option if you do not have much technical automotive knowledge. You will not need to be concerned with how to safely disconnect the old battery or install the new one.
Your first step should always be to disconnect the battery terminals from the wiring of your car. This minimizes the risk to yourself and those around you.
When placing the battery in your car, you should lie something down in your trunk to prevent damage to your car’s interior. It is a good idea to put it on a piece of plywood or a trash bag, as this will prevent acid from seeping into your carpet.
You should always transport your battery in an upright position to minimize the risks of leakage. Take care to store it in a place where it will not fall over during transit.
You should use a torch to check the exterior of your battery for leaks and dents. Shine the light across all of the sides and check for any visible signs of damage. This can lead to an increased risk of battery acid leakage which can be very harmful.
If you notice any damage, we strongly recommend contacting a professional to help you remove the battery.
You should never attempt to open lead-acid batteries, and you should take care when holding them to prevent them from sustaining knocks. This can cause the sulfuric acid to seep out of the protective casing.
This is a highly corrosive substance that can cause serious damage to your upholstery and skin. For this reason, it is wise to always wear protective gloves when you are handling batteries. If any acid spills, then you should rinse the area well with water.
To be even safer, we recommend wearing protective goggles as well as old, thick clothing. Battery acid can eat through most materials with ease, so the more protection you have, the better.
When removing and transporting the battery, we recommend taping up the terminals. This is where the power comes from. If the terminals come into contact with any metal then there is a risk of sparks flying which could lead to a fire starting.
How do you know when a battery needs to be replaced?
As a general rule, car batteries have a lifespan of anywhere from 3 to 5 years, but this could be longer if you take good care of them.
If you notice any fluid leaking out of the battery casing, corrosion forming on the terminals, or bulging from being frozen, this suggests you need to replace your battery. There should be caps on the top of the battery that prevents the acid from leaking out.
If these are missing or damaged they must be replaced as soon as possible. If you cannot find replacement caps, the battery must be replaced completely.
If you notice that your battery is dead, you should initially try to recharge it. In most cases, this will be sufficient to restore it to functionality. If you charge your battery and it is dead again by the next morning, then it is time to get rid of the battery.
You can also take it to an auto parts store to be tested. This will let you know if the battery is faulty or if it’s your vehicle’s electronics at fault.