You’re in a hurry in today’s world. Places to go, things to do and your schedule is planned to the minute. You jump in your car, turn the key, and without a second thought, the engine turns over and you’re on your way. One of those often taken for granted pieces of convenience that helps to keep you moving, is the car battery.

This little black box is literally what gets your world started. The car battery has changed over the years, and is under high demand to go through future adjustments as our demands on energy change. A great example of how batteries have developed can be seen at the Wells Antique Auto Museum in Wells, Maine. Steve Casale, car enthusiast and museum employee, presented a 1908 Baker electric car that had belonged to John D Rockefeller. This electric car ran off a series of four batteries weighing approximately 950 pounds, and had to be plugged in to a charger after short, 50 mile trips. Today’s batteries weigh in at about 40 to 50 pounds.

Over the years, car batteries have moved location within the vehicle itself. Some of the first batteries were located on the running boards on the side of the car. They then moved to floorboards, often under a seat, and then under the hood.

Experience showed that having a shorter cable to the engine enabled the battery to have greater cranking power. Cold Crank Amps, or CCA is what is used to rate a battery’s strength. Battery power fades as the temperature dips, and the more you have to start with, the better your chances are that you’ll be able to turn the key and go.

Gary Arneault of VIP Auto Parts in Lewiston said, “A lot of people think because they have a 4-cylinder car that they don’t need as much crank power. The truth is the engine has to turn faster in a smaller car.”

Battery terminals should be kept clean and any corrosion removed to keep a solid connection providing the most power. A corroded terminal can be cleaned with a solution of baking soda and water, to neutralize the acidity. Batteries should be tested if they are over four years old, or sooner if the car is used to make frequent short trips instead of highway driving. Over time, batteries can build up crystals inside that may reduce the amount of electricity the battery can hold.

Batteries are called upon to provide an initial short burst of energy to crank the engine to life, and then may also come into play when today’s vehicles demand more electrical consumption from all the added extras we put in them. The computer systems, power windows, heated seats, GPS units – all make more demands on the batteries of today and consumers are responding by buying stronger, longer-lasting batteries.

Jay Poirier of Napa Auto Parts in Auburn said that people are willing to spend a few dollars more to get a much stronger battery than they did years ago. People are no longer coming in and asking what’s the lowest price battery you have – they are more savvy to match the battery with the need.

Today’s car batteries have the highest recycling rate ( 99%) of all items recycled, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. New lead batteries are comprised of up to 80% recycled lead and plastic. Gell and spiral batteries are fairly new, spill-proof batteries that last longer, hold more of a charge and are more vibration-resistant.

Electric cars seem to be a part of future solutions to today’s higher fuel bills. The automotive battery will no doubt lead the charge and be adapted to meet these demands. In electric cars, the gasoline engine is replaced by an electric motor that gets power from an array of rechargeable batteries. Many automakers are rushing to produce these highly sought after cars with several major announcements coming out in the last few months.

The automotive battery of the future will look and perform differently than what most of us are currently using. Until the present meets the future though, take a moment to check on your car’s battery and make sure that it is getting the attention it deserves. They are maintenance free for the most part, but a little preventative attention can take you a long way toward having a smooth start to your day.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.