Category Archives: car battery

When does my car need a new battery?

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car batteryContrary to popular opinion, the heat is harder on your car battery. Yet, every winter, car owners find themselves stranded in the cold with a dead battery. Why? In frigid winter temperatures, fluids in the engine turn to the consistency of molasses. It takes maximum car battery power to start an engine with thick fluids—maximum battery power that old batteries don’t always have. Often car batteries give signals that your car battery is starting to die—signals that are often missed by car owners or could easily be attributed to other car problems.

Battery age

Car batteries die at different ages, but most batteries start to give out between 3-5 years. In addition, if you know how old your battery is, you can take the battery back during the warranty period when you have problems.

Inconsistent starting & consistent jumping

Your car starts fine most of the time, but randomly won’t start and the battery needs to be recharged. If you have to sporadically jump your battery for no reason, you need to replace your battery.

Slow, rough starting

If you’re familiar with the long, painful cranking that never seems to end when waiting for your car to start, don’t wait to buy a new car battery. Eventually, the cranking won’t happen, and you’ll be stranded. Buy a car battery now—and have your mechanic double check for other causes—-so your car starts consistently.

What should I do if I think my car battery is dying?

Make an appointment with your mechanic, or ask them to check your car battery at your next oil change. Your mechanic can hook up your battery to a load tester to see if your battery is about to die.

Fatal Truth: Summer Heat’s Damaging Impact on Your Car Battery

prepare for car battery failureIt’s summer in Wisconsin. You don’t have to worry about your car battery, right? Everyone knows that car batteries only die in winter. NOT TRUE! The heat of our Wisconsin summers is actually harder on our car batteries than the winter. The heat and humidity of our Midwestern summers can actually cause battery fluid to evaporate and damage the internal parts of your battery. So why does everyone believe that you should only worry about your car battery in winter? Many cars do not start in the cold of winter because fluids in the engine turn to the consistency of molasses, meaning it takes maximum battery power that older batteries do not always have.

If you’ve always believed in that old adage about car batteries and winter, you’re not alone. Even though a car battery is one of the most important parts of our automobiles, it’s also one of the parts of our car that, in general, many people seem to know almost nothing about. This is where a little bit of knowledge about the signs of car battery death, when to replace a battery, and how to recharge a dead battery can come in handy, and prevent you from being stranded on the side of the road (or in your garage, or at school, or…):

Know your car battery’s age. You don’t have to throw a birthday party for it every year, but you should have a general idea about how old it is. It seems that everyone has a different idea of the average life of a battery, but most batteries start to give out around the 5-year mark (though we’ve seen customers have problem as early as 3 years.) Another reason to track your car battery’s age: knowing how old the battery is allows you to take the battery back during the warranty period when you have problems.

Inconsistent starting & consistent recharging. We’ve had personal experience with this: your car starts fine most of the time, but is suddenly the battery is suddenly dead and needs to be recharged—but not every time, and unpredictably. If you have to sporadically recharge your battery, even if it starts fine most of the time, you need to replace your battery. Yes, a car battery does die if you leave on interior lights, or some other accessory; but if the battery dies without any reason from time to time, it’s time to buy a new car battery at a local auto shop.

Slow, rough starting. This is the most obvious sign, the long, painful cranking that never seems to end when you are waiting for your car to start. Eventually, the cranking won’t happen, and you’ll be stranded. Buy a battery now—and have your mechanic double check for other causes—-so your car starts consistently.

Carrying a set of jumper cables is essential for anyone who does not want to be stranded by a dead battery (ever left your lights on? You know what we mean). When the day comes when you need those jumper cables, park another car near the front of your car and turn the cars off. Make sure the cars are secured, and use your parking brake if necessary for safety. Then:

  1. BE CAREFUL! Remember, you are touching an electrical system, and you could get hurt. Be cautious.
  2. Locate the positive and negative terminals on your battery. A “+” means positive and a “-“ means negative.
  3. Attach the positive clamp of the jumper cable to the positive terminal on the dead battery.
  4. Attach the other positive clamp of the jumper cable to the positive terminal on the live battery.
  5. Attach the negative clamp of the jumper cable to the negative terminal of the dead battery.
  6. Attach the other negative clamp of the jumper cable to a non-moving metal part of the engine. Do not reach into any areas with moving belts or parts.
  7. Turn on the car that starts for a few minutes. Lightly rev the engine by pressing the gas pedal.
  8. Start the car with the (formerly) dead battery.
  9. Remove the jumper cables.
  10. Enjoy a car that starts.
  11. Get your battery checked and replaced if necessary.

If you have any questions about whether you need a new car battery, email your question or schedule an appointment to have your car checked. A few minutes of your time, and an education, can keep you and your car on the road—and not dealing with the inconvenience that comes with a dead battery from our Wisconsin summer heat.

Summer Car Care Checklist

summer car care tire tips
Are your tires ready for our Wisconsin summer?

Wisconsin summers are hot and humid. What does that have to do with your car? Our Midwestern summers are tough on them, making summer car maintenance even more important to keep your car on the road—and not on the side or in the ditch. If you want to avoid being stranded on one of our summer sauna days, use this simple and easy summer car care checklist to keep your vehicle on the road and running in peak condition:

  1. Check your fluids. Extreme summer heat means your engine needs optimal fluid amounts and lubrication performance to cool and protect your engine’s moving parts. Have your oil, coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid and power steering fluid checked and flushed (if due) to make sure your engine can withstand the heat and humidity of our Wisconsin summers.
  2. Inflate your tires. At the very least, have your tire pressure checked to make sure your tires are not under or overinflated. Tires with incorrect tire pressure levels compromise gas mileage and accelerate tire tread wear. To make sure your tires are performing at the very best for the summer, use this simple test to make sure you have adequate tread wear to last the summer.
  3. Test your battery. Contrary to popular belief, summer—not winter—is the hardest time of year for batteries. Hot weather is a battery’s worst enemy, so make sure to have your battery tested and look for signs that your battery is dying.
  4. Replace your windshield wipers (if needed). Make sure you can see through those inevitable Wisconsin storms and downpours with new windshield wipers. Ask your mechanic to also check your headlights and tail lights to make sure you have strong lights to get you through our summer Wisconsin rain storms.
  5. Make sure you have brakes when you need them. Brakes are one of the key parts of your vehicle that you need all year round. Have a mechanic inspect your brakes to make sure your rotors can make it through the summer.
  6. Stay cool with a car air conditioner check. If you’re worried that your car’s air conditioner is giving out, don’t panic. Blowing warm air does not mean that your system can’t be fixed or needs a major, expensive repair. Schedule an appointment to have a trusted mechanic diagnose the problem, recommend possible repairs and give you a quote.

Unfortunately, even after double-checking everything on the summer car care checklist, part failure and car breakdowns do happen. Keep your local tow truck phone number in your cell phone, and in your emergency car kit. When it comes to your car, an ounce of prevention, and summer car maintenance, can keep you on the road no matter how high the temperature climbs.

Car Maintenance You Shouldn’t Put Off

You don’t want to get in an accident. You don’t want your car to breakdown. You don’t want to go in the ditch, and you certainly don’t want to pay for a tow truck to come get you. So why are you putting off regular car maintenance?

Though car maintenance appointments may seem like a hassle, car maintenance is IMPORTANT—both for extending the life of your car and keeping money in your pocketbook. Putting off regular car maintenance can damage other parts of your car or cause engine or transmission failure, all of which cost you more money throughout the life of your car. So what car maintenance should you stay on top of?

  1. Oil changes. An engine without regular oil changes is an engine that costs their owner thousands of dollars over the life of the car. The cost of regular oil changes and time spent saves car owners money and inconvenience when your car breaks down. Ask your car mechanic how often you need an oil change, as the amount of miles can vary depending on the type of oil used.
  2. Tires checked and rotated. Regular rotation of your tires ensures that tires wear evenly, and can even prevent surprise flat tires. An inspection of your tires can also find holes that allow air to leak slowly.
  3. Brakes. It’s normal for brakes to make occasional squeaking sounds when they get wet. If the squeak doesn’t go away, or if the noise is a grinding noise, your vehicle needs attention. If you don’t get your brakes looked it, and possibly replaced, brake failure is inevitable—leaving you in the midst of an accident you caused or in a ditch waiting for a tow truck.
  4. Disgusting air filter. We won’t tell you how disgusting your air filter can get, but we will tell you that part of your regular car maintenance should include replacing or cleaning that gross air filter. A dirty air filter can choke your engine of air, causing performance issues and damage over the life of your car.

In addition, track the age of your spark plugs and battery, two car parts that are integral to a smooth-starting and running car. Spark plugs should be changed every 30,000-100,000 miles, depending on the kind of spark plugs in your car. Car batteries can show signs of age every 3-5 years, and usually give car owners clues that it’s time for car battery replacement. If you don’t know the age of your spark plugs or car battery, have your mechanic check your spark plugs and battery at your next oil change appointment. Don’t put the appointment off. Schedule an appointment for your car today for the sake of you and your pocketbook.

Spring Car Maintenance

engineWinter is hard on a car. That’s why it’s your job as a responsible car owner to take spring as an opportunity to get your car inspected and ready for the next hard season for your car, summer (yes, it will come someday Wisconsin, be patient). Spring is the time to get your faithful tires checked after a hard winter of driving, your car aligned after sliding into a pole, and to get other important components of your car checked, corrected and ready for summer:

Alignment. Hard winter driving can knock your car’s alignment off, causing your tires to wear unevenly and need replacement prematurely. If your car pulls to the left or right, your steering wheel does not stay straight when driving or your tires wear unevenly, your car needs an alignment. A car with alignment issues wears through tires faster and has more costs due to undue wear on suspension parts.

Tire wear. Have an experienced mechanic check your tires to see that they wear evenly, and the amount of tread wear left. If the tire wear is low, your tires need to be replaced. If your tires are wearing unevenly, your car needs an alignment to prevent future breakdowns from undue wear on suspension parts.

Battery. Believe it or not, the Wisconsin heat is harder on batteries than winter cold. If your batteries are low from hard starts during winter, or shows one of these other signs of a dying battery, the summer heat is about to leave you stranded from a low battery.

Brakes. If your brakes are making any of these noises, it’s time to replace the pads or rotors that you need to safely stop. It’s normal for brakes to make occasional squeaking sounds when they get wet, but just as often your brakes are worn and in need of replacement. If you don’t get your brakes looked it, and possibly replaced, brake failure is inevitable—leaving you in the midst of an accident you caused or in a ditch waiting for a tow truck.

Air filter. A clogged air filter can affect the performance of your car. While an air filter is not something that needs to be necessarily replaced at every spring car maintenance check (though it may need to depending on your driving conditions), an air filter should be inspected regularly.

Don’t forget to check your windshield wipers and headlights so you have optimal visibility. Call or email for an appointment today to have a mechanic inspect those two key parts of your car, and get the rest of your spring car maintenance done before Wisconsin’s spring showers and summer thunderstorms hit. Remember, April showers may bring May flowers, and also car breakdowns and accidents if you car doesn’t get the annual spring car maintenance and inspections it needs.

What to Do If Your Car Is In the Ditch

20150126_115203Found yourself in a precarious, unintentional off-the-road winter adventure? Even the most experienced and careful driver can end up in one of our Dodge or Jefferson County ditches during our Wisconsin winters. And though we’d all like to stay inside during our frequent snow falls, a lot of us don’t have that option. So what do you do when your car leaves the road during our dicey winter weather?

  1. Take a deep breath. Stay calm. Use the shovel your car emergency kit to try to dig your car out. If there is no way you’re going to be able to drive out of that ditch, proceed to step 2.
  2. Call Tire-rifik at 920-261-8111 for a tow truck. Figure out your exact location, and any landmarks that would help a tow truck driver find you. Then call Tire-rifik to get a tow truck to get you out of the ditch as soon as possible.
  3. Assess the damage. Don’t just assume that you can just drive away. Check your car over for damage—not just dents and dings, but ensure that no suspension parts are bent or broken, that your steering wheel stays straight when you try to drive straight and that there are no puddles under your car.
  4. If there is damage, don’t get it towed home. If you can’t fix your car yourself, tow the car to a local repair shop with mechanics you trust to minimize the cost of the tow.
  5. Call Tire-rifik and ask for a quote. Get a quote on the damage before you contact your insurance. If the cost of the repairs is less than your deductible, it doesn’t make sense to contact your insurance company. For example, if the repairs are $500 and you have a $1,000 deductible, you would pay the whole cost of the repair whether your insurance gets involved or not.
  6. Get your car repaired, and look into ways to stay out of the ditch. Once your car is repaired, look into snow tires for your car. While snow tires can’t help on icy roads, they can give you more traction during our frequent Wisconsin snow falls.

Schedule an appointment to get your battery checked so you don’t get stranded on the side of the road. These simple steps will get you back on the road—and keep you on the road—through our long Wisconsin winter.

Don’t Ignore those Common Car Sounds & Noises: Thumps, Bumps & Clunks

engineYou don’t want anyone to drive your baby, but if you can’t hear those common car noises (the thunks, clunk and bumps!) it’s time to let someone else take the wheel. Fact is, those common car noises can cost you thousands of dollars if not repaired quickly. A small “clunk” from the front of your car can cost you thousands of dollars in suspension parts if you don’t get your car to the shop, not to mention the inconvenience of waiting for your car and finding rides while your car gets fixed.

Let’s face it: we Wisconsinites need our cars, and we need our cars quick. So if you want to keep your cars going, minimize time in the shop, and save money, it’s time to turn down the radio and listen for these common car noises:

  • Thumps, clicks or clunks in the front. Ball joints, CV joints and other suspension parts are most commonly the problem—and problems that can get bigger fast. When broken, suspension parts have a tendency to damage other parts because they rub or knock against each other. The result: more than one part that needs to be repaired, a longer repair appointment and a bigger bill.
  • Squealing from around your tires. It sounds like a howling cat. Or a squeaking bird. Or a grinding wheel. Could it be…your brakes? It’s normal for brakes to make occasional squeaking sounds when they get wet. If the squeak doesn’t go away, or if the noise is a grinding noise, your vehicle needs attention. If you don’t get your brakes looked it, and possibly replaced, brake failure is inevitable—leaving you in the midst of an accident you caused or in a ditch waiting for a tow truck. Don’t let your pads wear too low either.  If you wait too long to replace your pads and they get too thin, they can damage the rotors and cost you more.
  • Squealing from under your hood. While there are a lot of culprits that could be the problem, the most common problem is a worn serpentine belt. Schedule an appointment and have the technician check for fraying or damage to this important belt, which charges your battery, is vital for circulating coolant and runs your car’s accessories. A car with a broken serpentine belt is a car heading for disaster—for the driver and their pocketbook. Not only is the car hard to steer with a broken belt, but the engine is on the road to overheating—and thousands of dollars of repairs. Compare that cost versus the low cost of replacement, usually a $100 dollars or less, and you’re clearly saving a mountain of money by getting your car into the auto shop early.
  • Rough starting noise. You’ve probably heard it before: the rar-rar-rar that your car makes when you turn the key. If your car doesn’t start up right away, schedule an appointment to get your car battery check. It may be dying—and there are three clear signs that you can look for. In this case, a dying battery is not going to cost you more money in repairs, but it does cost you money when you are stranded and can’t get to work.

If you hear (or don’t hear) any of these noises, don’t procrastinate. Make an appointment to get that car problem checked right away, before it causes more problems (and costs more money).

How to Know When Your Car Battery is Dying

engineDid you know summer is actually the season hardest on your car battery? However, most Wisconsinites experience car battery problems during winter—one of the most inconvenient times to experience battery failure. The reason: lubricants in your car turn to the consistency of sludge, which means it takes more energy to start your car. When car batteries are starting to die, they don’t have the energy needed and you’re stuck at home or in a random parking lot. So how can you be proactive before you’re stuck at home? Educate yourself. Recognize these signs of battery failure:

  1. Know your car battery’s age. You don’t have to throw a birthday party for it every year, but you should have a general idea about how old it is. It seems that everyone has a different idea of the average life of a battery, but most batteries start to give out around the 5-year mark (though we’ve seen customers have problem as early as 3 years.) Another reason to track your car battery’s age: knowing how old the battery is allows you to take the battery back during the warranty period when you have problems.
  2. Inconsistent starting & consistent recharging. We’ve had personal experience with this: your car starts fine most of the time, but is suddenly dead—but not every time, and unpredictably. If you have to sporadically recharge your battery, even if it starts fine most of the time, you need to replace your battery. Yes, a car battery does die if you leave on interior lights, or some other accessory; but if the battery dies without any reason from time to time, it’s time to buy a new car battery at a local auto shop.
  3. Slow, rough starting. This is the most obvious sign, the long, painful cranking that never seems to end when you are waiting for your car to start. Eventually, the cranking won’t happen, and you’ll be stranded. Buy a battery now, so your car starts consistently.

With the temperatures dipping below zero, you don’t have time to tolerate your dying battery. Purchase a new car battery now, so you don’t get stranded later. Contact your local auto shop for their recommendations for a new battery that’s right for you and find out about any discounts or battery specials.

Even after you purchase that new battery, always carry around jumper cables and know how to jumpstart your car. You never know if your 5-year-old is going to leave an interior light on, or if your 5-year-old battery is going to die. You can know what to do about it, and the first step is to contact the professionals. They can help you purchase a new, strong battery—but they can’t do anything about the Wisconsin cold, or about your 5-year-old that left the interior light on in your car.

Car Battery 101: What You Didn’t Learn In Driver’s Ed

engineHow many of us learned to drive without any education about the part of our car integral to driving, the battery? However, when we’re stranded on the coldest day of winter, we quickly learn the importance of a working battery that starts our car (shocking, isn’t it?). Luckily, learning about your car battery is not as complicated as your high school chemistry class. It just starts with a few simple questions.

Why do car batteries go dead in the winter?

Ironically, the heat of our Wisconsin summers is harder on our car batteries than the winter. However, many cars do not start in the cold of winter because fluids in the engine turn to the consistency of molasses, meaning it takes maximum battery power that older batteries do not always have.

How do I jumpstart my car?

Carrying a set of jumper cables is essential for anyone who does not want to be stranded (ever left your lights on? You know what we mean). When the day comes when you need those jumper cables, park another car near the front of your car and turn the cars off. Make sure the cars are secured, and use your parking brake if necessary for safety. Then:

  1. BE CAREFUL! Remember, you are touching an electrical system, and you could get hurt. Be cautious.
  2. Locate the positive and negative terminals on your battery. A “+” means positive and a “-“ means negative.
  3. Attach the positive clamp of the jumper cable to the positive terminal on the dead battery.
  4. Attach the other positive clamp of the jumper cable to the positive terminal on the live battery.
  5. Attach the negative clamp of the jumper cable to the negative terminal of the dead battery.
  6. Attach the other negative clamp of the jumper cable to a non-moving metal part of the engine. Do not reach into any areas with moving belts or parts.
  7. Turn on the car that starts for a few minutes. Lightly rev the engine by pressing the gas pedal.
  8. Start the car with the (formerly) dead battery.
  9. Remove the jumper cables.
  10. Enjoy a car that starts.
  11. Get your battery check and replace if necessary.

How long do car batteries last?

The average life of a car battery is 3-5 years. Unfortunately, you can’t always tell when your battery is about to die, as battery testers do not always detect the signs of battery death.

What other questions do you have about your car’s battery? Contact us with your questions!