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What's with the range of weights in car batteries?
A couple of the biggest factors in vehicle weight is the type of battery installed and the size of the vehicle's engine.
Lead is a very dense metal that is often used with car batteries. At 11 times denser than water, lead has some serious heft and will often be more than half of your batteries' weight. The other heavy part of a lead acid battery is the water and acid solution that keeps the lead “bathed” and capable of producing electricity. A lead-acid battery will be commonly found in non-hybrid vehicles that rely solely on a large, non-plug-in battery to start.
Lithium-ion is much lighter, and is in some cases used to power a hybrid vehicle. These kinds of batteries are more like the battery used to power a cell phone or camera. Lithium uses much lighter metals and can be generally expected to weigh less than 30 pounds for most hybrid systems. One key difference is the type of metals and the size of the battery. A lithium-ion car battery will have a similar appearance to a lead battery but is often shrunken down a bit.
Are batteries hard to change out?
For a person who doesn't often work on cars, a battery can be unexpectedly heavy. The box of plastic doesn't look that heavy, but the density of lead makes it so that once you get a good grip on it and lift, it has some weight.
One of the more difficult parts of moving a car battery is often the position you initially stand in to lift it. The battery might be slightly below shoulder height for a truck or between your knees and waist for a smaller car. Many people will make the mistake of leaning down with their back while trying to lift.
Ideally, you'll want to wear some work gloves so you can maintain a grip on a potentially greasy pattery. Lift straight up, then begin to move back or toward where you plan to put the battery.
When should I not try to lift a battery?
If you have any weight restrictions or don't feel like you can lift the battery yourself. This writer was once asked by a neighbor who had recent abdominal surgery to help lift a car battery because their doctor ordered them not to lift more than 30 pounds. Their car battery weights a bit more than that, and unfortunately, dropping a car batter isn't great, both because off the pokey and boxy edges, but the lead and acid too.
We also strongly suggest using a cart capable of holding the weight. We've seen employees at Batteries Plus do this as well as a dealership and it's a great idea to keep you from lifting all the weight – and the wheels will be very helpful in making the cart handle everything.
How about an all-electric car battery?
While the answer depends on the vehicle and the range, you should expect an all-electric vehicle battery like a Tesla to weigh near 1,000 pounds or more – and often makes up for one-third of the vehicle's weight. The big difference here is that the electric vehicle uses motors that are generally located near the wheels instead of a trunk. Even with 1,000 pounds of lithium-ion batter underneath, an electric car can often take off much faster than a gasoline-powered car with a lead acid battery.
Note that these are also very different kinds of batteries. A car battery is meant to start a cold engine while an all-electric car battery is capable of moving a machine that weighs more than a ton quite quickly.
How long should a car battery last?
Under optimal conditions, about 5 years. The car battery on an all-electric car should last for at least a decade. Note that a car batter can go longer than 5 years, but you begin to run the risk of your vehicle not starting after that. We wouldn't call it a major inconvenience for a car battery to completely die – it's just a matter of whether or not you are in a rush to get somewhere!
For best results, have your battery tested regularly when you go in for an oil change or other maintenance. A technician can readily tell you if voltage drops too much when testing the vehicle.
Should I change my own battery?
You can save a few dollars on the labor cost of removing a battery – and potentially by recycling it yourself. You'll want a wrench that can remove the connectors from the battery terminals and of course a new battery to put in its place. Most experienced car owners won't need to spend more than a few minutes doing this unless disconnecting the old battery proves extra difficult.
About The Author
I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.Read More About Charles Redding