Replacing a car battery is one of the most basic tasks you will perform on your vehicle. The car battery isn’t made to last forever, so there will likely be a time when it needs to be replaced. How much does it cost to replace a car battery and will you need to budget for this expense?
The average car battery replacement cost is between $50 and $250. Several criteria affect how much you will pay, such as the type of car you drive, where you take it to be replaced and whether you can perform the swap yourself.
In this guide, we look at where the grunt of the cost comes from. We also evaluate how you might change the battery yourself to avoid the labor fees.
Factors Affecting Cost to Replace a Car Battery
1. Type of Vehicle
The vehicle type affects what size battery you need. Car batteries are not universal. You need to ensure you get the type that matches your vehicle’s voltage needs and one that fits in the box provided.
A compact battery is going to cost far less than a heavy-duty truck battery. For example, you might spend $80 to $130 for a Ford F-Series truck battery. In comparison, it could only be $50 to $80 for a Nissan Altima battery.
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2. Do-it-Yourself vs. Professional
As with any automotive repair or maintenance task, you will spend far less if you can perform the job yourself. Thankfully, it’s not difficult to swap out a car battery. You only need basic tools and you can perform the replacement in your driveway.
However, if you choose to visit a professional shop, you need to be prepared to pay for the service. In general, the labor might cost you $25 to $75, depending on what type of vehicle you drive and where you choose to go.
3. Shop Location
If you need someone else to install the battery, you have some options that might save money. Many auto parts stores will put the battery in for free if you purchase it from them. While you might spend a little more on the battery, this is a great solution if you don’t want to pay shop fees.
If you choose to visit a garage, you will normally spend less visiting an independent neighborhood shop versus a dealership. Thankfully, this job doesn’t require a lot of expertise, so there’s no reason to pay a crazy labor fee.
When Should the Car Battery Be Replaced?
You will be forced to change the car battery when it fails to recharge and start the vehicle. Once the battery is dead, there’s often nothing you can do but replace it. However, there are times when the battery isn’t dead, but corrosion is keeping it from working. For this reason, it’s best to clean off the terminals before replacing it.
Additionally, you can have the battery tested if it appears to be dying. When the car gets harder to start or the electronics get dimmer, you can replace the battery before it dies. You want to check the car battery often, especially before the weather gets cold.
During many dealership maintenance appointments, the car battery will be checked too. Plus, you can drive into the local auto parts store for a free battery check if you don’t know how to do it yourself.
How to Change Car Battery
1. Park Vehicle
Before you take the battery out, it’s best to have the vehicle parked on a flat surface. You may also place wheel chocks or a wooden block behind each tire.
Put the emergency brake on. Open the hood of the vehicle to find the battery. You can reference the owner’s manual if you need help finding it.
Remember to have the radio code ready before you start the process, as you may need to enter it when the battery is replaced.
2. Disconnect Battery
Before you disconnect the battery, let the engine cool off. You also want to put on gloves to protect your skin from any battery acid. When you want to replace the battery, you will always start with the negative terminal. It might have a minus sign on the cover or it will be black.
Use your socket wrench to loosen up the nut and take the terminal off of the battery. Do the same thing with the positive battery connector. It is red or labeled with a positive sign.
3. Remove Battery
Your battery might be held in place by a clamp. You may need a socket extension to remove the clamp. In some cases, there could even be a few clamps. Keep these clamps handy because you will need them to reinstall the battery.
The battery can be heavy, especially if you have a larger vehicle. Try to remove the battery without jostling the battery around. Your hands must remain steady. Some batteries have a handle attached to help you remove them from the compartment.
If you have trouble removing the battery, use a battery carrier. Never use tools on the cable to pry out the battery. You also don’t want to touch both connectors of the battery together with metal.
Clean the terminals before you install a new battery. You can use a wire brush, along with baking soda and water to remove any corrosion from the terminals. Make sure everything is completely dry before moving on.
4. Install New Battery
You should have your new battery in hand before you remove the old one. You can prepare the new battery by applying corrosion-resistant gel to each of the terminals. You can also use this on the ends of the car’s connectors.
Put the new battery into the compartment. If it was held in by a clamp, you would need to reattach it.
Make sure the positive and negative ends of the battery are paired up in the right spot. Reinstall the clamps, moving in the opposite direction from when they were disconnected.
You will connect the positive cable first. You need to make sure that the positive cable is securely attached to the battery post. Use your wrench to tighten it to the terminal.
Follow the same process with the negative terminal. Once both sides are connected, you want to wiggle the battery to ensure it is firmly in place. If the battery is able to shift around, you might need to adjust the cables or clamp.
If your battery was covered by anything, you would need to reinstall it. Close up the hood and try to start the vehicle. If everything runs normally, there’s nothing more you need to do. If the car doesn’t run, or it runs for a little and dies again, there’s something else wrong that needs to be looked at.
5. Dispose of Old Battery
You can’t throw your old battery in the trash. It contains hazardous materials that must be disposed of properly.
When you are finished with your old battery, return it to the auto parts store. You can also take it to local recycling centers. Just check your local laws to find out the appropriate drop-off locations near you.