Did you know that your car battery is one of the most important components? Without a well-functioning battery, you can’t turn on your car, charge your phone, listen to the radio, lock your doors, activate your car alarm, and the list goes on! A lot of your vehicle’s systems rely on your car battery, so it’s in your best interest to ensure that the battery is working well at all times.

How can you know when it’s time to change out the battery? Here are a few ways to know you need a new battery:

1.It’s been years since you changed it— Just like most other car parts, your battery is only built to last for a few years. Batteries don’t technically have an “expiration date”, but after a few years of use, it will begin to wear out and become inefficient. If you don’t switch it out, it may place unnecessary wear on the other important electrical components of the car. If more than three or four years have passed since you changed the battery, it’s time for a new one!

2. The engine doesn’t start right away — When you turn the key in the ignition, does your car crank and turn over but not actually start? This is usually a sign that there is something wrong with the battery, and it needs to be switched out.

3. The battery is covered with gunk — “Gunk” is the layman’s term for mineral deposits, rust, and anything else that could be covering the battery terminals. This is often caused by fluid leaks, or the battery is getting too hot when the vehicle runs. If there is a lot of gunk on the battery, it may be time to switch it out.

4. The dashboard light comes on — The “Check Engine” light isn’t the only one to be afraid of! There is a light that indicates battery trouble, and that’s one you should definitely pay attention to. If the Check Engine light is turning on/off regularly or staying on, it’s a good idea to take the vehicle to get it checked out in case of battery problems.

5. Battery fluid is low — There is usually a part of the battery casing that is transparent, allowing you to see the amount of fluid remaining in your battery. If the fluid levels drop too far (below the lead plates), it’s a sign there may be something wrong with your battery. Time to get it to a mechanic to check it out!

Before making any change (especially one as pricey as replacing the battery) talk to a mechanic you can trust. You want to be sure there actually is a problem before making any replacements. But once you find out the battery is the source of the issue, it’s in your best interest to replace it with a new one as soon as possible.