Dealers aren’t “taking you for a ride” with maintenance suggestions, columnist says.

Arizona Daily Star 2003

With Arizona’s harsh climate and the increasing average age of today’s cars, a vehicle battery is often on borrowed time.

The average age of a car that is taken to a AAA repair facility is 10.6 years old. And cold weather is just as rough on car batteries as heat, maybe rougher. Many motorists find this out the hard way when their cars won’t start on a chilly day. In fact, battery failure is among the top calls year-round for roadside assistance.

The changing technology in today’s automobile also has changed the role of the battery. The constant small load the battery now draws when the engine is not running has grown exponentially to support “keep alive” memories for idle, seats, radio, engine-control unit and the vast assortment of luxuries that consumers want.

Also, some vehicles already are equipped with start-stop technology that automatically shuts down and restarts to reduce idle time, which can further tax the battery.

The best way to avoid a battery failure is to be vigilant and have your battery tested on a routine basis. Here are some warning signs that you are at risk for a battery-related breakdown:

  • Your vehicle cranks slowly when starting.
  • You hear a grinding, clicking or buzzing when you turn on the ignition.
  • Your vehicle has stalled.
  • Your headlights dim when you are idling but brighten when you rev the engine.
  • Your battery is more than three years old.

The average life of a battery in Arizona is 32 months, which is shorter than in more temperate climates. In addition, driving conditions, climate and lack of care and maintenance can shorten a battery’s lifespan. Having your battery routinely tested and staying on top of maintenance will help prevent you from being stranded because of battery failure.

Recent reports show that AAA roadside assistance is gearing up for an even busier year, with a 2.4 percent increase in calls forecast this year. Last year, the club responded to nearly 548,000 calls for roadside assistance. This year, the club is preparing to respond to nearly 562,000 calls across the state.

Valerie Vinyard is a public affairs specialist for AAA Arizona. Contact her at or at 258-0518.