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Having a flat battery sucks. Under normal circumstances, a car battery isn’t something we give too much thought to. However, to prevent yourself from getting caught out, it’s undoubtedly worth giving it some consideration.
Therefore, I decided to take a look at the factors that affect battery life and then at the various charging options. I’ll then go on to examine charging times and what to do if, after all this, you still end up with a dead battery and a car that won’t start.
So, exactly how long does it take to charge a car battery?
Let’s find out…
A car’s battery life can be affected in many ways, but one of the biggest factors that contribute to the reduction of your battery’s life is the climate. If you live in very hot or cold conditions, it will have an adverse effect.
When living in a hot climate, the fluid inside will evaporate more quickly, which will consequently reduce its life span. If you live somewhere cold, a temperature that reaches 32 degrees Fahrenheit will result in a 35% loss of strength. In winters where temperatures drop below freezing, you can lose as much as 60% of the power.
Since most of you won’t want to move to New Zealand to get the best out of your car battery, you’ll just have to accept that this is something entirely out of your control. Just be aware of it and the wear and tear that can result, so you can keep a good eye on its condition. This will give you better charging options which we’ll look at a little later.
But wait, there’s more to know…
Other things that will reduce your car battery’s charge include making short journeys. Since you use a lot of power to simply start your car, a short trip doesn’t give the alternator sufficient time to recharge it.
Using air conditioning and electronic devices and charging them via USB ports will also shorten battery life. It’s not something you can necessarily do anything about, but if your battery is running low on charge, it might help to turn everything off till you can sort it out.
Worst case scenario…
Finally, it could be that the battery is not charging correctly because of a damaged alternator or other damaged engine parts. If your battery is not holding its charge and is not old, you will need to seek mechanical assistance. Or you can use a diagnostic scan tool like the one in my Launch X431 V Pro Review.
Typical Recharge Times When Driving
Although times will vary, generally speaking, it will take around 30 minutes to recharge your battery when driving. This is why if you predominantly take longer drives, you can increase the life of your battery. Conversely, if you mainly take shorter trips, you may never get to the point where you fully recharge the battery.
So, what about the recharge time if you just start your engine in the driveway and leave it idling?
This is interesting…
It will undoubtedly help to recharge the battery, but the fact is that it will take as long as fifteen minutes just to replenish the energy lost from starting your engine. Additionally, getting the battery to full charge will take several hours.
This is why stop-start driving and short journeys quickly kill battery life.
Checking Your Battery
Before you recharge your battery, you need to check the voltage. It’s pointless recharging an already charged battery; we’re sure you’ll agree? Happily, the process is quick and straightforward.
All you need is a multimeter. Simply attach it to the positive terminal of your battery, and if the reading is over 12.6 volts, your battery is fully charged, and you’re good to go. If the engine is running, a good reading is between 13.7 to 14.7 volts.
Now let’s look at some of the different kinds of battery chargers.
Car Battery Chargers
There are essentially three different types of battery chargers. These are trickle, linear, and multi-stage chargers. Let’s look at each in turn and briefly go through the benefits of each as the answer to How Long Does It Take To Charge A Car Battery will depend on the charger type, too.
These work by replacing a small amount of charge on a relatively fresh and charged battery. They work at a very low power output of between around one and four amps.
Trickle chargers are not designed to recharge either a dead or a highly discharged battery. They should only be used when the vehicle isn’t running and to keep your car’s battery in peak condition.
These are inexpensive and used to be very common. Now, this is less so as they’ve been replaced increasingly with more sophisticated alternatives. Unlike newer multi-stage chargers, they work at relatively low power settings.
One of the disadvantages of these kinds of chargers is that they continue to charge your battery regardless of if it’s fully charged or not. Consequently, to avoid damaging your car battery, you need to keep a close check on its charge. Be warned that your battery could explode in extreme cases if you don’t stop it from charging once its reached capacity.
With that in mind…
If a simple linear charger is all you need, you can’t go far wrong with the AmazonBasics Charger.
These are now the most popular kind of car battery chargers. Unlike linear chargers, they don’t charge continuously. The good news is that by the power of sophisticated electronic wizardry, the charger analyzes the battery and tailors the charging to the specifics of that battery.
Are they worth it?
Yes! The bursts of targeted charging, with milliseconds of inactivity in between, helps to prevent damage to the battery and lengthen the battery’s useful life. Another advantage of these kinds of chargers is that they also stop once your battery is fully charged. Plus, they’re super quick too.
The only disadvantage over a linear charger is the price. However, they are still not as expensive as they were a few years ago. Something like the STANLEY BC50BS offers excellent value if you want a solid multi-charger at a great price.
Battery Charge Times
Charge times for charging a standard 12-volt car battery will not surprisingly depend on the power of your charger. Simply put, the more powerful the charger, the quicker it will be to charge your battery.
So, what kind of charging times are we talking about?
The least powerful battery charges are trickle chargers. They generally have between one and two amps of power. It’s hard to put a time on how long it will take to charge your battery because they are not designed to charge your battery from flat.
Assuming it’s in good condition…
A well-maintained battery may only need as little as thirty minutes to recharge it. The best way to get a more accurate handle on charging times is to consult with its detailed instructions and use a multimeter to keep a close watch on things. One final point to note is that trickle chargers will not overcharge your battery, so you don’t have to keep a close eye on them.
An overnight job…
Older style linear charges will typically have two to four amps of power. If you are charging your battery from entirely flat, you can expect them to take between 12 to 24 hours to get you back to fully charged. This will be an overnight job, and you will need to keep a careful eye on the battery level to avoid overcharging and potential damage.
These less powerful chargers are no good for people in a hurry.
If you need to reduce charging time drastically…
More powerful battery chargers are typically multi-stage chargers. The smaller of these chargers, with say ten amps of power, can charge a small dead battery in as little as four hours. A half-discharged battery would take just over two hours.
The more powerful 15-amp multi chargers are capable of doing the same job in less than three hours for a fully discharged battery and a little over an hour and a half for a half flat battery.
Then there’s your vehicle specifics to consider…
We are quoting the figures for an RC 40-60 battery that you’d find in most medium-sized sedans. Batteries rated at RC 60-85 will take 50% longer. Batteries rated at RC 85-190 will take double the time.
The last and most potent of chargers, with 40 amps of power, will take as little as an hour to fully recharge a smaller-sized battery.
Essentially these things are super quick.
Flat Battery Emergency Start
If you find yourself away from home with a flat battery, there are three ways to get you started.
The first is the good old-fashioned manual jump-start method. It doesn’t involve any piece of equipment. You just need a hill or a strong set of guys and girls to give you a push. Keep the clutch in and select second gear. Once the car reaches a decent speed, let out the clutch, not too quickly, and hopefully, that will get you going.
Sadly, this method will only work if you’re driving a stick shift.
And if you’re not?
The second way is to use a set from my Best Jumper Cable Reviews. You attach the leads to the same terminals on both batteries. The ‘donor’ car starts its engine and runs for a while before you then try to start your vehicle. If you have no other mechanical issues, this will usually get you going.
Not a single-handed job…
Even though this method relies on a donor car and the kindness of strangers, in our experience, people are usually glad to help in just about every case. People can be genuinely kind. Just make sure you have a set of jump leads, like the CARTMAN Booster Cables in the back of your car.
Last but not least…
The final way is to keep a battery car jump starter with you. The cool thing about these is that they have their own power supply and have enough charge to start your car without having to rely on anyone else for help.
If you drive in remote areas, they’re a better idea than standard jump leads.
Got The Best Battery for Your Vehicle?
Don’t forget; you can also reduce battery charging time and frequency simply by ensuring you have the best possible battery and charger for your vehicle and climate.
Back to today’s question…
Now You Know!
So, there you have it. We hope you never suffer from a flat battery. However, if you do, we also hope that you now have a better idea of how best to keep your car battery fully charged and how to get your car started again if it still has insufficient charge.
Just make sure you give this hugely important part of your car some love and consideration.