Most car owners treat batteries as fit-and-forget components. So, the fact that they can become flat or malfunction catches some drivers off guard. But, as it turns out, a battery has nothing to do with an eternal engine. And this begs a natural question – will a car battery recharge itself once it runs flat? So, stick with me, and you will find out the answer to this question.
The science behind charging the battery
As the battery is responsible for charging the electronic components of the whole vehicle, it is essential to know how it works and where it gets the power from.
The chemical reaction runs the process
So, a car battery is made of two connectors (an anode and a cathode) and a chemical solution the connectors sit in. An electrical charge from outside the battery triggers a chemical reaction within the battery, which then charges it. Thus, the battery powers the car when chemical energy is converted into electrical energy.
It’s all about the alternator
The battery gets an external electrical charge from an alternator. It is a car’s component that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy. It happens because the alternator is connected to the engine via a belt. As the engine works, it spins the alternator’s rotor. Once magnets around the rotor pass the copper wiring in the stator, they create a magnetic field. In its turn, the magnetic field generates the voltage, which is then captured by the stator. Finally, this power gets to the voltage regulator, which spreads electricity to the battery and vehicle.
Converting AC to DC
To be more specific, before the battery can use the power from the alternator, it should be rendered to the format it can accept. All because electricity runs in different currents – DC and AC. The alternator outputs alternating current (AC), while the battery can use only direct current (DC) electricity. So, before getting to the battery, power goes through a diode rectifier to be converted from AC to DC.
So, can a car battery recharge itself?
Alas, no. As you see, the car’s battery relies on a chain of reactions taking place in a healthy electrical system. Take away the support system, and a rechargeable car battery will run flat, just like any battery-operated device such as a phone or a laptop.
How do you know the battery runs flat?
So, as you know that the miracle won’t happen and the battery won’t recharge itself, it’s better to keep an eye on its operation. This way, you will charge a car battery before it dies somewhere in the middle of your journey. So, here are the signs to look for:
- The engine doesn’t start since it gets zero power from the battery.
- The starter motor cranks slowly, but the engine won’t start.
- There has been a significant temperature drop, and you can’t crank the engine to life.
- The engine starts and then dies immediately.
- Neither headlights nor dim lights work.
What can you do about a discharged battery?
First, take your car out for at least 30 minutes of the ride once or twice a week. As you already know, when the engine works, the battery gets charged.
For emergencies, when you have to start the engine quickly, you can jump-start a car. You have to connect it to another vehicle’s battery or use a special jump starter device.
Also, remember to get the battery tested by professionals. They will monitor its condition and tell you when it’s time to replace it because a failed battery won’t be able to get back to life, even with a jump starter or long-term charging.