How Long Does It Take to Change a Car Battery? (Time & Tips)

If you have to change a car battery quickly, you’ll want to know how long it usually takes.

You might also want to know how to do it quickly. Changing a car battery is something you can easily do yourself. You don’t need to call a mechanic.

Depending on the car, battery, and your expertise and experience, it can take as little as 5 minutes to change a car battery, but it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes. Try not to keep the car disconnected from the power source for 20-30 minutes to avoid losing the radio code.

I also cover the procedure, the symptoms that the battery needs replacing, how long car batteries last, the factors that affect their lifespan, the procedure to change one, and give some tips to help minimize the time it takes to change it below.

The Time it Takes to Change a Car Battery.

Changing a car battery should not take more than 5 minutes.

At most, it might take up to 20 minutes. The Time it takes depends on your expertise, the old battery’s condition, whether you need to use WD-40 to loosen the nuts, having the right tool, etc.

If changing the battery takes longer than 20-30 minutes, you might have to re-enter the radio code. If you’re worried this could happen, note the radio code before removing the old battery, or get the information from the owner’s manual.

When Do You Need to Change the Battery?

A car battery has to be replaced if it’s no longer operating adequately or not at all.

Symptoms that the Battery Needs Replacing

You’ll know that you need to check the battery, which may need replacing if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • The battery light comes on.
  • Corrosion on the battery’s terminals.
  • Slow cranking of the engine.
  • The car won’t start.
  • Abnormal operation of the accessories.

Symptoms of a failing car batteryWhat it indicatesWhat to do
Slow engine crankingThe battery is losing its charge or is weakCheck the battery terminals and cables for corrosion or damage. Replace the battery if necessary.
Warning light on the dashboardThe battery is not charging properly or is about to failHave the battery and charging system checked by a mechanic as soon as possible.
Corrosion on battery terminalsThe battery is leaking acid or has corroded terminalsClean the terminals with a battery terminal cleaner or a mixture of baking soda and water. Check the battery for any leaks or damage.
The car won’t startThe battery is completely dead or has failedJump-start the battery or replace it if necessary.
Abnormal operation of accessoriesThe battery is not supplying enough power to operate the car’s accessoriesCheck the battery voltage with a voltmeter. Replace the battery if necessary.

How Long Do Car Batteries Last

A car battery can only last so long and will have to be replaced eventually, even if used properly and well-maintained.

A car battery usually needs replacing every 3 to 5 years. How short or long it lasts will depend on certain factors.

Factors that Affect a Battery’s Lifespan

Car Battery TypeAverage Lifespan
Lead-Acid3-5 years
Lithium-Ion5-7 years
Nickel-Cadmium3-4 years
Nickel-Metal Hydride5-6 years

A car battery can last longer or expire sooner than its expected lifespan, depending on certain factors.

The main factors are type, usage, climate, and the charging system.

Type: A lead-acid battery is cheaper but lasts much less than a lithium-ion battery.

Usage: The more you use the car battery, the more charge-discharge cycles it goes through. You may need to change the battery often if you make many short trips daily compared to using the car only during infrequent long journeys.

Climate: You may need to change the battery more frequently in an extremely hot or cold climate because batteries don’t tolerate extreme temperatures well.

Charging System: The charging system can also affect a battery’s lifespan. An inefficient or weak charging system puts extra strain on the battery and can cause it to fail prematurely.

Installing a New Battery

You can change a car battery more efficiently and quickly if you know what tool you need, what steps are involved, and the right sequence.

Replacement MethodAverage Cost of BatteryAverage Cost of LaborOther Relevant Expenses
DIY$100-$200$0Tools, gloves, goggles, WD-40
Mechanic$150-$300$50-$100Labor, disposal fee, shop fees

The Tools to Change a Car Battery

The only tool you normally need to change a car battery is a socket, adjustable wrench, or spanner.

The size you will need is normally between 10 and 13 mm. You can use a plier if you don’t have a wrench or spanner nearby.

You should also have goggles and gloves for safety and use them, especially if you suspect the old battery is leaking.

In addition, you might need WD-40 to help loosen the nuts.

The Steps to Change a Car Battery

If you were doing this a bit differently, this might help to shorten the Time. Ear safety gloves and goggles if the battery is leaking. The basic steps are:

process steps for changing car battery

Step 1: Park the Car

Park the car on a level surface, engage the parking brake, and take the key out of the ignition for safety.

Step 2: Disconnect the Cable and Strap

When disconnecting the cable from the battery, use a wrench to disconnect the black wire from the negative (-) terminal first, then the red one from the positive (+) terminal. Next, remove the strap holding the battery to the tray.

Step 3: Remove the Old Battery

With the cable disconnected, completely remove the old battery from its tray.

Step 4: Place the New Battery

Now place the new battery into position, ensuring each terminal is close to the wire connecting it.

Step 5: Connect the Cable and Strap

Reconnect the cable by doing Step 2 in reverse, i.e., connect the red wire to the positive terminal first, then connect the black one to the negative terminal. Next, re-attach the strap to secure the battery to the tray.

Step 6: Start the Car

After connecting the cable to the new battery, let the car run idle for a few minutes to help charge it.

Which Battery Terminal to Disconnect and Reconnect First

In steps 2 and 5, you may have noticed that I recommended disconnecting and reconnecting the cable from the terminals in a certain sequence.

In Step 2, you disconnected from the negative terminal first, then from the positive terminal.

In Step 5, you reconnected to the positive terminal first, then to the negative terminal.

The sequence in each step is the opposite of the sequence in the other.

Although not essential, as disconnecting or reconnecting the other way would equally work, this is to minimize the chance of a short circuit and damaging the electrics [Carl, 2013]. So it’s a safety measure.

A Few More Time-Saving Tips

Here are a few more battery tips that you might find useful to reduce the time it takes to change the battery:

  • If you find removing the cable from the old battery difficult due to stiffness, spray a little WD-40 (or another lubricant) onto the terminals. It will help to loosen the clamps.
  • Keep the wrench, nuts, bolts, and other items secure so they don’t accidentally fall into a crevice in the engine bay.
  • Ensure the new battery is the right capacity for your car so you don’t have to keep replacing it. Check your vehicle owner’s manual for this information.
  • Smear some petroleum jelly on the new battery’s terminals to prevent the buildup of corrosion, which could make it take longer to remove the battery next Time.
  • If you’ve never changed a car battery before or are unsure how to do it again and in a hurry, let a professional do the task.

WD-40 multi use product bottle spray
WD-40 can help loosen tight nuts


Carl Collins. Simple Fixes for Your Car. How to Do Small Jobs Yourself and Save Money. Veloce Publishing. 2013.

Video References

Car Manufacturing

Dad, how do I?

O’Reilly Auto Parts

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About Alex Robertson

c3c9d43f1f0d14c4b73cb686f2c81c4e?s=90&d=mm&r=gCertifications: B.M.E.
Education: University Of Denver - Mechanical Engineering
Lives In: Denver Colorado

Hi, I’m Alex! I’m a co-founder, content strategist, and writer and a close friend of our co-owner, Sam Orlovsky. I received my Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (B.M.E.) degree from Denver, where we studied together. My passion for technical and creative writing has led me to help Sam with this project.

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