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What to Do with Your Old Car Battery

A car battery installed in the engine bay of a car.

Your car’s battery provides power to start the vehicle and also serves as a surge protector for its computer system. Every electrical connection in your car depends on it. However, over time, batteries gradually become less effective and will eventually need replacing.

While obtaining a new battery is as easy as visiting your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store and purchasing one, disposing of your old car battery requires a bit more thought, and it must be done with care since a used battery contains chemicals that could be harmful to people and the environment if the battery isn’t discarded appropriately. Fortunately, there are several ways to properly dispose of old car batteries for you to consider.

Battery Basicsold batteries

The standard automotive battery available today is a 12-volt lead-acid battery. Inside every battery, lead plates are submerged into a mixture of sulfuric acid and water. Upon ignition, a chemical reaction produces a flow of electrons that supplies voltage and a current to the car’s systems. All exterior and interior lights, the audio system, navigation, power outlets and other electrical components require a functioning battery to work.

Each battery has six cells, and each cell contributes 2.1 volts when it’s fully charged. This means that at 12.6 volts, a battery is working optimally and will continue to do so until it falls below 12.4 volts, at which point it’s considered discharged. Once a battery no longer provides 12 volts, it needs replacement.

Out With the Old, in With the New

If you’ve determined that your current battery can no longer get the job done, you can quickly replace it with a new one within 15 minutes. That’s the easy part — the main challenge is disposing of the old car battery.

Your community probably doesn’t offer regular curbside pickup for this kind of hazardous item, which is essentially 18 pounds of highly toxic lead and caustic sulfuric acid. If these chemicals leach into the ground, they can invade groundwater, destroy plants, and harm animals or people who might ingest them. So what should you do to ensure that this doesn’t happen?

Battery Disposal Options

To dispose of your old battery properly, you could check with the store where you’re buying your new battery to see if they’ll accept your old one. A web search in your area might reveal businesses that will even pay you for the battery, as the core has value. Other options include municipal or county recycling centers, which may accept the battery for a nominal fee or no charge. Lastly, local service garages and metal recycling centers may also accept the battery.

Once the old battery is out of your hands, it’s typically sent to a company that breaks it down and drains out the sulfuric acid, which is then reprocessed or sent to a hazardous waste facility. The lead is also removed, and oftentimes it’s used in a new car battery or melted down into ingots. The polypropylene case is recycled, and anything remaining is sent to the scrapyard.

Transporting an Old Battery

Bringing your old battery in for trade or recycling means carefully placing it within a thick plastic bag to ensure that it doesn’t leak. Be sure to keep the battery upright and place it in a secure area within your vehicle, such as on the floor. You don’t want to put it in a place where it could tip and break, such as on a soft seat or in a pickup truck bed, as that could prove hazardous. Remember, safety is the name of the game when it comes to disposing of your used battery.

Check out all of the batteries and battery accessories available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to buy a car battery, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photos courtesy of Pixabay.

Matthew C. Keegan View All

Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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