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1. Car Power Basics > 5. Calculate Your Car’s Battery Life

Calculate Your Car’s Battery Life

To make sure you don’t kill your car battery, learn how to do quick-and-dirty estimates of power drain for in-car devices.

There are a number of ways to compare battery characteristics. One of the main measurements of power storage capacity is amp-hours, which roughly means the number of hours for which your battery can put out a certain number of amps. However, interpreting exactly what this number means is tricky.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Apollo 13, you may remember the scene where the scientists and astronauts are calculating how much power they have left, and trying to come up with an escape plan that doesn’t use too much of the spacecraft’s limited power. Automotive electronics is often like that. Everything is fine while the engine is on and you’re still generating electricity. But once your car is off and you’re running on batteries, you have to count every electron, or you’ll find yourself in the parking lot holding out jumper cables and begging for a jump start.


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