Car Battery Disposal Solutions – How to Properly Dispose of and Recycle Old Car Batteries

September 8, 2020Car Care and Revamp
Eva Johnson

Digital nomad born in New York but currently living online, Eva knows everything there is to know about packing and moving.

Have you noticed recently that your vehicle takes longer than normal to start? If so, it might be time to replace the battery, and with it comes the unavoidable question of car battery disposal. Proper understanding of your vehicle’s system and the battery is the most important thing when it comes to disposing of your old accumulator.

The proper working condition of your vehicle is crucial when it comes to driving. This is especially important if you’re commuting daily or planning long-distance relocation with auto transport. We all know that every driver’s biggest fear is that the car won’t start. And if you haven’t done a free battery check-up recently, you can’t have an idea how much life is left inside it.

So, to avoid driving stress, or even worse, driving anxiety, and to provide you with a peace of mind, we’ve prepared an ultimate guide on how to properly dispose and recycle old car batteries ahead of time. You know how the saying goes – prevention is better than cure.

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What Is a Car Battery?

A car battery or automotive battery is an energy storage device that stores its energy in chemical form. Simply put, it supplies electrical current to a motor vehicle. Battery’s main purpose is to feed the starter, which starts the engine. Here comes the importance of your accumulator – once the engine is running, your vehicle keeps getting the necessary power from the battery thanks to the alternator charging. Now when we determined the importance of batteries, let’s go a little further and find out how they work.

With regular car maintenance, you'll know the condition of your accumulator
Your accumulator is the core of your vehicle

Is a Car Battery Single-Use or Rechargeable?

The most common is the flooded lead-acid battery with a nominal voltage of 12 volts. It is a rechargeable acid battery and can be found in cars, light trucks, and vans. Batteries with a smaller voltage (6 V) are used on motorcycles, while those of 24 V are made for heavy trucks, special and military equipment.

How do they work?

The answer is simple – after your vehicle started, your battery converts chemical energy into the electrical power necessary to start your car. It delivers voltage to the starter. And this works smoothly as long as your accumulator is in good condition. Unfortunately, many factors can affect your battery’s health.

How to Know Your Battery May Need Replacement

There are four main factors that can kill off your accumulator:

  • Heat – it can speed up the corrosion process and electrolyte evaporation
  • Cold – during lower temperatures, starting your engine can require to twice as much current as needed in normal weather conditions
  • Vibration – it can shake the plate around and weaken internal connections
  • Discharging – this is definitely the worst thing for a lead-acid battery and usually happens thanks to human error – leaving your headlights on, for example

Still, keep in mind that short trips can also kill your accumulator because the generator doesn’t run long enough to charge it fully. Of course, don’t forget about the average battery life – three to five years. That being said, batteries die over time, and their lifespan might be even shorter if you’re in an area exposed to cold winters.

So, how do you know your accumulator may need replacement?

Fortunately, some indications and symptoms can warn you in time:

  • Slow engine crank
  • Appearing check engine light
  • Low battery fluid level
  • Bloated battery case
  • Sulfur odor around the accumulator (similar to rotten egg smell)
black and white car covered in snow
Extreme cold can harm your accumulator

Why It Is Important to Properly Dispose of Your Car Battery

What to do with a dead or worn-out accumulator? Should you just throw it away in the trash? Or maybe in a landfill or a river?

We mentioned that a typical car battery consists of lead plates and sulfuric acid. Since this metal is very toxic heavy metal, it can severely affect our environment and contaminate the soil and groundwater. Even more, lead poisoning in children can seriously harm their health, including:

  • Damage the brain and nervous system
  • Slow development and growth
  • Behavior and learning problems
  • Hearing and speech problems

Luckily, according to the National Recycling Rate Study, 99% of lead batteries in the US are recycled and are the most recycled consumer product in the country.

The lead in acid batteries is infinitely recyclable
Don't throw your accumulator in the trash bin

How Do You Properly Dispose of Batteries

If you’re facing the old or dead accumulator, you’re probably wondering How to dispose of a car battery? As we mentioned before, it mustn’t be thrown with the rest of your trash. This is even regulated by law. So, like it or not, your accumulator requires some special treatment at the end of its life cycle. Follow our steps, and you’ll become a real expert in replacing your worn out accumulator:

  • Before removing, put on eye protection and the gloves, in case of leaking acid
  • Disconnect the accumulator using a hand or socket wrench. First, loosen the nut on the negative terminal, remove the ground cable, and then repeat the process on the positive terminal
  • Remove the strap or clip used to fix your accumulator and not lose the fastening hardware. You will need it for your new accumulator.
  • Check if there are any holes or leaks. If there is any, you should be extremely careful during the transportation
  • Prepare the accumulator for transport – wrap it in a plastic bag (make it double if it’s leaking), place a non-conductive tape on the terminals, and make sure it stays upright

YouTube video

Where to Take Old Batteries

When it comes to reusing old batteries, they must be recycled in properly equipped facilities, such as a garage or local recycling center. These places will accept your worn-out accumulator while you purchase the new one providing you with the discount as well. You can also check with an Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF) – they accept scrap cars and handle dead accumulators.

If you’re wondering, Does AutoZone take old car batteries, the answer is yes – every AutoZone store accepts them for recycling. So, if there is any store near you, head to the closest AutoZone, ask for details, and recycle today! 

Your Old Car Battery Can Be Replaced at Home Depot or Sold to Scrap Metal Depot

If it happens that you’ve misplaced your receipt for your new accumulator and can’t get your core chargeback from the retailer, you can always head to scrap metal services near you. They will buy the dead accumulator from you.

Sometimes, it happens this service is not available in your surrounding area, and it might cross your mind the question, Does Home Depot take old car batteries? They take batteries that weigh less than 11 pounds and that are under 300 watt hours.

Scrap Metal Depot will purchase worn-out batteries
AutoZone and Home Depot can take care of your dead accumulator properly

What Is Auto Battery Recycling?

Although 99% of lead-acid batteries are recycled, about 1.8 million used batteries are not properly recycled every year. That’s why recyclers are important factors in environmental protection.

What do they do with your dead accumulator to make the world that surrounds us greener?

They put your battery through a hammermill, break it, melt plastic and metal parts, while the acid is converted into sodium sulfate. Each part is used for other components for new accumulators and liquids are used in different manufacturing industries.

Each part of an accumulator is recycled and have practical daily use
Thanks to auto battery reusing, 99% of lead-acid batteries are recycled

Why Is It a Good Idea to Recycle Car Batteries?

The lead, plastic, and acid components are reprocessed and manufactured into many other products, such as cabling, detergents, or road signs. Let’s find out more about components reusing and what advantages it can bring:

  • Sulfuric acid – as sodium sulfate, it is used in textiles, laundry detergents, the manufacture of glass, and fertilizers
  • Lead is melted and used to form ingots for re-use
  • Polypropylene – containers and lids are chipped and used for rubbish bins and plant pots

If you’re wondering what are the benefits of reusing on a global level, here are the most important ones:

  • Help build a cleaner country for future generations
  • Prevent harm to wildlife and humans
  • Protect the environment
  • Conserve natural resources
  • Reduce the amount of waste to landfill

Where to Recycle Car Batteries?

In California, batteries are considered dangerous waste when they are discarded. According to the hazardous waste regulations, there is a category of dangerous waste called “universal waste.” It includes batteries, cathode ray tubes, instruments with mercury, fluorescent lamps, etc. So, whether you’re in search of local options or recycling solutions for businesses, there are plenty of locations that convert waste into reusable material:

Since California regulations require reusing for more types of batteries than other states, the Golden State is a bit unique. However, battery manufacturers have funded joint recycling centers all over the country. If you want to find the location near you, visit Call2recycle and find a recycling center.

How to Recycle Car Batteries? Learn More About the Method of Recycling Each of These 3: Plastic, Lead, Sulfuric Acid

Speaking about accumulator recycling, here is a brief description of how each of the main components, including the chemistry, is reused:

  • Your battery goes through a hammermill – it breaks it into smaller pieces
  • Pieces flow into a container
  • The plastic is removed, and liquids are siphoned
  • Plastic pieces are melted, transformed into pellets and sold to manufacturers
  • The lead pieces are melted and used to form the lead plates, ingots, and other battery’s components
  • The acid is converted into sodium sulfate – it is used for glass, detergent, and textile manufacturing. It also can be neutralized and turned into water. The water is cleaned, treated, and tested until it meets clean water standards.
The acid can be turned into clean water, after many treatments
There are plenty of benefits of reusing, one of them is providing a cleaner and healthier environment

Tips to Keep Car Batteries Life Healthy

Your accumulator undergoes severe temperature fluctuations during its lifespan. Hot and cold weather can have a negative impact on your battery. Furthermore, when you’re not using your vehicle for several days, it can rapidly lose the accumulator’s charge. Sometimes, this might go beyond the minimum level of charge required to start the car. If this happens more than once, your accumulator’s condition gets worse, and your car becomes vulnerable to sudden breakdown.

So, how to keep your accumulator healthy and delay its disposal as long as possible?

Here are some handy tips:

  • Start your car and take it for a ride once a week if it has not been driven for a longer period
  • Minimize battery usage when the engine is turned off
  • Keep your accumulator and its terminals clean
  • Minimize heat exposure
  • Check the battery voltage every month
  • Add distilled water when needed
  • Protect the accumulator from both heat and cold with insulated covers
Man looking at the car engine before auto transport
Take care of your car's condition and you'll have your peace of mind

Your Car Is Ready for Transport

After you’ve done all diagnoses, tests, and inspections of your vehicle, you can move a car to another state peacefully. Depending on the type of car shipping you search for, contact your car shipping company – it will provide you with all the necessary weather- and price-related information. If you’re shipping car cross country, you might choose enclosed auto transport and protect your vehicle from the heat or extreme cold.

Whatever option you choose, you can rest assured that your car will reach your future destination in good overall physical condition, due to disposing of the old accumulator and recycling it properly. Simply put, if you’ve packed all your belongings, gathered all the necessary papers, and prepared your car for auto transport, that can mean only one: you’re ready to say hello to your new place.

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