Does battery power affect car performance?

So you just changed your car battery into a new one and suddenly noticed your car runs more smoother and with extra power. If this is you, you are not the only one. Many people encountered this and are curious – does battery power affect car performance?

For a quick answer – no. A car battery is only responsible for starting your car. What could happen is that when you unplug your battery to replace it, the car’s computer (ECU) is reset. Causing your car to run without any prior driving data – as if it’s brand new. This will only be temporary until the ECU adjusts again for a best fuel consumption. 

Was that explanation too brief? Let’s jump into the details.

What is a Car’s Computer (ECU)?

ECU stands for Engine Control Unit is a small computer in your car – responsible for injecting the right amount of fuel into the combustion chamber to produce power. A car gets its power by a mixture of fuel and oxygen (from air). The fuel is combusted, while the oxygen in the chamber is absorbed. This mixture of fuel and oxygen must be precise in order to have an efficient fuel consumption.

If the fuel injected is too little, not enough power is generated. Resulting in your car to have a low performance. If too much fuel is injected, not all of the fuel will be burnt. Resulting in bad fuel consumption. In worse cases, some of the leftover fuel will exit from the exhaust pipe, causing what you often see as black smoke. 

Image of exchaust with black smoke

Luckily for us, the ECU ensures precise fuel is injected into the combustion chamber at any given time. Your car has multiple sensors such as Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor that reads the incoming air flow. These sensors will take measurements and notify the ECU – allowing the ECU to calculate how much fuel needs to be injected.

Image of a car ECU

How is Car Battery Related to ECU?

Before we talk about how they are related, I want to talk about the ability of an ECU to be adaptive. You see – as you drive your car for some time, the car internals are bound to change: air filter gets dirtier, alternator becomes inefficient, and etc. etc. 

Your ECU is intelligent enough to adapt to these changes. For example, if your air filter gets dirtier, less air flow will enter your engine. The ECU being adaptive – will inject a reduced amount of fuel from car startup to prevent wastage. Rather than starting at the factory fuel injection level and then keep adjusting down until an optimal mixture is found. This is just one example of how the ECU is able to adapt. There are many more real life scenarios.

The ECU is able to adapt because it continuously stores data about your optimum mixtures every time you ride your car. With some math equations on this historical data, the ECU is able to adjust the amount of fuel injection according to the changes in your car. Again, this is done to achieve a good fuel consumption. 

If you replace your car battery, the ECU will reset and lose all of its historical data. Causing your ECU to run at factory settings. So if you have a dirty air filter, the ECU does not know this and will inject much more fuel than what can be combusted. For instances like these, you will feel a minor performance boost temporarily until your ECU records the data and adjust again. Note that this minor performance boost you might experience is at the expense of a terrible fuel consumption. So it’s not good at all!

All clear on the topic? ;). If a car battery does not impact performance at all, then what does it do? Let’s discuss that a little bit, since we are already in the subject.

What’s The Function of a Car Battery?

Starts your car

A car battery consists of chemical mixtures that could hold electrical current. During a car startup, the car battery transfers electrical current into your car ignition – allowing your car to start. Once the car starts, the alternator will take the job of providing electrical current for the car – headlights, wipers, air conditioning, radios, computers,  etc. The alternator will also charge the car battery again, so the battery has enough for the next startup. 

 

Backup provider

I just told you an alternator will take up the job of providing electrical current when the car started. But what happens when your alternator can’t keep up with the electrical current required? Answer: your car battery will jump to the rescue and provide the remaining current. 

During this period, instead of being charged up for the next startup, your car battery is losing its electrical current. Although this doesn’t happen very often, you should keep this in mind for the next time you abuse your car’s electrical output!

 

Voltage Stabilizer

Now you know your car battery provides extra current when there’s not enough from the alternator. But what happens if too much current is generated? This is referred to as Voltage Spikes – if not taken care of, these voltage spikes can cause damage to electrical components in your car such as the car computer and ignition system. When this happens, your car battery will absorb the excess voltage and keep your car electronics safe.

Recap

In this short article I have revealed to you that a car battery does not impact car performance in any way. If you recently just replaced your car battery, you might notice that your car is running smoother or with more power. This happens because your car’s computer (ECU) is reset when you unplug your battery – causing your car to lose all of its collected driving data and run your at factory settings again. This is only temporary until your ECU collects enough data again and readjust the car to run for efficient fuel consumption.

I also touched a little on the actual functions of a car battery. Here they are in short:

  • Car battery provides the electrical current to ignition system to start your car
  • Car battery absorbs excess current generated by alternator to protect your car electronics
  • Car battery helps to provide extra current if the amount generated by alternator is not enough

I hope this short writing helps to clear your doubts. If you are a car enthusiast that’s just starting out, check out our other articles below for more information on your car!

Ifandi S.

Ifandi S.

Passionate about everything mechanical. Ifandi has been involved with motorcycles and cars since the old days - in his family's auto parts shop. Want to keep in touch? Scream "STRAIGHT PIPEEEEE" at the top of your lungs and Ifandi will show up.

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