How to check if your car battery is dead?

How to check if car battery is dead

Dead car battery is always an unwanted thing. Especially if it happens when you are somewhere far from home and when you least expect it. What can be worse than taking a trip out of the city to spend some time by fishing and later, when you are trying to get home, just to realize that your car doesn’t start?

Without a doubt it can be a stressful thing. In this kind of situations, it is very important to know how to check if your car battery is dead. If that is the reason of your car won’t starting, it can be fixed very fast.

I can imagine many unfortunate situations, like maybe you haven’t used your car for a few days and when you try starting it, it just doesn’t turn on.  It is obvious that every driver must know how to check if your car battery is dead. This is one of the crucial skills that drive must have.

What is the purpose of battery in car?

When you start the car by turning the key, battery is the first reason why your car starts. After you start the ignition, chemical reaction in the battery begins during which electric energy is being produced. The energy then gets the starter running. With a help of starter, your engine turns on.

When the engine is turned on, the generator makes enough energy to run the electric components in the car, so battery is no needed anymore. If the engine is turned, the generator is turned off also, so turned on lights or music player drains the energy from battery.

Without the battery your car just won’t start (well, technically you can start it without the battery, but it is not the best way to do it).

Signs that your car battery is dead

There are some obvious signs that indicates about your cars’ battery current state. It is important to learn how to recognize them, because in these situations you will know what to do next, and sometimes the solution might be easy.

  1. There are no lights on the interior of your car, or your dashboard LEDs aren’t lit up when trying to start the car. This means that battery in your car is drained to death. This might happen when you leave your car lights for a longer period. Your battery should charge the gauges even when the engine is off. If the battery don’t supply current even to the less power than everything demanding LEDs, it means that it is discharged.
  2. You turn on the key and your engine cranks but doesn’t start. I think you had experienced this previously. It’s when you turn the key and you get the sound of weak engine rotations. If you had gotten them a lot previously, then it is another confirmation now it is the battery’s fault that your car doesn’t turn on. It might be also that you don’t hear anything at all. If so, it means that your battery is totally dead.
  3. You had jump started your car a lot previously. If the battery needs to be jump started frequently, it is likely that battery is old and that it must be changed. So, it is possible that the battery finally died. You might give it a try and recharge it again and it can be used for a while, but obviously you can’t expect it to be like the new after recharge.

So, how to check if your car battery is dead?

If you are not into cars and have very less knowledge about machines, you probably won’t be able to diagnose what is wrong with your car. But learning how to check if your car battery is dead, is important, because in some cases, it might be easily solvable problem.  

Let’s talk about the ways how to determine if the battery is responsible for your car failing to start:

  • The first and the most obvious way is to open the hood and check the battery. The problem sometimes might be obvious, for example, the battery leaked, or it is damaged for some reason. However, this doesn’t happen very often.
  • Another way is heading to auto parts store, most of them will test your battery for free. Of course, often there is no possibility to do that. I mean, there aren’t that many auto parts stores. Not in every street, and how about if your car doesn’t turn on and you are in the countryside… It is not a solution to push your car miles until you reach the nearest store.
  • This method is probably the most accurate one. You can use a multimeter to do the work when evaluating the battery.

How to check if your car battery is dead with multimeter:

  1. Switch the multimeter to test the DC voltage and set it to 20V.
  2. Then, put the black probe to the negative terminal of your battery that is marked -, and the red probe to the positive (+) terminal.
  3. If you got the negative number, for example -12.6, it means that you connected it to the wrong terminal, and you have to switch probes.
  4. Check out the parameters of the multimeter. If it shows 12.5V or more, the state of battery is good. If the voltage is lower than that, it might be a problem.
Fully charged battery has to have bigger than 12.4 voltage.

Load test to check if the battery is dead

Make sure you are doing this when you are at home, or in some place where it won’t make any difficulties to travel for you (or there is someone to help you). After this test, your car might not turn on (if the battery is “bad”), so keep that in mind when trying this method.

Take a long drive which lasts at least 15 minutes. It is a good idea to try this test after you drove back home from work, because if the car won’t start, you can recharge your battery. Just keep in mind that drive can’t be too short. The reason for that is because when you the engine is on, generator works, and it charges the battery. After a trip your battery is charged enough to test it.

After the trip, switch the engine off. Then turn on the ignition on and turn on the lights, blower etc. Basically, anything that uses battery’s energy.  Keep the ignition on for 5 minutes. After time has passed, try turning on the engine. If it doesn’t start, it means your battery is going to die soon. A good battery should handle this test.

What to do after you found out your battery is dead?

If you are not alone and there are some people around, there are few things you could do. However, if you are unfortunate and there is not a single person around, your situation might be a little bit tricky.  

After you realized that your cars’ battery is dead, there are few different methods how to start the car. The most obvious method is to charge the battery. This might be the suitable solution in situation when you have a battery charger and source of electricity. For example, you left your car in the garage for a night, and battery died. All you need to do is charging it.

However, if you need the car right now, this method is not the choice.  

Another method that is faster than the previous one, is to jump start your vehicle from another vehicle. You need to connect one cars’ battery with jumper cables to your cars’.

You can also bump start your car. It involves pushing your car and when it is moving, letting go the clutch. Make sure you switched the second gear and still have the foot on the clutch. This method can also work if you have no one to help you to push the car, but your car must stand incline.

Another one, and probably the easiest one is to use battery booster. Battery booster is easy to carry around and easy to use. It is the same as jump starting your car from another vehicle.

This video shows all the 4 different ways that I mentioned. You can check how battery could be jump started. Video is about 13 minutes, but the skill might save you one day 😊

How old is your battery?

Think about when you got this battery. Usually batteries have a life span of about 6 years. If your battery is new, then the possibility that your battery is dead is lower. Probably it is just recharged, however this doesn’t solve situation. Just keep in mind that you don’t need a new battery, probably recharging the old one will do the work.

However, if you hadn’t used a car for a period of time, even the new battery will discharge. It is also unhealthy for batteries to be left in cold weather. Don’t trust your battery, even if it is new, doesn’t mean that it won’t discharge.

Why do car batteries die?

Many reasons are for that. It could be the age of a battery, bad battery maintenance, manufacturer’s broke. It might be that you left the battery discharged for too long. Also, bad alternator could be the cause of short battery lifespan (because bad alternator can slowly ruin your battery without any obvious signs).

The distance your drive daily affects lifespan of your battery. When you drive the car, generator charges the battery, but if you drive short distances only, battery just won’t be able to recharge. It is unhealthy for cars’ battery to travel short distances.  If you usually take short distances, maybe you should take a longer, relaxing drive at the weekend to the countryside? I bet it will be healthy for you and for the battery of your car.

That’s it! It is not that hard to check if your car battery is dead.

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