What’s Wrong With My Car: 5 Signs Your Battery Is The Culprit

Your vehicles battery is like it’s heart. Without that battery, your vehicle wouldn’t have the power to do anything else. So it’s important to understand at least a little bit about your battery, and to know the most common signs of a battery that needs to be replaced.

About Your Battery

For the purpose of this hub, I’m going to be referring to your average vehicle battery for most vehicles made between 1952 and 2010. These batteries are usually called “wet-cell batteries” with two terminals (either side or top post). These batteries the stock batteries that come within your average vehicle, so this short guide should be plenty reliable unless you have an after market battery with special needs, such as a Dry Cell battery.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, I want to impart on you, some general wisdom about your average battery. Make sure to write down this info or bookmark this page if you have any trouble remembering it all:

  • Batteries normally have a life expectancy of 2-3 years max, even if they say they will last up to 5 years (make sure you get a receipt and warranty for any “long term” batteries). This isn’t necessarily because the manufacturers were lying, but like most “professionals”, they were only referring to the battery lasting that long if you only every used it to start and car and not to run any accessories or extras – EVER.
  • Optimally, you should replace your battery every 2.5 years (BEFORE you have problems)
  • Your Battery is dependent on three main components to do it’s job properly – your alternator, starter and battery terminals.
  • An old battery, even if it doesn’t give off any obvious symptoms, can effect your vehicle in negative ways that will slowly add up to a big repair bill. (hence the importance of replacing your battery before you have problems with it.)
  • Unless you have a special battery, you’re average battery doesn’t do so well in extremely cold whether, which is often why you have to pump the gas or turn the key back to prime the fuel pump, and do a little dance to get the truck or car started on chili mornings.

1st Sign: Engine Cranks, No Start

If you’re engine is turning over, but won’t start, the likely culprit is your battery. This symptom is most often mistaken for a bad starter or an alternator problem. 94% of the time, it’s really your battery that reads as “good” under the ampmeter, but is just a few volts shy of what your vehicle needs to run efficiently.

When you find yourself with a car that won’t start, you’ll want to use jumper cables or a jump-starter box to get your vehicle running again. Follow that up by making sure to let it run for at least 30 minutes. After that time has passed, the real test comes next. You’ll want to turn the engine off for at least a minute, then start it again. Do this two or three times to make sure that when you stop to get gas, you won’t be stranded with a dead battery.

Now, at this point, most batteries will recharge from the alternator and be fine for a day or two. Make sure you do NOT take that time for granted. Use that time to hunt down a new battery and replace it BEFORE you end up stuck in the middle of nowhere with no juice in your battery.

2nd Sign: No Lights, No Start, No Cranking

This one is pretty straight forward and the easiest challenge to self-diagnose. Your battery powers all the accessories and lights in your car, especially when the alternator is not running. So if you find that your car just seems to be completely void of all signs of life, then your battery is the first place you should be looking.

Be aware in this situation, that if your vehicle doesn’t even have the juice to work the lights, crank or turn over – that it could also be a combination problem concerning your battery and your alternator.

3rd Sign: One Minute It Starts Fine, Then Next It Won’t

This is what’s considered an “intermittent” problem, and is a sign that you either have a Parasitic Draw or your battery terminals are loose, broken, corroded or calcified. Check out the battery cables first, as they are usually the first culprit and they are easier to check yourself. Make sure they have firm, secure fit onto the battery posts. There should be ZERO play in them, you shouldn’t be able to wiggle them even an inch when they are tight. Also make sure that the cables going to the terminals are not frayed or falling apart; if they are, replace them ASAP.

With a parasitic draw, you’ll want to see your favorite mechanic or read up on the care and feeding of an Ampmeter or Voltometer, as these are the tools you’ll need to check your alternator, accessory lights, fuses, radio, alarm and all other components for a parasitic draw that is draining your battery. This is a fairly common problem, and is often indicated by a habit of having the car start right up if you drive it several days in a row, but it then fails to start if you let it sit for a day.


Original article posted on Hub Pages