Ways to Troubleshoot Your Dead Battery

Updated on December 26, 2019
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Lauren Fernandez is the Content Marketing Strategist for Renegade Battery, a power sport batteries manufacturer based in Goodyear, Arizona.

Your vehicle may run on gas, but it won’t be able to go anywhere if the battery that enables it to start is dead. So if you turn the ignition and nothing happens, it’s very likely that your battery has given up the ghost.

However, before you declare your battery officially dead and replace it, you have to do a bit of troubleshooting first to be sure. After all, there are many other reasons why an engine won’t come to life. It may be a faulty starter that’s giving you trouble. A bad alternator could also be to blame. Always make it a point to troubleshoot car, motorcycle, or powersport batteries you suspect are dead, so you’ll know you won’t be wasting perfectly good ones when you finally get a replacement.

Here are some troubleshooting tips for your dead or dying battery.

Inspect All Connections

Your battery will surely not give your vehicle the spark it needs if its cables and connectors are loose. So check your battery and make sure that all connections are secure.

You also have to look for signs of corrosion on the battery terminals because corroded connections can cause starting issues and a bunch of other problems. If you see white, green, or blue blooms on the battery terminal, then make a baking soda and water solution and clean the battery posts with it using a wire brush. You can also opt for a battery terminal spray cleaner.

Once you’re done cleaning, use paper towels to dry off the battery. Get acid-neutralizing felt pads and apply them to the posts, then use anti-corrosive spray on each terminal to finish the job.

Check the Fluid Level

If you’re using a conventional unsealed lead acid battery, then it’s possible that its water level is low and is causing all your starting problems.

You’ll know that the fluid level of your battery is normal if it’s approximately a half inch above the tops of its plates. So if the plates are exposed to air, then the water level is low, and you may have to fill the battery with distilled water. Never use tap water because it contains minerals that may harm your battery.

Locate Parasitic Drain

One of the most common reasons car batteries die is parasitic drain, which typically happens when headlights, hood lights, trunk lights, or glove box lights remain on for an extended period—often without the vehicle owner noticing.

Although some parasitic drain is normal, like the ones caused by the round-the-clock operation of your clock, radio presets, and security alarm, the really problematic type can be caused by electrical problems like defective fuses, poor installation, and faulty wiring. When electrical issues cause something like this to happen overnight, your car battery will likely be depleted by morning.

Using a digital multimeter, you can perform a parasitic draw test that will help you locate which parts of your vehicle are causing the drain.

Test the Voltage

Testing the voltage using a multimeter will tell you whether your battery is sufficiently charged or not. Start by connecting the red multimeter lead to the positive battery cable, and the black multimeter lead to the negative battery cable, then set the tool for DC reading.

For a battery to be deemed as fully charged, the reading should be at 12.45 volts or higher. If the multimeter says the voltage is lower, then proceed to fully charge the battery and test it with professional test equipment. You can have your trusted mechanic or auto repair shop to perform a free load test, which can, among other things, determine if a battery can hold a charge. If the results of the load test reveal that your vehicle’s battery can no longer hold a charge, then you have a bad battery that may have to be replaced.

While you can go the DIY route when troubleshooting what you suspect to be a dead or dying battery, it would still be best if you can get a mechanic to take a much closer look and perform all the necessary tests not only on your battery, but also the systems of your vehicle. That way, you can be a hundred percent sure that it’s not a faulty alternator or starter that’s causing your starting issues, and that your vehicle’s battery is, indeed, well on its way to battery heaven. Then you can spend money on a new battery for your vehicle, knowing that it’s an absolutely necessary thing to do.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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