Five Signs Your Car Battery Is Dead (or About to Die)

$99 car battery at Walmart
$99 car battery at Walmart | Source

Your vehicle’s battery is like its heart: without it, your vehicle doesn't have the power to start, move, or do anything else. So it's important to understand at least a little bit about your battery and to know the most common signs that needs to be replaced.

The typical battery, in vehicles made in 1952 and later, is a “wet-cell” battery, a plastic cube containing sulfuric acid and lead, with two terminals coming out of the top or the side. This short guide should be reliable unless you have an aftermarket battery with special needs, such as a dry cell battery, or a hybrid like a Prius.

In my years as a mechanic, one thing I have learned is that an old battery or loose battery cables can cause really big problems that make it appear that something complicated is wrong with your vehicle. Even experienced mechanics and DIY'ers are sometimes stumped by a simple problem with a battery past its prime, until they realize they've ruled out all other potential problems (and then some!). That's one of those "d’oh!" moments, when you realize you could have saved yourself an hour of diagnostic and repair time, just by checking the battery and its cables.

If, on the other hand, it's obvious that your battery is dead and just needs a jump, here's what to do.

How to Jump-Start Your Car Battery in Ten Steps

  1. Park a car with a functioning battery so its front is as close to your car's front (pointing toward one another). Leave at least 18 inches of space between and never let the cars touch.
  2. For manual transmissions, place the car in neutral. For automatic transmissions, place car in park. Turn off engines, remove keys, and set the parking brake on each car.
  3. Get out your jumper cables. Make sure none of the metal clamps touch one another. Notice that each set of clamps has one red clamp and one black clamp.
  4. Open both car hoods. Locate the batteries and battery terminals. Terminals are usually covered in red or black, with a + or – sign on top. Make sure that you can identify which is positive and which is negative.
  5. Attach the red cable clamp to the positive (+) battery terminal of the dead battery. Make sure there is a solid connection to terminal.
  6. Next, attach the other red cable clamp to the functioning vehicle’s positive (+) battery terminal.
  7. Now connect the black cable clamp to the working battery’s negative (-) battery terminal.
  8. Do not connect the final black cable clamp to the dead battery. Instead, attach that clamp to an unpainted, metal part of the car, such as a clean nut on the engine block. This will help ensure a safe jump.
  9. Start the functioning car's engine. Wait a minute or two and try starting the car with the dead battery. Sometimes it helps to rev the functioning car's engine a bit. Once both cars are started, leave them running for a few minutes.
  10. To disconnect the jumper cables, start with the black cable clamps. Do not let them touch while any part of the cables is still attached to a car.

Five Warning Signs Your Battery Is Dead or Dying

  1. Your engine cranks but doesn't start.
  2. No crank, no start, no lights!
  3. One day it starts fine, then next day it won't.
  4. Cold cranking is hard work.
  5. You've jumped it a lot already.

Each of these scenarios will be thoroughly discussed below.

1. Engine Cranks But Doesn’t Start

If your engine cranks or turns over when you turn the key, but it won't start, I say the most likely culprit is your battery. It might be your starter, it might be something else, but 94% of the time, it's really your battery, even if the car is cranking fairly vigorously. Even if an ammeter (current-measuring device) says the battery is good, it can still be a few volts shy of what your vehicle needs to run efficiently.

When you find yourself with a car that won't crank hard enough to start, you'll want to use jumper cables or a jump-starter box to get it running again.

Once your car is running again, disconnect the cable, then let your engine run for 30 minutes so that your alternator can charge up your battery again.

After that half-hour, when you are stopped at home or in a safe place, do a little test. After you turn the engine off, wait at least a minute, then start it again. Wait another minute and start it another time or two, to make sure that you won't be stranded at the gas station or wherever you go next.

At this point, most batteries will have have charged themselves up from the running of the alternator and be fine for a day or two. Do NOT take that time for granted. Use it to hunt down a new battery and replace the old one BEFORE you end up stuck in the middle of nowhere.

2. No Crank, No Start, No Lights

This situation is pretty straightforward to diagnose, and it's an even stronger indication that your battery is at fault. Your battery powers all the accessories and lights in your car, especially when the alternator is not running. So if your car just seems to be completely void of all signs of life, then your battery is the first thing you should be looking at.

And be aware that in this situation, where your vehicle doesn't even have the juice to work the lights or turn over the engine, it could be a combination problem involving your alternator was well.

If the car won’t crank or start but the headlights do work, that may indicate some more interesting problem, maybe the starter or a mechanical problem in the engine.

3. One Day It Starts Fine, the Next Day It Won't

If starting is an intermittent problem for you, it's a sign that either 1) your battery terminals are loose, broken, corroded, or calcified or 2) you have a parasitic draw (your power is being drained by some gizmo that's on when it's supposed to be off, or by some wire that’s touching something it shouldn’t).

  • Check out the battery cables first, as they are usually the prime suspect and are easier to check yourself.
  • Make sure the cables fit firmly and securely on 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 as soon as possible.

In this video, Eric the Car Guy shows you loose and corroded cables, and how they can cause a drop in power to the starter.

Parasitic draws from sources other than the battery cables are fairly common. Suspect a parasitic draw if the car starts right up if you drive it several days in a row, but then fails to start if you let it sit for a day. To investigate parasitic draw issues, see your favorite mechanic, or look at the last section of this article, and get ready to have fun with an ammeter or voltmeter, as these are the tools you'll need to check your alternator, accessory lights, fuses, radio, alarm, and all other components that might be draining your battery in secret.

4. Cold Cranking Is Hard Work

If you look at your battery, somewhere on it you should find a label stating a number for "Cold Cranking Amps.” Those amps are responsible for giving your engine enough energy to get started the first time of the day, generally referred to as "cold cranking.”

Thus it’s not surprising that an early sign that your battery is running out of life—a sign most people miss—is that you are regularly putting extra energy into starting the vehicle. You know what I'm talking about. You get in your car, you tap the gas pedal, you turn the key a few times, and all you get for the first few minutes is lots of weak rotations of the engine. After you’ve all but decided the car is going to make you late for work, it suddenly starts up and sustains an idle.

Now, what I mean by "regularly" is having to do this more than three times per week. That would be a sign that your battery is giving notice and getting ready to retire.

But keep in mind that if it’s really cold out, it’s fairly normal for your vehicle to hang back and start only with difficulty. Not only is gas hard to vaporize and oil gooey when it’s cold, but batteries put out only half their normal power when the temperature is 0o F (and only a third of their power when it's 32o F). So in the cold you may have to be patient. But if your car doesn’t go back to a reliable “cold” crank when the weather warms up, you’ll want to get a new battery within the next three months.

One more possibility worth noting is that your battery was never big enough for your vehicle in the first place. Even a well-seasoned mechanic has gotten the wrong battery for a specific vehicle, causing a wild-goose-chase investigation of a mysterious starting problem. Make sure you look up your car online, or ask in an auto parts store, to find out what level of Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) and voltage your car needs to start and run properly.

5. You've Jumped it a Lot Already

I have a simple hard-and-fast rule that I follow when it comes to having to jump your battery. No matter what reason you had to do it—the battery was old, or maybe the starter, fuel pump, or alternator were bad, or maybe you left your headlights on or your door ajar all night, or you ran out of gas—the rule is this:

If you have to jump your vehicle more than three times in a single week, it's time to replace your battery.

Even a fairly new battery can turn into a dud really quickly if it has been jumped more than three times in a week. Using a jump box or jumper cables is hard on your battery. They work by figuratively "shocking" it back to life.

Now, you might think I'm crazy about replacing the battery after such a low jump count, but hear me out. One of the most common things I see happening in relation to vehicle battery problems is that the driver or mechanic will assume that because the battery wasn't old, or wasn't the specific culprit for the battery draining itself, they don’t need to expend time or money getting a new one. Then, when they try this and that to diagnose the problem, they keep jumping the battery until finally the alternator and starter go bad, leaving you with a need for an new alternator, starter, AND battery.

Save yourself the headache and just replace the battery if you've had to jump it more than three times in a week. You won't regret it.

How Long Does a Battery Last?

  • Batteries normally have a maximum life expectancy of two or three years, even if manufacturers say they will last five years or more. If anyone sells you a “super long life” model, keep your receipt and get a warranty. Especially if you use your battery for a lot of accessories (things other than starting your car) it’s unlikely to last as long as promised.
  • Optimally, you should replace your battery every two and a half years or so—before you have problems.
  • Other things can affect its lifespan, since a battery relies on other parts to do what it does. It needs help from your alternator, your starter, the solenoid, the battery terminals (which need to be clean and free from corrosion), and its own cables (which need to be intact). Though as I argue below, the problem is very often just age, I’ll admit it can be something else.
  • The age of a battery, even if it doesn't show any obvious signs of being old, can affect your vehicle in negative ways that will slowly add up to a big repair bill. That’s why I recommend replacing it before you have problems with it.
  • Your ordinary battery doesn't do so well in extremely cold weather, which may be why you have to pump the gas, or turn the key back to prime the fuel pump, or do a little dance to get the truck or car started on chilly mornings.

When Will You Replace Your Battery?

I'm glad you've taken the time to read all the way through this article and have started to consider when replacing your battery. Down below, I have some bonus advice about diagnosing a parasitic draw.

I'll Replace My Old Battery...

  • When it dies completely, and jumping it no longer works.
  • When it dies on me in the mall parking lot, during the late afternoon commute, with the kids in the car.
  • When my mechanic tells me to.
  • Every two and a half years, or when it starts showing signs of wear.
  • Every three to five years.
  • When the tow truck driver hands me a bill for jump-starting the car.
  • Never/I don't know
See results without voting

How to Diagnose a Parasitic Draw

Because so many battery issues are caused by a parasitic draw that is slowly draining it dead, I thought you might like to see some videos that can help you finally kill that parasite!

Method 1: Use a Multimeter

As in the videos below, the fastest and most efficient way of finding your parasitic draw is to use a multimeter. Even the most inexperienced diagnostician can do this test in minutes to find out if you have a draw. Just make sure the vehicle is off, the car's negative battery terminal is disconnected, and the car doors are shut and other accessories turned off. Set your multimeter to 10 amps DC, touch the positive lead to your disconnected negative battery cable, and touch the ground lead to your negative battery post. If your meter shows anything above 50 milliamps, you have a parasitic draw. Watch the first video below to find out how to identify the fuse or relay that is eating away your battery, plus some possible quick fixes.

Eric the Car Guy Hunts Down a Parasitic Draw

Using a Multimeter to Find a Parasitic Draw From the Radio Circuit

Method 2: Use a Fuse Checker

On a pre-1985 vehicle, you can use a small probe called a fuse checker to look for draws. It's not as accurate as a multimeter, but will work just as well at finding out what is still on when your car is supposed to be off. This method can also work on newer vehicles if you don't have access to a multimeter. To use this method, simply make sure that the car is off, the door pins are all held down in the "closed" position, and your negative battery cable is disconnected.

Have more questions?

Thank you to everyone who has been so wonderful and left so many great comments and questions. Please, if you need more immediate information or advice and you aren't able to check in with your mechanic, feel free to email me directly at Acceleratedauto @

Your questions will get answered and possibly featured in a new article!

© 2012 A Carter

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Comments 123 comments

Kim 4 months ago

My battery died as I left my lights on... I charged it up and it started but when I took it out for a run it has started pulling back... As if it has fuel starvation... What is my problem

Buddy Nuzzi 4 months ago

When I tried to crank my 2010 Ford ranger I heard a bang under the hood now my truck is not working

beth 5 months ago

Thank you for the useful information. I need some help please.

I parked my car for about a month, the key remote stopped working, not only that, the key can't seem to open the door manually. How do I get the key to work, to open the car so I can change the battery.

Also, is it possible for the battery to die completely that it can't be charged. Thanks

Yogesh Kumar 5 months ago

Thanks for the Post.

Bob 5 months ago

This page is full of incorrect info. If your engine cranks but doesn't start, it's most likely NOT the battery. If you're replacing your battery every 2-3 years you're just throwing away money.

kyrigkc 7 months ago

I have a2006 Nissan Murano, it has a bundle pack connected to the positive battery cable like I've never seen before. I have went thru 3 batteries in the last 4 years. I've had the ire bundle changed out twice (supposedly) and had the alternator recently changed. (Bad bearings) I changed the radiator 4 days ago. Everything was good ( during alternator & radiator change, battery had to be removed) went to the store yesterday came home, went to leave back out an hour later. Dead as a door nail!! No inside lights, nothing, doesn't crank at all! I removed the battery checked the cables, advanced auto said batter is good, even though the cells were low. Had this problem before I had the cable bundle changed. I would be fine one minute and then go to start it ten min later and nothing. Jumping does nothing. And I can't even get it out of park to have it towed. (In garage, facing forward.

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tyagugpt 7 months ago

Thanks for the detailed procedure

kevin kioni profile image

kevin kioni 7 months ago from Kenya


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Bangladesh Page 7 months ago

Thank you very much for sharing these wonderful tips. It would really help me to understand the battery's condition and to take care of those batteries.

janeroi profile image

janeroi 8 months ago from Tampere

Here in Finland during winters, when the temperature can drop below -25 degrees celcius, many car batteries die. People don't tend to know that, which feel really dumb. Everyone should read this post!

Besarien profile image

Besarien 8 months ago

My car which has a nearly 3 year old battery would not start after I stopped at an ATM tonight. I had a portable charger in the trunk and used that to turn over the engine to get home. You have convinced me to just replace it tomorrow rather than trying to get more life out of a dying battery and risk damage to the car. Great hub with very useful info that just probably improved my life. Thanks A Carter for making a difference!

hubber8893 profile image

hubber8893 8 months ago

Your article about battery is very interesting to read about electric problems in an automobile. I think it is most sophisticated to check for neatness all the connections consciously prior taking the car to a mechanic as said by you. The cost and time is really a serious issue for a person considering to replace the battery.

Moreover, my concern is regarding my two wheeler bike which takes unreasonably more kicks to start in the morning?

Beer Pong profile image

Beer Pong 8 months ago

There is quite a lot that I did not know here. Thanks

Raghavendra 8 months ago

My car starts okay when normally started. But when I have been on a long drive, if I shut down the engine and than restart it, the car just does not start. Usually on these drives, both the AC and Stereo would be running all through the journey. Is it a problem with the battery? This has happened twice in the last one month. Rest of the time it is okay.

WrenchWench profile image

WrenchWench 9 months ago from Seattle Author

Thank you for your comments. Yes, Fisioterapeutas, more often than not, most folks don't pay much attention to their car batteries. Though times have changed a lot since cars were first put into the world. You used to have to know how to do pretty much everything with your car, because a mechanic was often a week away. Nowadays cars are pretty much marketed like they are supposed to take care of themselves, and not much education is shared with new or experienced car buyers, so no one thinks to look into until it's too late.

That's part of why I write these hubs. At very least, once you get into a jam, you'll know how to get out of it from here on out =)

fisioterapeutas profile image

fisioterapeutas 9 months ago from Madrid

This information is very important , people do not pay attention to the condition of the battery

Marilyn Fritz profile image

Marilyn Fritz 9 months ago from Nevada

This is an excellent page! There is nothing worse than getting in your vehicle to go to work and it won't start. No reaction at all, not even a glimmer of life from lights, or gauges, and not one sound from the engine. It is much better to expect that it will not last much longer than two and a half years, and replace it so you do not have to face the despair of calling in to work late.

Justin boy profile image

Justin boy 9 months ago from USA


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SolveMyMaze 9 months ago

Excellent Hub! I'm so glad that this is still on the front page (for me at least anyway) of the site. I've not had the problem yet of having a dead battery, but this Hub has been a massive help in things I should look out for when it does eventually start to go.

Chandra Biswal profile image

Chandra Biswal 9 months ago from Bhubaneswar, Odisha

Good article..very nice

Lukiz Tsjzi 9 months ago

Very useful information, i must say.

Samuel Smart profile image

Samuel Smart 9 months ago from United States

One time the lights in my car started dimming, so I had to take it to a mechanic. He told me the car battery was almost dead, so I had to buy a new one. So yes, it's important that the car battery stays in a good condition and runs well.

Thank you for a very fine Hub!

findurdate 9 months ago

I properly off all the switches, lights, stereo but my battery not charged if i don't ride my car 3-4 days. is there any problem with battery

agusfanani profile image

agusfanani 9 months ago from Indonesia

A very interesting, informative hub. I think I have to check the battery of my car to find out if it's close to die. Thank you for sharing.

WrenchWench profile image

WrenchWench 9 months ago from Seattle Author

This comment is for all future commenters: I moderate all comments, and all every comment requires my approval before a single person sees it. If you spam this article with links and nonsense, your wasting your time and mine. If you'd like to have your service or product reviewed and seen by people, please message me. Otherwise I will report you.

Thank you too everyone else who has commented!

josefjosefe 9 months ago

it very well could be a faulty battery

PoggyDobby profile image

PoggyDobby 9 months ago from Probably Earth

Thank you, that was really useful. It's a shame I hadn't read it before my car battery died. The old battery is still in the car though and I should replace it in the near future. If my car stays for about 2 weeks or so untouched, then it probably won't start because of the empty battery. Maybe something is draining power from it, I don't know. Anyways, the replacement is the only way I see.

craftybegonia profile image

craftybegonia 10 months ago from Southwestern, United States

This is very useful, thanks for sharing!

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jonahengler 10 months ago from New York, NY

Great tips thanks! ;)

emi sue profile image

emi sue 10 months ago from Tennessee

My car wouldn't start when I went to leave my son's physical therapy appt yesterday. I got a jump.

Looks like it's time for a new battery.

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tammyfrost 10 months ago from Oregon

Very Helpful Article... Thanks for Sharing.

FencesbyJohn profile image

FencesbyJohn 10 months ago from San Diego, Ca.

Read this article a little late. I went through this battery/not starting thing about 4 months ago. It turned out to be the starter on my 99 Chevy Silverado. What I did discover though, was that the mobile mechanics are great guys and do a GREAT job! At least the guy I had come out did. First of all he came out on a Sunday afternoon and didn't charge anything more that on a weekday. He went through all the steps and diagnosed the problem. Bought the starter, installed it and i was a happy camper! I tipped him very good, and he was a happy camper too!

Joe 10 months ago

Excellent hints.

A subject wasn't addressed, what about long-term parked cars.

I had this problem and I solved it using a small charging solar panel from eBay (17$-25$), given you park the car in the sun.

Otherwise, you can buy a 5$ charging and maintaining charger, which doesn't over charge the battery and keeps it full at all times, without consuming any significant amount of electricity.

jasmineroy 10 months ago


KingdomCome 10 months ago from those of the Ecclesia

Interesting. Good info to know.

CateHolt 11 months ago

This is extremely helpful thankyou very much!

breathing profile image

breathing 11 months ago from Bangladesh

A simple but very much informative post that will help all kinds of car users. There is hardly any car user who doesn’t face problem regarding the battery. Many people have the experience of spending more than the car price just on the battery!! This is the limit to which many suffer. With proper knowledge that you get from this hub, you can easily now keep things under check with regards to your car battery. Also try to take your car to one trusted mechanic who will not deceit you in case of the car performance. A trusted mechanic can be very handy for only the battery but other car parts.

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UmiNoor 11 months ago from Malaysia

My old car used to have difficulties starting in the morning. And then, with the help of my mechanic, we discovered a parasitic draw from my batteries. After that, my car had no problem starting. It's troublesome when you can't start your car especially if you're in a hurry to go somewhere.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 11 months ago

This is great advice. I try to replace mine on a regular basis but have had a few of the pointers you list above happen to me. BElieve me, it is no fun to be stranded anywhere with a dead battery.

Tiga Polxin 11 months ago from Jl husain sastranegara komplek duta gardenia blok b6/2-3 Jurumudi baru Tangerang

Yups. indeed in general durability of the vehicle battery reaches two and a half years, such as motor vehicle I use the age of the battery must have two and a half years.

No gasih battery maintenance way to remain durable.

Monis Mas profile image

Monis Mas 11 months ago

Thanks for the tips. I hope non of it will happen to me :-)

Hezekiah profile image

Hezekiah 11 months ago from Japan

Very important to for everyone. I am in Japan and have a Honda fit which I was told have not good batteries. Died on me twice. Would have been nice to know the signs.

dff 11 months ago

great article

cherylone profile image

cherylone 11 months ago from Connecticut

Loved your article. Been doing most of my vehicle upkeep myself for years. Tried to teach the young ones but they don't like to get their hands dirty, LOL

DavidSimmons1776 11 months ago

nice hub

viprak profile image

viprak 11 months ago from Surat,Gujarat

it's very help full tips.....

Great ....

Tandon profile image

Tandon 11 months ago from Delhi

Very useful tips for how car battery dead using videos anyone would easily understand exactly what happened. Thanks for the post.

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mesothelioma-doc 12 months ago from Mars

Nice article and very informative. It happens to me few weeks ago and i was totally dumb cause i don't know how to check when batteries are down or not. Once my car didn't start, i just start looking for the possibility of getting a new one. Thanks these tips helps me alot

hardlymoving profile image

hardlymoving 12 months ago from Memphis, TN

If the battery passes both a voltage and amperage test, there's no need for a new battery - regardless of age. It's poor electrical contact (corrosion) with the ground strap, terminals (battery acid) or failed alternator that usually causes a battery to go dead. Seen too many batteries being replaced when a full, slow re-charge may suffice.

YoLex 12 months ago

Great article! I haven't replaced my battery in almost 4 years and I've only had to jump it once but this definitely has me thinking. I just moved up north and its going to be a cold winter so I'm worried about the car not starting. Is there anything I can do to keep the car warmer so that I won't have too many problems starting it?

Daddy Paul profile image

Daddy Paul 12 months ago from Michigan

Good read.

carlos 12 months ago

I have a 1987 El Camino. It has a battery drainage problem. After charging a new battery, starts fine. For the first day. The next day its just about dead. It turns over, but wont start. I do have a burnt out dome light. Could this be my problem? Help!!!!

roy 12 months ago

Have a 2005 dodge grand caravan bought new battery put it in battery light still on

poetryman6969 profile image

poetryman6969 12 months ago

Useful tips. Thanks.

Angela 12 months ago

Hello, I have a 2000 Dodge Intrepid. About a month ago while I wld be driving my interior lights would start flickering, and my alarm would go off randomly, this happened for about 3-5 days. Then i went to get into my vehicle the next day and the car was completely dead. No clicking when trying to turn over the key, as if it was devoid of any life. We jumped it, which took a lot longer than normal, drove down the road about 10 min, and when i came back out to leave the same problem, completely dead. Had to start the process all over. Im not sure if this is in need simply of a battery or if it in fact is a faulty alternator. Please gimme your advice. Thanku so kindly~

Nataysha 12 months ago

Hi. I am having an issue with my rusty old truck. It has always ran well and never any problem to start. The other day, I opened the hood and noticed some "fuzzy yellowish white stuff" on top of the battery. Not much but enough to notice. I topped up the washer fluid and closed her up. I also plugged it in as it was supposed to get cold, over night. Next day, I was out and about. I had a problem. I tried to start my truck. The dashboard lights came on (not sure about headlights etc) but nothing else happened. I did not hear anything. It did not struggle nor did I hear a click sound. I tried it a couple times and it started up, as it normally would. What are you thoughts, please!! I need my beater but am nervous to get stranded. Ugh help!!

greenmind profile image

greenmind 12 months ago

Wow this is a really cool hub and a great topic. Great advice and I learned a lot. Thanks for this excellent hub!

medopride19 profile image

medopride19 12 months ago

good a hub :)

Ms LaLa2014 profile image

Ms LaLa2014 12 months ago from Fayetteville, NC

What about battery acid corrosion? Is it true that Sprite will clear the acid off and extend its life?

Linda Robinson60 profile image

Linda Robinson60 12 months ago from Cicero, New York

Amazing and informative hub, I really got so much from it. Nice to meet you and I look forward to reading more of your knowledgeable and interesting hubs. Every man I am sure would know this but women knowing it is equally critical. Happy to be following you. Linda

DaveOnline profile image

DaveOnline 13 months ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Thanks for this article; I happen to be having starting problems with my car which went into the garage today. A while ago the battery terminal corroded and I had a new terminal put on and a leak fixed. Unfortunately corrosion started again and it wouldn't start at all the other day, I suspect the battery is old and has packed up.

Brian 13 months ago

Jumped my car and it started right up took charging cables off and try to start the car and it didn't start but cranked

Erma 13 months ago

Purchased a 2013 in 2014, October. Recently was in the vehicle & had run on instead of accelerator. AAA came to jump start. Never has run same since. Lights are alternating / flickering between bright and dim. Driver side window has mind of its own-I push up it goes down.

Tony 14 months ago

My car starts fine, but my radio resets every time I start it now. I checked the appearance of the battery, it does not appear to be corrision but the terminals are wet with some substance on them. I assume it is time for a new battery ?

Nate 15 months ago

I have a 2005 acura mdx and before my car shut compleatly off while driving a few dash lights (battery)(abs) came on then the radio went in and out.all power windows were bad and it cut off... I got a jump fromm aaa and the guy said its most likely a bad battery not altenator... How can i know which?

ROB 15 months ago

So, I turn the key and the power windows suddenly will not go down when they have before. It cranks like a bitch and I have to jump on the gas pedal. It sometimes cranks so weakly as well and leaves me thinking will this start as well. I think it is the battery. Please tell me otherwise.

Rob. York. UK

hayley 16 months ago

I can't figure out if my battery is no good.. It won't crank or any lights will come on. I've also noticed the terminals are bad. I put the battery on charge. It's staying between 5 and 10. Should I just get a new battery?

taylors7 profile image

taylors7 16 months ago

Useful info.

Olivia 17 months ago


I have a 2003 honda crv. One day I turned on the car and my car was having a bumpy start up. It eventually was sustained idle but I did not understand why it wasn't a smooth activation like usual. For the past week, Im having to turn my keys and step on the gas to give my car a boost for it to turn on. Is this the battery?

So now...

My lights and AC still turn on but now my car won't start.

Chance Harvey profile image

Chance Harvey 17 months ago

Nice hubs, thanks for sharing all this information.

Antonio Westley profile image

Antonio Westley 17 months ago from New York

These tips will certainly help me in the long run since I am currently in the process of saving up for a car. Now I can make sure to evaluate this when I am at a dealer

john 17 months ago

Parasitic Drain Remains a simple but yet complex problem.

SusanDeppner profile image

SusanDeppner 17 months ago from Arkansas USA

Right now I think we're just daring our car battery to die. My husband always wants to squeeze out every ounce of battery juice before we buy a new one, which explains why we've batteries in parking lots the last three or so times we've had batteries die with no prior warning. I preferred the old days when they showed obvious symptoms. These days they just die.

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lyoness913 17 months ago from Overland Park, KS

Great article! I don't mean to sound sexist (and I am a woman, ha!) but a lot of women AND teens don't realize it's just a simple dead battery. I am going to send this to my son in college!

Astra 21 months ago

Hi. I had a flat battery when I didn't use the car for a few weeks so I got it jump started. I then went away for a month and had to jump start it on return. I went and bout a battery charger and fully charged the battery. When I drove the car after this it felt like

It was stalling and sounded like it was running really bad. Took it straight to

Garage and they said it needed a new coil pack and spark plugs. It's cost a fortune. Got it back two days later. Still doesn't feel right. Plugged it into the charger and it's near flat again. I'll get a new battery but would this have affected my coil pack? Have I been ripped off? It's a 2005 Holden Astra. Done 103000km

Melonie 21 months ago

Can a loose connection cause a popping sound? I was driving my 2006 Nissan altima home when i heard a loud popping sound like popcorn. The next day my car wouldn't start. I changed the battery and it worked. The old battery was tested and still like new. Only 4 months old. The alternator tester 13.88 when car was on, reved and radio and lights on. Any thoughts?

lacey 23 months ago

Hi i have a honda civic 96 an i just changed my alternator yesterday. It wasn't a new one it was used from the junk yard. Anyway after replacing it my car started just fine an worked all day yesterday an started just fine this morning. I drove to the store an wen i can out my car was completely dead all it dose is make a clivkig sound. I tryd jumping it an nothing at all just the clicking sound my lights a radio come on just fine but the red cable wire is loose could that be my problem or is the alternator i bought just bad. Please help i have two kids and need my car.

gueramunoz78@gmail 23 months ago

I have a ford focus just got a head job about a week ago and my car still feels like it looses pressure at the stops and feels like its going to turn off the dash board often turns on the oil light even if I just put oil and the radio lights start to fade and interior lights also when this happens at the stops I paid 800 for the head jobs and am up set my car is doing this it was anicially had these symptoms when the heads were broke and know that its supposably been fixed why does this still happen??? Someone help me I am a girl I know nothing about cars

ImaniC 23 months ago


I accidentally left my car door open for a month while I was in college and now auto zone says it's a bad battery but I never had any issues with my car before. What do you think?

Natalie L 23 months ago

Good evening, I have a 2005 Chevrolet Malibu. My car will not start. I don't know if it's the battery or the alternator. The headlights comes on very dimly, but the horn, radio (clock always shows 12:00) and the dashboard lights doesn't work. If I turn the ignition switch after three attempts my anti theft goes off. Could you please tell me what you think the problems is?

The Ghostwriter profile image

The Ghostwriter 23 months ago from UK

This hub reminded me to upgrade my battery for winter. It doesn't seem to hold it's charge much now, but it is 8 years old.

kelly 23 months ago

so i have a ford explorer since it started getting cold when try to start it turns and turns and then starts, but all the gages are jumping there have been times the battery has died. is it my battery

SAQIB6608 profile image

SAQIB6608 23 months ago from HYDERABAD PAKISTAN

Are there any field expedients for dead batteries?

Secondly how has the response of MF (Maintenance Free) Batteries in automobiles in comparison to the Lead Acid Batteries?

jakhamar 23 months ago

you must have very cheap batteries where you are. my batteries always last 7-10 years and i live in canada. stop buying batteries that are made in bangladesh, spend 100 bucks for a decent one and things will be ok.

jacob 2 years ago

I have a 1995 Pontiac grand prix, Rpms are jumping when in park, or idling at stop light or stop sign, seems to get worse when i use my blinkers, recently replaced starter, does this sound like i need new battery, or battery terminals, what is your suggestion

JACKIE O 2 years ago

I bought a 1997 BMW 328IC in 2009, it was in mint condition, however due to my idiot almost ex- husband, the car has been sitting in my year in Upstate NY since, October of 2010. The car only has 5ok miles on it, but I am afraid of what I am in for I plan to get it this month. I know I will need a new battery, however I am more concerned with any rubber hoses and wires etc., I priced parts for the car and if I need to replace all the wire and who knows what else, I won't be able to afford it, the prices are crazy. I know I am going to replace all of the fluid in the car, and probably the filers, I don't want to just tow it to a mechanic and have him tell me I need everything replaced, so I am trying to conduct due diligence and get much needed advice. The car has been covered but it is outside. Unbelievably my convertible roof is still in tack w/ all the snow we get up there in the winter. Please Help, advise me! Thank you, jackie

Powerline profile image

Powerline 2 years ago from Seymour, MO

@zack, that doesn't sound like a battery issue. It could be many things, shorted body wiring somewhere, a bad relay somewhere or many other possibilities. Without knowing what type of vehicle it is, it's hard to say.

@sweetlehua, the CEL came on immediately after setting for a month? Did it stay on? Because if it's OBDII, those systems are only monitoring under specific driving conditions, so you may be able to disregard it as it may have been simply a result of your O2 sensor sitting for some time.

Regardless, it's always wise to have a certified mechanic routinely inspect your drive train and suspension to identify issues before they happen.

Great article, by the way. One thing that threw me off with a battery was a loose post which came on a brand new battery. I attempted to wiggle the positive terminal and the post came right out with it. That helped me solve that gremlin, but the store did not warranty the brand new battery I'd purchased the day before. :/

joanorozco 2 years ago


sweetlehua 2 years ago

I'm so glad I stumbled on this hub. Thank you. I already knew I was due for a new battery (the one I have was a replacement by the car dealership, as the original was dead when I went to pick the car up)

That would have been in 2012... I assume it's not a new battery, and so will bite the bullet and buy a new battery.

I did wonder tho... I hadn't started the car in a month... When I went to start it the check engine light came on. I had it read by a friend who said it was a cold start error... is there anything else I should check while I'm replacing the battery?

zack 2 years ago

Okay I have a question about 2.5 weeks ago my car was running not well as I already knew I had to replace some parts on it, however now that all the parts are replaced there is zero power going to the inside of the car. I tested the battery and it reads a full 12v. I checked the battery relay and the main relay and that doesn't seem to be the problem. I need some advice fast this is my daily driver and electrical is a bit beyond my skills. Thanks

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mueblesdejardin 2 years ago from madrid


WrenchWench profile image

WrenchWench 2 years ago from Seattle Author

We've all had it happen to us before @Mueblesdejardin. So long as the lesson is learned, it won't be a problem in the future, right? =)

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mueblesdejardin 2 years ago from madrid

very good article, last time I waited too much to change my battery.... It won't happen again..

WrenchWench profile image

WrenchWench 2 years ago from Seattle Author

Good afternoon @Chad! Thank you for stopping by this hub. I definitely agree that you have a parasitic draw on your battery, especially if you already installed a brand new one. If you'll scroll back up to the hub, I've actually added a new section at the bottom on how to diagnose, find and fix a parasitic draw on your battery. Hope it helps! =)

Chad 2 years ago

Hello wrench... my symptons last year where idling issues that lead up to needing a jump... after the second jump i got a brand new battery.... all symptoms completely dissapeard.. its been only 7 months now and the idling situation is starting back this a parasitic drain destroying my battery over time.... id really like to not buy a $125 dollar battery every 6 months

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WrenchWench 2 years ago from Seattle Author

I stand corrected. There was a small part in this hub where I referred a driver towards pumping the gas. I've gone in and added the "or prime the fuel pump" to account for newer vehicles. Thank you for spotting that Paul.

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WrenchWench 2 years ago from Seattle Author

Dear Paul Patti, thank you for your comment. It inspired me to add in a helpful hint about "pumping the gas" in vehicles of different eras. Though to be realistic, I didn't suggest that a person should do such a thing in a newer vehicle, I simply referred to the notion that this is what most people will try to do first, regardless of whether their car is antiquarian or millennial ;)

Also, and not to be too nit-picky, but to refrain from reader confusion, did you truly mean to declare that only cars from before 1908 had carbs? I saw that year and figured you must have meant 1980, especially since almost all vehicles prior to 1980 had some form of raw carburetion. Even some of the first throttle bodies were essentially still carburetors with fancier injectors... =)

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WrenchWench 2 years ago from Seattle Author

Good evening FirstCar! Love the user name, as well as your question. In your specific situation, and with a car I'm well familiar with, I would dare to estimate that you actually have a Starter problem.

Keep in mind, this issue can wear down even a new battery, so if you replace your starter and still have regular starting problems, you'll either want to put that new battery on a full cycle deep charge, or just get a new one to be safe.

Let me know if this helps, and thank you for the specific details in your question! =)

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WrenchWench 2 years ago from Seattle Author

Hello Billie! Thank you for taking the time to comment and ask your question. You have a very interesting situation that is actually more common than you might think. And because it's a common enough problem, it's easier to suggest what is ailing your MK4. That being said, without being able to see your car myself, there is plenty of room for error, so bear with me here.

What you're most likely looking at is a: Parasitic Draw.

You were obviously very diligent about getting your car checked out, so please do not feel like you missed anything. Honestly, the mechanic who told you that you must not have jumped it right, was choosing a lazy answer. It happens, especially after long hard days over years and years in the same job. Still, that doesn't help you any and I'm sorry that you got that run around. It's like telling a doctor about your symptoms and having them tell you it's all anxiety because you even cared to keep track of your symptoms; it could be true, but "could" doesn't make it so.

To make a long story short Billie, you and anyone in a similar situation will want to have your cars checked for a Parasitic Draw. This is when an electronic component in your vehicle sucks the life out of your battery (just like a leech!) by staying on when the vehicle should be completely off. These draws are usually found coming from:

*Your alternator

*A burnt Fuse or Relay

*A Trunk, Hood or Dome Light

*A Grounded Wire (that's not supposed to be grounded)

*A Stereo and/or Alarm System (especially larger systems)

Other than that, you'll want to make sure to check that your battery terminals are clean, corrosion free and tighly secured to your battery. There should be absolutely no play in them, so you shouldn't be able to wiggle them or move them by hand at all.

Hope this helps =)

Paul Patti 2 years ago

This article, although basically accurate, misses the fact that for modern cars with fuel injection. "pumping" the gas does absolutely nothing regarding fuel input while the engine is off. That was with the older carbureted cars of the mid 1908's and prior.

FirstCar 2 years ago

I bought a 95 Camry. It says the battery is a year old, but the car had been sitting for a few months before I bought. Everything in the car has been replaced. One day the lights wouldn't come on, it wouldn't crank so I gave it a jump and it started. It ran well for a couple days then again wouldn't start up, I put the car in neutral, pushed it and then it started up. Is it the battery or something else? The last time the light and everything came on but it wouldn't even crank, but after I pushed it everything worked perfectly fine. Please help.

Billie 2 years ago


I left my car in a lock up over xmas and it died so I got it jumpstarted. Going great then battery died again just after I had washed car at garage. Tried to jumpstart but got told we mustnt have stsrted it properly ( which was probably true as I couldn't grip enough metal on other cars battery) took to garage got a new battery put in. Car working great. Didn't drive for few days but started it for 5 to ten minutes and two days later my car needed jumpstarted. It start straight away when jumpstarted. Why would my battery die after getting a new one in 7days previous? Could this be another issue?

Before I jumpstarted and the engine was cold I felt around to feel any heat incase I had anything draining battery but all cold apart from some cracking/bubbly noises coming from were battery was. I drive a mk4 golf petrol btw, incase thst helps! Lol.

Thanks in advance.

WrenchWench profile image

WrenchWench 2 years ago from Seattle Author

@Carleen, without knowing more about your car, my first suggestion would be to have your vehicles Thermostat and Thermostat Sensor checked. They are cheap and easy to change and should be changed every fall when the weather gets cold.

I would also have the fuel filter changed, fuel pump tested and make sure your alternator is still 3unning strong.

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WrenchWench 2 years ago from Seattle Author

@Shawna, it very well could be a faulty battery. That's not too common, but it happens often enough.

Another scenario, is that it could be that you need a battery with more Cold Cranking Amps. This is the batteries strength and durability when in comes to starting, especially in colder weather.

Now, without knowing what you drive, I cannot suggest how many CCA's would be best, but you'll find that number on your battery somewhere, usually on top.

If that does not appear to be the problem, I would check on the Fuel Pump, Fuel Filter or Alternator.

WrenchWench profile image

WrenchWench 2 years ago from Seattle Author

@Dee, I feel your pain and I hope its safe to assume that you've already replaced your car battery. If you haven't, now is obviously a good time to do so.

Now, if your battery is new, your next most likely culprit is your Alternator or Voltage Regulator, depending on what year and make your car is. You can usually have them tested at any auto parts store for free.

Outside of that, have your Starter Solenoid (sill-ee-nooed) tested to make sure its not the culprit. It also wouldn't hurt to make sure your battery cables are clean, free of corrosion, attached tightly and not frayed anywhere.

If you come back with more details, I can better assist you.

Also, women rule at auto mechanics (I should know!) and obviously you know w great deal about your car! =)

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WrenchWench 2 years ago from Seattle Author

Good evening everyone! Thank you for your comments, questions and patience inallowing me to get back here and answer them! =)


I have to admit that there are plenty of inexplicably unexplainable moments in auto mechanics, however, most situations are explainable with a good case a curiosity. Now, mit would depend on the year, make and model of your vehicle, but if I were the curious cat who got to prowl around your car, I would make it my priority to check out the batteries wet cells and make sure they are full. You will find those cells on top of most models of battery, and in most cases they can be topped off with some regular tap water. Be very careful though, as if there are any leaks in your battery, you don't want to get battery acid anywhere on you, so wear gloves and goggles just in case. Now, if the cells are full enough, I would have the alternator and alternator belt checked.nIn my experience, when the alt belt starts to wear down, it will cause starting problems intermittently like that, especially if the vehicle is allowed to sit. If this is the problem, then it acts the way it does, because it never gets a full recharge to the battery.

Now, last but not least, your vehicle could be "grounding out", which means that somewhere you have a wire that is touching the body of the car and causing a slow leak of power over those 36 hours. Just as likely could be that some accessory is being left on when you turn the car off, such as a cell phone charger, floor light, etc... Either of these problems can be caused by the improper installation of car stereo or security systems, which is more common than 5ou might imagine. This issue can also be caused by annoying little things like burnted out dome lights, broken power accessories (like door locks or window controls), broken ignitions or any wires that may have been broken or improperly replaced.

With a bit of curiosity and an ampmeter, you could find and fix most of these issues yourself. Though if you're in need of a fast fix, take your vehicle to an autoparts store and ask them to test your car for any energy leaks or grounds.

I hope you'll come back and let us know how things go Marc! Talk to you soon!

Carleen medina 2 years ago

We had temperatures of below freezing a couple Weeks ago and I went to start my car but it did not start. I replaced the battery and my car still did not want to start. I got a jump and it took allot to get it to start so I left my car on for about ten min and then I turned it off and turned it back on again and it started with no problem.... But the next morning I go to start the car and nothing again what can be the problem the starter is good plz help I have no clue what it can be

Shawna 2 years ago

I kept having to jump start my care every morning, so I bought a new battery and it worked fine for a month. Now when the weather drops below 30 degrees, I have to jump start it again. could this be a faulty battery or something else wrong. Thanks

dee 2 years ago

Ok so I am a girl and nothing about cars, my car has to be jumed everyday in the morning when i go to work and when I leave work what cohld it be don't have the money to keep paying for parts???? Please need the help for the right answer!

marcpilot1 2 years ago

Hi WrenchWrench- I see you actually know what you're talking about but even better, you have a way of explaining that knowledge to people in a way they can understand what all this means. I have a car and the batt jump-starts great. Just like your 5th sign, I'm sure I have to get a new batt. But I wish I understood better why it starts fine everyday until a day where I don't start it for roughly 36 hours or longer. If I let it sit for about that long it will def need jumping. But as long as I keep starting and driving it without waiting that amount of time, I never have to jump it. (yet) Again, new battery right?

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WrenchWench 2 years ago from Seattle Author

@Chance, it is very possible. Though without details, it would be hard for me to give you a definitive answer. Just from what you have said, I would suggest also checking your alternator, belt and if its external, your voltage regulator. Most auto parts stores will test those parts along with your battery uf you drive it to them.

Chance 2 years ago

My car will start fine but if I drive somewhere and shut it off it will take like an hour before it starts again my mechanic said it could be a bad battery could it ?

drsarangaa 3 years ago

Hi I m having 2 yr old disel car

Since last 15 days its giving problem to first attempt engine only cranks no start but in next attempt engine starts ...this will happen 4 to 5 times but one or two times it took longer time to starts and after starts and moving a car some meter car stops ang power stearing sign come out..and again I started car in a dingle attempt and running after some km that sign goes it batttery or any other prob?.and other is my lights working well

But if I used ac then it again gives start prob

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WrenchWench 3 years ago from Seattle Author

@Yuhhjj, if you've already replaced the battery, it is likely that your alternator is the culprit. You can usually have both tested for free at any auto parts store in your area, which will save you money and tell you what's up with your car.

@jgutta420, I'm going to assume that in 3 months, you were likely able to figure out what was up with your car. My apologies on not checking this account sooner. For the sake of any future visitors, and in case you're still having troubles, I would like to answer your question. If I were to put myself in your shoes, I would borrow a good battery from a friend or family members car and double check to make sure it's not a dead cell in your battery (even though the auto zone guy said it was okay). If that did not help, then it sounds like it's either your voltage regulator or a problem in the brain of your vehicle. It depends on what year, make and model your driving to determine which of those is the answer. Most modern (1998-2013) cars have voltage regulators in the alternator or in the cars brain. Though 9 times out of 10, it's the battery, even if the tests come out clean.

@Nemo, glad this hub could help! =)

@Andy, I feel ya! Sometimes a newer car seems nice, until we realize just how 'reliable' that old hooptie was, lol. That being said, it sounds like your generator is at fault. Again, that would depend on the year, make and model of your vehicle. If it's an old 6 cell ford truck, it would most definitely be time for a generator rebuild (they weren't built that well), whereas if it's a newer vehicle where they decided to go back to using generators, then it is probably your battery.

Thank you everyone for your great comments and questions!

andy 3 years ago

my battery is 18 mths old century hi performance engine turns but wont start... jump it .starts in seconds recharged battery wont start jump it starts in seconds..ampmeter in car dash says its charging .(.for the first year I hardly used the car) ps it's a generator not an alternator..battery is out of warranty but reticent to swap it on account of the cost and minimal usage pps i used to have a battery in the car that was at least 10 years old it would hold its charge after sitting for 6 months shld never have chucked it for this lemon

NEMO 3 years ago

my ford taurus started on fist crank my only problem was rpms would drop when i stop almost stalling and rpms drop when running the heater changed my 2 year life battery which was 5 years old all good now who new THANKS

jgutta420 3 years ago

Question...I ran out of gas several weeks ago and when I came back to my car with gas battery was a jump and let it run and had no problems. Last night I went out to start it and it was dead again. Got another jump and let it run and then shut it off and it started right back up. This morning started right up. This afternoon started right up. About an hr ago wouldn't start again. I should note that there was about a.24 hr lapse in the time I got the jump until now. Anyway just got another jump and it started right up so I let it run and turned off then on and no problem! So I took it to auto zone to have it and my alternator checked. Alternator with car running was charging battery at 12.4 volts and his meter said good battery. I'm under the impression that of course it would say good battery if I just got it jumped! Anyway please help because this is very inconvenient!!! I should also note that this battery is at least 2 years old. Guy at auto zone says it's not the battery but how could it be anything else? If after getting a jump I let it run and then it keeps starting after that doesn't that mean the alternator is doing it's job? Plz help!!!

Yuhhjj 3 years ago

My car overnight battery go off need to jump up every morning how to solve this problem I change new battery Liao how come help

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WrenchWench 3 years ago from Seattle Author

@Rick, that doesn't surprise me! I usually experience the same thing ;)

@Tom, while I agree that a cranking challenge is always something to consider. I'm a firm believer that you always check the basics first. I learned to be that way after believing everything had to be a much bigger problem than it really was. I've been knee deep into engines before finding out it was simply a battery issue that could have been solved in 5 minutes, and that's not fun. So the first sign I put up is correct, especially as a first step in the POE what's up with your car.

@Maureen, the battery light is a tricky thing. If you have a high mileage or older vehicle, it could just be that your vehicles brain needs to be "reset" so that it realizes there is nothing wrong with the battery anymore. If it comes on and off, I would clean and tighten your battery cables to take care of that. Though if you still have to hold your key over several times to get the car to start up, then you probably need your "new" battery checked and that's why the light is on. Other than that, some cars hit a certain age where the "check battery" light never turns off, lol. It happens.

@Cooper, yes! Get a new battery for that bab-boy-buggy you drive. Your car, your hands and your wallet will thank you.

@Azul, thank you for pointing out the typos! I went through and corrected what I could find, along with a jumble of spelling and grammar errors. Please let me know if you see anything else wrong, I definitely appreciate your feedback =)

azul2013 3 years ago

many typos very distracting

maureen 3 years ago

i replaced my battery but the battery signal still on after 24 hours does this mean it is the alternator

Tom russt 4 years ago

First sign is wrong! If battery is low enough to cause problem with engine firing ,you will have a cranking problem!

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rick combe 4 years ago from USA

Good article. Most of the time when I hear "my car won't start" it turns out to be the battery, terminals, or a loose wire.

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    A Carter (WrenchWench)50 Followers
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    A Carter has worked for years as a mechanic and offers advice on repairs, diagnosing problems, and buying and selling cars.

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