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

Wrench Wench has been in love with automotive mechanics for decades. She loves sharing advice with fellow DIY mechs and curious cats.

Learn the signs that your car battery is dead or dying.

Learn the signs that your car battery is dead or dying.

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 DIYers 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.

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 it needs to be replaced.

Signs Your Car Battery's Dead or About to Die

  1. Your engine cranks, but it doesn't start.
  2. Your engine doesn't crank or start, and the lights don't come on!
  3. One day it starts fine, then the next day it won't start at all.
  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.

Note: At this point, most batteries will 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 as well.

If the car won’t crank or start but the headlights do work, that may indicate a 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 your battery terminals are loose, broken, corroded, or calcified or that 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 0˚F (and only a third of their power when it's 32˚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.

Learn the most common mistakes people make with their car batteries.

Learn the most common mistakes people make with their car batteries.

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:

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 a 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.

Signs of a Dying Battery

This is not a complete list of all possible signs and symptoms of a dying battery, though they are the most common, especially when seen together.

Pre-StartupDuring StartupWhile Driving

No lights, guages, dash lights or electrical come on upon turning the key in any direction.

Turns over 3 times or more before starting.

Mildly rough Idle during traffic stops.

Battery needs to be jumped every 3–5 days or more.

Lights andor Accessories dim with each turn over before starting.

Radio andor other accessories shut off intermittently.

Battery dies within 15–30 mins of sitting with engine off & radio/accessories running.

Tougher time starting after sitting for long periods, especially in colder weather.

Accessories belt squeals while driving up hills or while hauling.

Starter andor Alternator have died & been replaced already.

Accessories belt squeals briefly during or after startup.

Lights andor Accessories dim or blink when accelerator is pressed.

How to Jump-Start Your Car Battery in 10 Easy 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.

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.
Time to get out your tools!

Time to get out your tools!

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.

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.

Best Car Batteries

NameDescriptionAverage Price

Odyssey PC680 Battery

This battery is famous for its excellent efficiency. With a strong and rugged construction, this battery has a the ability to tolerate a strong pounding regardless of the environment.


XS Power D6500 Battery

This battery features a sealed AGM. It is ideal for 3000-4000W car audio sound systems. It is a leak-proof battery with no external vents. This design allows the battery to fit almost factory battery locations without any hazardous leaks.


VMAX857 AGM Battery

With this battery, you can experience excellent functions like heavy duty grids, SLA, and AGM technology, vibration and shock resistant. The VMAX857 is also a non-spillable and non-hazardous battery.


Optima 34/78 RedTop

The RedTop battery is designed to deliver the most energetic 5-second starting burst of all. Its lifespan is twice that of conventional lead-acid batteries.


Optima D35 YellowTop Battery

This is a small car battery with excellent performance. This battery is designed to provide deep-cycling capability and extra performance to meet your vehicle needs (if your car has a lot of extra accessories).


How Many Miles Should a Car Battery Last?

A battery lasts about four years on average, but mileage varies wildly from driver to driver. One thing is for certain, batteries don't last forever. There are many different factors that could lead to the demise of your car battery. It's not always such a simple thing to diagnose.

Factors That Determine a Car Battery's Lifespan:

  • Where you live
  • How you drive
  • The condition of your charging system
  • Weather
  • How you use your car's accessories

When Should I Replace My Car Battery?

After three years, it's normally time to install a replacement battery. On average, after four or five years, most car batteries will be almost completely unreliable. In fact, many old car batteries can present a number of safety issues.

What Is the Normal Charge for a Car Battery?

Fully batteries should measure at 12.6 volts or above. However, when the engine is running, this charge should measure at 13.7 to 14.7 volts. That said, if you don't have a multimeter to tell you the voltage of your car's battery, then you can do a test of your electrical system. You do this by starting the car and turning on the headlights.

What Percent Should a Car Battery Be at?

Car batteries can vary from car to car, depending on the scale of the automobile. That said, on average, automotive lead-acid batteries should be maintained at a 75% charge level or higher for their best performance.

Does Draining a Car Battery Damage It?

When a car battery has been drained below a state of full discharge, all you can do is check the electrolyte and put it on a trickle charger. It's also hard on an alternator when you drain a battery, because they aren't designed to charge batteries from a state of full discharge.

I Have a New Battery That Is Fully Charged. Why Can't I Start My Car?

If your vehicle won't start, it's usually because of a dying or dead battery, loose or corroded connection cables, a bad alternator, or due to an issue with the starter. It can be hard to determine if you're dealing with a battery or an alternator problem.

How Do You Know If It's the Alternator or the Battery?

The answer to this question varies from situation to situation, but I'll address a common one here. If you jump start it and your engine starts running, but the car will not start again once you turn it off, then the battery is likely the problem. While, in this case, the alternator is doing its job of keeping the battery going once it has been jumped, the battery still can't hold a charge when the alternator is shut off. Again, this is a sign that the battery is the culprit.

Where Can I Bring My Old Car Battery?

Battery Recycling is very important. If you have an old car battery lying around, bring it in to AutoZone or other shop for recycling. Some of these auto shops will give you a $5 merchandise card for turning in your old battery. Remember to check the stores' sites for restrictions and further details.

What Do I Do With My Old Car Battery?

You should take the battery to an auto shop or parts store. In fact, the most common way to recycle a car battery is to take it to your local auto shop or auto parts store, where car batteries are sold. You must recycle your battery appropriately. Car batteries, both lead-acid batteries and nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries, eventually wear down and need replacing. However, getting rid of an old car battery once you get a new one isn’t as simple as just throwing the old one away in the trash. Because of the environmental health consequences, throwing a car battery in a dumpster could subject you to serious fines or penalties.

How to Recycle a Car Battery

  1. Finding recycling location. Use an online search engine to find locations near you that accept car batteries for recycling.
  2. Confirm that they take car batteries. Call ahead to confirm they accept car batteries before bringing it in.
  3. Secure the battery in your vehicle. Place the battery in your vehicle’s trunk, hatch, or on the floor on a safe, disposable item (just in case of any leakage)
    —use a section of plywood, a heavy plastic lid, or a metal item like a garbage can lid. Make sure the item you choose doesn’t slide around. You'll want to prevent the heavy battery from damaging your car or other items around it.
  4. Check in with attendant. After arriving at the battery recycling depot, check in with the attendant on duty. Make sure to inform them that you wish to dispose of a car battery.
  5. Have your battery recycled. Have the attendant safely remove the old car battery from the back of your vehicle.

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@gmail.com

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

Learn As You Go

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.

© 2012 Wrench Wench


Wrench Wench (author) from Seattle on December 07, 2018:

Thanks Alt Auto ;)

Ron Pearson on September 27, 2018:

Car won't start despite a fully charged and newish battery, when it cranks over the battery light stays on, help please.

Daniel on September 19, 2018:

How can can someone tell the difference between a bad or drained battery?

The car battery store is trying to blame for the bad battery. Everything in my car automatically turns off even if I left something on. It even hasabytery savermode and a low battery relay or something like that, which turns everything off when the battery reaches a critical low.

The day before my car worked perfectly fine and next morning it did not work at all.

Carl on August 07, 2018:

2004 Saturn battery light come on car not start got charge got it home out hot battery on all lights come on but it not even click now I think have another problem now

Alternative Automotive from Shamokin Pa. on June 05, 2018:

lots of good info, some a little questionable. for the most part good information and good presentation. thank you!

Wrench Wench (author) from Seattle on April 05, 2018:

I would check your Neutral Safety Switch =)

Norma Searls on March 28, 2018:

I had a new ignition put in,3 months ago and it has been sticking hard to get it even to on moist the time it's ok,parked my car one night next not I had nothing no lights no sound couldnt even use my remote to get in,could it be from a defaulty ignition?

theklf99 on February 18, 2018:

Thanks for the advice on this page - our car seems to be showing a lot of the problems "when driving" issues.

It's really strange as we've had the battery tested numerous times and everyone says the battery is fine as its holding more than 12v and it's CCA is fine too.

However there are a few issues which appear to be battery related.

1 - power steering keeps failing, it's electric power steering and it seems to fail either if I leave the car on without the engine running with just the radio for about 5-10 mins, or sometimes when in traffic if the engine has been idling for a long time, when the temp gauge increases slightly (to about the 80 mark)

2 - the other day I had my headlights on when the power steering was about to fail and I noticed that when turning the wheel the headlights would dim when using the power steering before the power steering fully cut out.

3 - sometimes when the car is idling it kind of goes into a weird mode where the revs keep going between 5000 and 10000 with no touch of the accelerator, usually just before the power steering stops.

4 the battery in the car is at least 4 years old, we've had the vehicle for 4 years and we haven't changed the battery, it actually appears as if it's the original battery as its a GM battery and we can't find anywhere in the previous owners receipts a receipt for a new battery but there is receipts for everything else which if that's the case it means the battery was made in 2005 so is totally past it's use by date!

We did have the alternator replaced last year because that failed, we've got a 12v socket tester and that quite often shows the new alternator is overworking and the battery very quickly drops down into the yellow and red zones once the engine is off.

Also when using the 12v socket tester we've noticed that sometimes that causes the power steering to fail too if we're idling.

Awesome on February 10, 2018:

You have successfully educated me

celes on February 06, 2018:

am completely satisfied/ agree with the recommendations.. big thanks!!

ana on November 14, 2017:

You really helped me understand how to intelligently decide when repairs and replacement of my battery is needed. Can't wait to read more on other issues. Thanks!

GeorgeGray on September 04, 2017:

my 2002 ranger in park runs for 3 minutes an shuts off i have to jump start every time so i began to try an try one thing at a time i unplug the map it runs ok then loads up runs rough plug map in an truck goes dead if the alternator or battery are bad will truck shut off . could it be fuel filter any answers sure would help

Agnes Jilek-Keylor from West Caln, Chester County, Pa. on August 15, 2017:

This is a awesome article. I've looked all over for something like this. I've already put my question in. Just wanted you to know this is great.!!!

Agnes JilekKeylor on August 15, 2017:

I have a 2006 Chevy Silverado crew cab pickup. I bought it brand new. I've never replaced the battery, and also I haven't had any trouble with it at all. Is it okay to keep using it as long as I have no problems? The battery is a Delco with a 6 year battery life. My mechanic that inspects my truck tells me every year I'll need to replace the battery soon, but he's told me that for the past 5 years. What do you think I should do?

Denise on July 01, 2017:

My car will crank but won't stay on after I give it a jump. Please can anyone help me?

Do I need a new battery or not?

Roger on June 16, 2017:

Check out the electro plates in the battery ,low water level can damage the when charging .alot of parts places are limited to do thing likethat. We don't have full service gas stations anymore, maybe we should.

Aggie on March 08, 2017:

Battery light is going on and off . Then she just died . Got a boost to get it home and on the way she started losing power . Headlights dimmed and the car almost didn't make it back home. Now I've had to get it boosted 3 times in one day. Checked the alternator and it read 14 volts. Then battery was reading 12 volts . Not sure what is the problem. Any advice would be great thanks.

Christine A. Smilgius on January 18, 2017:

Last year my car has not been driven for 2 months because of hip surgery. It would not start. My son used battery cables and got it started. Because the battery was 8 years old, I decided to buy a new one. T his year same thing, had second hip replacement and now it was charged and driven by my granddaughter to a couple stores. Two weeks later, not driven, my son tried it and it was dead again. Do you think I need a new battery even though the battery is a year old? I drive a Honda but apparently it doesn't like to sit.

elfree on January 17, 2017:

I called roadside assistance to jump start my car. They were unable to get it started. employee said normally it works if its the battery. What else could it be. Cant remove the battery because it needs a special tool. I have a 95 caddie. Any ideas.

Aar Kay on December 22, 2016:


I have 2012 model SUV, and my mechanic told me last time, I need to replace my battery soon, but since it was working perfect without even a single glitch, I ignored it. Now, for almost a month I did not use my vehicle, as I had gone out of town, and when I returned I find that my vehicle is not starting with a battery indicator in the cluster. My question here is not about the battery itself. Along with this starting issue i noticed that my clutch pedal also sank down to floor and not coming up. So, my question is whether this could be due to dead battery or could this be a separate issue, primary or slave cylinder leakage..though I cannot find any oil stains on the floor and oil level is low but it is there..

Jahanzeb Abrar on December 21, 2016:

It was all really worth it information and it helped me a lot to make a decision for replacing my battery.

Thank you once again

Dii wai on November 29, 2016:

I have a1991 HT-1 80 series GLX wagon. It has 2 X 12 Volt batteries. I experience 2 probloems and I am confused.

1. All dashboard lights come on suddenly and remains illuminated until I turn off the key

2. When I turn on light, air con or signal, the speedo meter reads zero and radio turns off and vice versa when I do the opposite.

Please help as some say one of the batteries must be weak but I think I have an electric problem.

Jaya on October 22, 2016:

Hmmmmm... I bought a new Toyota Echo back at the end of 2002. It is now nearing the end of 2016. I've never replaced the original battery. I don't think I've EVER replaced a battery in any car I've owned, and I've been driving for over 40 years. But I've never owned a car as long as this little Echo, either. And even though it is 12 years old, it only has around 64,000 miles on it.

tee on September 07, 2016:

drive my car daily to work, took it for long weekend trip without problems. did not leave the lights on stopped to pick up item for 15 minutes and car wouldn't start. lights came on the dash board but only click click click... took a while to start?

Stacy Flit on August 13, 2016:

I did not notice it being mentioned but DC electrical connections which your car uses all need to be clean and tight. Battery terminals are the first and most important connections. Loose or dirty they will not supply the current needed to work correctly and the alternator will be summoned to run in order to charge (top off) the battery constantly. This leads to alternator failure. Jump starting is a bad idea and many who do this drive the vehicle to recharge the battery. IT DOES NOT CHARGE the battery. A dead battery must be charged with a battery charger, 2 amps for 12 or more hours. An unused battery should topped off with a charger every 5 days. Heat and cold are hard on batteries too.

The gray fluffy powder on battery terminals is acid from the battery's gases. Gas seeps from the gap between the plastic and terminal post hole. Place the green and the red felt pads you can buy where battery accessories are located, soaked with a little oil first over the terminal post and then attach clamps tightly. This will stop that powder from forming. If it is raining or damp out and the battery won't crank the engine check those terminals first. If the powder is present clean those terminals thoroughly and re-clamp them. Odds are the car will then start. Never ever put baking soda on a battery to clean it. Soda will get inside the battery and kill it. I promise you it will. No battery is sealed even though it says it is!

If you leave headlights on and drain the battery 2 3 or 4 times you might as well buy a new battery as full draining is damaging and you will be stranded soon and without warning. A jump start will not even help.

When buying a battery such as at Walmart, find the correct one and then check the battery sides for a sticker with numbers such as 8/16 which means it is made August 2016. If the date is more than 3 months past do not buy it. Get a fresh battery. And when installing it clamp it down tight in its tray. Vibrating and bouncing kill a battery.

Follow these practices and you will get the promised life from the battery and maybe more.

Stacy Flit on August 13, 2016:

I did not notice it being mentioned but DC electrical connections which your car uses all need to be clean and tight. Battery terminals are the first and most important connections. Loose or dirty they will not supply the current needed to work correctly and the alternator will be summoned to run in order to charge (top off) the battery constantly. This leads to alternator failure. Jump starting is a bad idea and many who do this drive the vehicle to recharge the battery. IT DOES NOT CHARGE the battery. A dead battery must be charged with a battery charger, 2 amps for 12 or more hours. An unused battery should topped off with a charger every 5 days. Heat and cold are hard on batteries too.

The gray fluffy powder on battery terminals is acid from the battery's gases. Gas seeps from the gap between the plastic and terminal post hole. Place the green and the red felt pads you can buy where battery accessories are located, soaked with a little oil first over the terminal post and then attach clamps tightly. This will stop that powder from forming. If it is raining or damp out and the battery won't crank the engine check those terminals first. If the powder is present clean those terminals thoroughly and re-clamp them. Odds are the car will then start. Never ever put baking soda on a battery to clean it. Soda will get inside the battery and kill it. I promise you it will. No battery is sealed even though it says it is!

If you leave headlights on and drain the battery 2 3 or 4 times you might as well buy a new battery as full draining is damaging and you will be stranded soon and without warning. A jump start will not even help.

When buying a battery such as at Walmart, find the correct one and then check the battery sides for a sticker with numbers such as 8/16 which means it is made August 2016. If the date is more than 3 months past do not buy it. Get a fresh battery. And when installing it clamp it down tight in its tray. Vibrating and bouncing kill a battery.

Follow these practices and you will get the promised life from the battery and maybe more.

Kim on June 20, 2016:

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 on June 16, 2016:

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

beth on May 11, 2016:

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 on May 11, 2016:

Thanks for the Post.

Bob on April 30, 2016:

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 on March 27, 2016:

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.

tyagugpt on March 21, 2016:

Thanks for the detailed procedure

Kevin Kioni from Kenya on March 05, 2016:


Bangladesh Page on March 02, 2016:

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.

Denis Lubojanski from 7 Station Street, London on March 02, 2016:

Nice post Carter. Really informative and useful notes that you have described. Last week I changed my battery fluid and it is still working fine. But now I can understand that why sometimes my engine cranks and makes a delay to start.

Jan-Erik from Tampere on February 20, 2016:

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 from South Florida on February 19, 2016:

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!

Sourav Rana on February 14, 2016:

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?

James Smith on February 09, 2016:

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

Raghavendra on February 08, 2016:

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.

Wrench Wench (author) from Seattle on January 22, 2016:

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 =)

Antonio fisioterapeuta from Madrid on January 21, 2016:

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

Marilyn from Nevada on January 20, 2016:

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.

Richard from USA on January 19, 2016:


SolveMyMaze on January 17, 2016:

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 Sekhar Biswal from Bhubaneswar, Odisha on January 17, 2016:

Good article..very nice

Lukiz Tsjzi on January 16, 2016:

Very useful information, i must say.

Samuel Smart from United States on January 11, 2016:

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 on January 11, 2016:

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 from Indonesia on January 06, 2016:

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.

Wrench Wench (author) from Seattle on January 06, 2016:

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 on January 06, 2016:

it very well could be a faulty battery

PoggyDobby from Probably Earth on January 04, 2016:

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 from Southwestern, United States on December 29, 2015:

This is very useful, thanks for sharing!

Jonah Engler from New York, NY on December 17, 2015:

Great tips thanks! ;)

Emily Lantry from Tennessee on December 17, 2015:

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.

infinitesoftech on December 17, 2015:

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.

Tammy Winters from Oregon on December 10, 2015:

Very Helpful Article... Thanks for Sharing.

John from San Diego, Ca. on December 08, 2015:

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 on December 07, 2015:

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 on December 07, 2015:


KingdomCome from those of the Ecclesia on December 07, 2015:

Interesting. Good info to know.

CateHolt on November 29, 2015:

This is extremely helpful thankyou very much!

TANJIM ARAFAT SAJIB from Bangladesh on November 29, 2015:

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.

UmiNoor from Malaysia on November 26, 2015:

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.

Dianna Mendez on November 25, 2015:

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.

Joko Santoso from Jl husain sastranegara komplek duta gardenia blok b6/2-3 Jurumudi baru Tangerang on November 23, 2015:

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.

Agnes on November 21, 2015:

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

Hezekiah from Japan on November 12, 2015:

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 on November 11, 2015:

great article

Cheryl Simonds from Connecticut on November 11, 2015:

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

harold withers from usa on November 10, 2015:

nice hub

viprak web solution from Surat,Gujarat on November 06, 2015:

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

Great ....

BatteryBhai from Delhi on November 04, 2015:

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

Jeremiah from Mars on November 01, 2015:

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 from Memphis, TN on October 28, 2015:

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 on October 28, 2015:

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 from Michigan on October 26, 2015:

Good read.

carlos on October 23, 2015:

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 on October 18, 2015:

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

poetryman6969 on October 17, 2015:

Useful tips. Thanks.

Angela on October 08, 2015:

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 on October 08, 2015:

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 Guides from USA on October 07, 2015:

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

aHmEd on October 07, 2015:

good a hub :)

Ms Quick from Fayetteville, NC on October 07, 2015:

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

Linda Robinson from Cicero, New York on October 06, 2015:

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

David Edward Lynch from Port Elizabeth, South Africa on October 02, 2015:

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 on September 26, 2015:

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 on September 13, 2015:

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 on August 17, 2015:

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 on August 02, 2015:

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 on July 08, 2015:

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 on June 30, 2015:

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 on June 14, 2015:

Useful info.

Olivia on June 02, 2015:


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 on May 29, 2015:

Nice hubs, thanks for sharing all this information.

Antonio Westley from New York on May 28, 2015:

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 on May 20, 2015:

Parasitic Drain Remains a simple but yet complex problem.

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