Have you ever been in a situation when your car won’t start, although it has been running just fine before that? To make things worse, this tends to happen when you are in a hurry and need your car to get somewhere. Besides being frustrating on its own, this is an issue that can sometimes be hard to track down. Still, it is important to remember that one of the most common causes of a car that won’t start is a dead battery. This is relatively simple and inexpensive to repair, but it is important to confirm the actual source of the problem first. To help you with that, in this article, we will explain how to find out if the problem is actually battery-related as well as how to start a car when the battery is dead and fix everything so it doesn’t happen again.
What Are the Most Common Symptoms of A Dead Battery?
Because the battery stores electrical charge while your car isn’t running, various electrical systems won’t work when it goes bad. If there is no charge in it at all, nothing will happen when you turn the key. In a situation like this, even simple things like stereo or interior lights won’t work and your car will seem dead. Although a dead battery is a likely cause of this issue, the problem can also be related to other electrical components.
However, the more common scenario is that the starter motor will turn very slowly at first. Sometimes, dashboard lights will gradually dim and you will hear clicking sounds coming from the engine bay. This is the sound that the starter solenoid makes when there’s not enough power to engage it.
When it happens, it’s a definite sign that the battery power output is too low to power the starter. If you are lucky, the engine might start after a couple of tries but it’s very unlikely. And, even if you have started your car like this, the battery will still need to be inspected.
On the other hand, a failing starter also requires more amps to do its job. If the starter on your car is kinda old, the same symptoms could occur. In that case, you’ll need an amp output tester to test it. More info on that here.
How to Start A Car With A Dead Battery?
Based on the experience of many car owners, batteries usually go bad in the worst possible moment. Although simple, replacing the battery still takes some time. And to go buy a new car battery, you’ll also need a functional car. Because of this, borrowing electrical charge from another source is the only thing you can do when in a hurry. One of the most common and widespread methods is using another vehicle to jumpstart your car. This simple procedure only requires a pair of jumper cables and a running car as a source of electricity. However, there are several important steps you must follow to prevent any damage while doing this.
For a start, park the car with a good battery next to your car and open the hood. Next, find the battery and identify positive and negative terminals. Connect positive posts of both batteries with both ends of the red jumper cable. Then connect the black clamp to the negative terminal on the good battery. To finish the preparation, look for an unpainted piece of the vehicle’s chassis and secure the remaining black clamp to it. The alternator bracket or the front strut mounts will also work fine. Lastly, start the functional car, let it run for several minutes, and start the second car. If it starts, disconnect the cables while making sure the clamps don’t touch at any time.
However, there are situations where using jumper cables is not an option. You may not have access to another working car, or lining it up next to each other might be impossible. These are just some scenarios in which a booster pack will prove as a very helpful tool. In essence, a booster pack is a powerful and portable battery with built-in jumper cables. All you have to do is connect the cables in the same way you would do when jump-starting your car (red = positive, black = negative). Once done, just turn the ignition key and voila!
What to do Once I Have Started My Car?
After successfully starting up the car, you’ll still have to determine what caused the battery to go flat if you don’t want it to happen again. You could always keep starting your car every morning using a booster pack but that wouldn’t be really convenient.
There’s a wide array of conditions and problems that may drain the battery. For instance, several systems draw current from the battery even when the car is off. Over time, this alone can drain enough electricity so there isn’t enough to start the car. This usually happens if you leave your car sitting on the driveway for a week or more. And if you accidentally leave the stereo or lights on, your battery might be dead in only a few hours.
Another frequent problem is when the alternator stops working. The alternator is the main component of the charging system and its job is to produce the current needed to power the various accessories but also to recharge the battery. Once the alternator goes bad, it won’t be able to charge the battery correctly and it would cause the exact same symptoms as a dead battery.
Another thing to remember is that all batteries will wear out with time, no matter how durable they may be. When this happens, it will lose the ability to hold enough charge overnight. Although adding distilled water or cleaning traces of corrosion may sometimes help, in most cases you will need a new battery. To avoid unnecessary expenses and further breakdowns, we recommend you test the whole electrical system before blaming the battery.
To test the condition of the battery and the charging system, you will need to measure voltages using a multimeter. This is a simple procedure that reveals a lot about the overall shape of your car’s charging system. With the engine off, start by measuring the battery voltage. A reading between 12 and 12.6 Volts will show that the battery is in good shape and holds its charge. Next, repeat the measuring procedure with the engine running. If the alternator is in good shape, you should see a value between 13 and 14.5 Volts. Anything readings that are below or above these values are a telltale sign of a charging system related problem. Now turn on every car accessory you can — headlights, defrost, heater blower, etc. If the reading goes below 13V, your alternator might be getting weak.
Unfortunately, while this test will give you a pretty good idea of the overall state of your car’s charging system, it barely covers it. If you want to learn more about the complete in-depth procedure to correctly test an alternator, check this post here.
To Sum it Up
As we explained in this article, battery-related problems are one of the most common cause of no crank/no start conditions. This can be very frustrating, especially if it happens when you are in a hurry. In such situations, you can always use jumper cables or a booster pack to get your car running again. However, this is only a temporary solution and you should determine what caused the battery to go dead as soon as possible. Always remember that, when in doubt, you should always ask a trustworthy auto mechanic for advice.