If you’re like most Americans, then you will probably wait until your car battery is completely dead before you change it. This approach, which has been seen ever since batteries were invented, is definitely not the safest one. A survey of 1,000 drivers, sponsored by Eric’s Car Care, showed that 53% of the group waited until they were stranded by a dead battery and then had to call for roadside assistance.
Here at Eric’s Car Care, we get a lot of calls for dead batteries. Or customers asking us “how do I know if my car battery is almost dead?”. And more often than not, the battery is already dead.
While a battery is a simple, relatively inexpensive device, it is essential. If it doesn’t work, you aren’t going anywhere. So it pays to check your battery regularly and replace it BEFORE it dies.
Below is a list of signs your car battery is dead or close to dying:
#1 Engine cranks, but doesn’t start
If your engine cranks or turns over when you turn the key, but it won’t start, your battery is most likely the problem. There is a chance it could be your starter, but 94% of the time, it’s really your battery, even if the car is cranking fairly forcefully. And although your car battery tester says your battery is good, it can still be a few volts shy of what your vehicle needs to run efficiently.
A short-term fix would be to get your car battery “jumped”. Jump starting your battery back to life with jumper cables will get your vehicle back to running again. If you do not have cables, it is recommended that you get some so you can ask for assistance and receive sufficient voltage from another persons vehicle.
#2 No sign of life anywhere
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 should be the first thing you look at.
Chances are your alternator could be involved in this issue. However, 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 Your Car Starts Perfectly Fine One Day, Then The Next It Doesn’t
If starting your vehicle is an “off again on again” problem, it’s a sign that either your battery terminals are loose, broken, corroded, or calcified or that you have a parasitic draw. 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.
#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”.
Therefore it is not surprising that an early indication that your battery is reaching its last cranks is that you are regularly putting extra energy into starting the vehicle.
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. So in the cold, you may have to be patient. But, if your car doesn’t go back to reliable “cold” crank when the weather warms up, you’ll want to get a new battery within the next three months.
#5 You’ve Jumped It Too Many Times Already
A golden rule one should live by, no matter what reason you had to 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– IF YOU JUMP YOUR VEHICLE MORE THAN THREE TIMES IN A SINGLE WEEK, IT’S TIME TO REPLACE YOUR BATTERY.
You may think that 3 times is a low number and it’s unnecessary to go ahead and purchase a brand new battery. But from our experience one of the most common things we 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.
Do yourself a favor and get a new battery after that third jump. You won’t regret it.
Have a Question?
Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read into this problem we see so often. We encourage you to swing by Eric’s Car Care if you feel you are going through any vehicle problems. Please, if you need more immediate information or advice feel free to give us a call!