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My Car Battery is Dead!

by Eddie Carrara

It happens all the time, the car battery is dead, and I need to get to work! How can you tell if your vehicle's battery is getting weak? What are the signs of a weak battery? Should I buy a cheap battery for my car just to get by? Batteries are the heartbeat of the digital age. Would you buy cheap batteries for your camera right before going on vacation, or would you buy batteries that last?

It happens all the time, the car battery is dead, and I need to get to work! How can you tell if your vehicle's battery is getting weak? What are the signs of a weak battery? Should I buy a cheap battery for my car just to get by? Batteries are the heartbeat of the digital age. Would you buy cheap batteries for your camera right before going on vacation, or would you buy batteries that last?

A fully charged battery in your vehicle should hold a charge for hours, even with the car doors open, the radio on, and the interior lights. One of the biggest mistakes people make when cleaning their car is they listen to the radio. Listening to the car radio isn't the problem so much as having the ignition in the run position instead of the auxiliary position. 

Usually, when the key in the run position, all the instrument panel warning lights are on, the blower motor runs, the ac fan is on, and you don't even realize it. If you're going to listen to the radio while cleaning your vehicle, turn the key to accessory, not run!

A fully charged battery should last at least 30 minutes, even if the key is in the run position. However, it's still not a good idea to have the key in the run position because of all the other electrical items drawing electricity from your battery. 

If you happen to kill your battery in this way, it is possible to have it changed back to its original state, but you took some valuable hours of life from your battery. I recommend trickle charging it for at least 8 hours and then doing another battery test to verify it's OK. If you need to test your battery, it's best to load it with a handheld tester like the testers shown below. 

Or a professional series tester found at your local garage. Either way, load testing will provide you with vital information about your battery's capacity and charge level.

Why is My Battery Light On?

I'm not sure why car manufacturers put a battery warning light on the dash. It will never illuminate when your battery is dying or even when your battery is dead. The battery light is for the alternator, not the battery. 

If your battery light comes on, it's because your alternator is either overcharging, undercharging, or not charging at all. Several components cause the battery warning light to illuminate, for example, the ELD (electrical load detector) voltage regulator, blown fuses, or a bad wire harness. However, it still leads to the alternator not charging as designed. 

If your battery light is on and your engine turns over, have it checked as soon as possible. The vehicle's battery will hold a charge for a while. Still, it's temporary, especially if you're using the radio, heater, wipers, and headlights. The battery will drain quickly and leave you stranded, so don't wait to have the battery checked if the warning light is on. If it's on, get it checked ASAP!

Signs of a Weak Car Battery

So how can you tell your vehicle's battery is getting weak? The most common symptom is a slow engine crank. When you start to hear the engine in your car crank slowly, have the battery checked right away. The motor draws a lot of amperage from the battery during start-up. That's why the slow crank is the most common symptom. 

Another symptom is if you leave your map light overnight, and your car battery is dead by morning. If you didn't shut your door completely and the interior light (one light only. Most cars today have multiple lights) drained the car battery overnight. If the battery is in good condition and fully charged, it should last overnight with one small light burning. If it's dead by morning, it's a sign your battery is getting weak.

Some old-style automotive batteries have an indicator on the top of the battery. If the battery has a sufficient charge, the indicator will be green. If it has a low charge, the indicator will be black. If the indicator is black, I recommend charging the battery with a battery charger, don't just have your battery jump-started and hope your alternator does the job for you. I recommend charging the battery with a battery charger until the indicator changes back to green, then test the battery with a handheld battery tester like the one above or have the battery charged and tested professionally to avoid a dead battery.

Recycle Your Car Battery

If you replace your car's battery yourself, please do not throw it in the trash. Battery acid is very harmful to the environment and to anything it touches, so be mind full before tossing it. Recycle your batteries, bring it to any auto parts store or garage, and ask if they can recycle it for you.

Keeping your Batteries Charged

If you own more than one vehicle, and it happens to sit for long periods between rides, consider buying a battery tender. A battery tender will keep a trickle charge on the car battery while it's not in use. Tenders will keep the battery fully charged and will extend the life of your batteries. Everyday use for battery tenders is on recreational vehicles like boats, motor homes, four-wheelers, motorcycles, etc.

My motorcycle battery was dead every spring, I would charge it, which would be suitable for the summer. The only problem, I was replacing the battery every two years. I never wanted to spend $40 on a battery tender but yet I would replace the battery for $80 every two years, was that stupid or what? I haven't replaced my motorcycle battery in over five years now, and my battery has never left me stranded. Now I have battery tenders for my boat, lawnmower, and four-wheelers, so keep it charged!

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