No one wants to get stranded with a dead battery. Fortunately, batteries are considerate enough to offer plenty of warning signs before their impending deaths. By heeding red flags that your car battery is about to go kaput, you can avoid an inconvenient and even potentially dangerous situation.
Listen to Your Engine Upon Startup
When you drive a car regularly, you become accustomed to the sounds it makes at startup. Consequently, you can detect unusual noises, such as clicking or excessive cranking, that indicate your battery is dying or already dead.
Clicking is basically your battery flatlining. Once you turn your key in the ignition, a fully functioning battery sends an electrical current to the starter to get the engine going. Rapid clicking indicates that your battery does not have enough volts to enable your starter to engage with the engine.
You should hear a repetitive noise, known as cranking, while the starter tries to connect with the engine. This happens for just a moment or two until your engine turns over and begins to run on its own. If cranking persists or sounds forceful and your engine fails to start, this is a telltale sign that your battery is on the fritz.
Note that in cold weather, it’s normal for your engine to take longer to start, particularly if it’s a cold crank, which is the first time of the day that you start your car. This is because batteries have reduced power when temperatures drop below freezing. Extended cold-cranking should resolve when the weather warms up, but if it doesn’t, it’s time for a car battery replacement.
Dashboard Lights Are Illuminated
When your dashboard lights come on, but your car won’t start, your battery has enough juice to power the electrical components but not your starter. Get out the jumper cables and head to an auto shop.
Glitches With Electrical Components
Many car parts and accessories, from headlights to seats, are powered by electricity. If any of these malfunctions, have your battery tested.
Though this may seem pretty obvious, if nothing lights up and your engine won’t start, a failed battery is likely the main culprit. Your alternator is probably also contributing to the problem, so have both parts checked out.
On-and-Off Issues With Starting
As batteries age, their ability to hold a charge declines. If you find yourself repeatedly jumping your car, it’s time to bite the bullet and get a new battery. Otherwise, you’re just prolonging the inevitable.
Corrosion or Film
Blue fluff or a clear film on and around your battery means it’s emitting acidic or leaking battery acid. Neither is helpful, so catch these conditions early by periodically popping your hood to inspect the battery.
You’ve Had Your Battery for Awhile
Most batteries, such as the 2006 Chevy Cobalt battery, have a lifespan of three to five years. If your battery is past the date noted on its case, it’s only a matter of time before it needs to be replaced.
Being able to jumpstart your car is useful, but it’s only a temporary fix. Pay attention to warning signs so you can get a replacement before your battery completely dies.