What to Do If Your Car Battery is Dead

As someone who has had a wide array of older vehicles, a dead car battery is nothing new to me. However, now that I’m older and down to one sensible family vehicle, there’s nothing more frustrating than getting in my car, turning the key, and…nothing. Luckily, I’ve seen my fair share of dead batteries, but it’s always a good idea to review the basics. Here’s what to do if your car battery dies:

Jump Start

You’ll need a pair of jumper cables and an additional, running car to give your dead battery a boost. Get a friend or family member to pull their car alongside yours, then open the hoods of both cars. First, connect the positive cable to the positive terminal of the dead battery, then do the same for the live battery in the other car. Next, attach the negative cable to the negative terminal of the good battery, and connect the negative side to the frame or the engine of the car with the dead battery. Start the good car and let it run for a couple of minutes before attempting to start the dead battery. If it was as easy as a drained battery, your car should start now, no problem!

Do a Battery Maintenance Check

Now that your car is running, it’s time to take a few moments and assess the health of your battery. If your battery died because you left the lights on, it’s probably fine. However, if your battery has been dying fairly often, it may be time for a new one. Look under the hood and check for corrosion on the terminals, cracks, leaking, and the electrolyte levels.

Think About Replacing It

It’s time to break out the fancy car diagnostic tools! Check your battery using a voltmeter and a hydrometer. Use a voltmeter while the car is off to find the voltage between the two terminals. A normal reading is between 12.6 volts and 12.8 volts. Stick the hydrometer into the electrolyte cells to measure the sulfuric acid concentration. It should read around 1.215 to 1.28. If your numbers are too low, it’s time to get a new battery.

Finally, if your car battery dies frequently, maybe you should think about it, it may just be time to get yourself a new car.

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