What Caused Your Car Battery to Die? Diagnose a Dead Car Battery

Remember how you feel when you could not start your car engine due to a drained battery?

I’m sure you do not want to face such moments in the future. You take good care of your car, but do not understand how the battery drained so early compared to others. Right?

Well, that is what I’m here to tell you about.

You can actually make your battery lasts longer than what you are getting. And for that, you will need to know the reasons why your car battery keeps dying.

Then, you will be able to take care of those things that kill the battery and make the battery last longer.

So, let’s see what are the reasons that make a battery die faster and some ways to diagnose a dead battery.

7 Reasons Why Car Batteries Die

There are several reasons why car batteries die. However, your car battery might have one reason or a couple of them that made the battery fully drained.

1. Old Battery

If you are using the battery for more than 3 to 4 years, it is time to change the battery. Old batteries are not capable of holding charges which make them incapable to supply enough current to the cars.

Usually, a car battery functions well for about 2 and a half years if there is no other complication. And if the battery is maintained poorly, you might look for a replacement early.

2. Faulty Alternator

An alternator is a part that charges your battery when you drive and keep it in optimal form. When a faulty alternator powers lights, air conditioner, radio, it will drain the battery rapidly. The common reasons why an alternator can malfunction are loosen belts, worn out tensioners.

So, if your battery is draining pretty much every other day, check if the condition of the alternator is good.

3. Multiple Short Drives

Multiple short drives also affect your car battery. What I mean by multiple drives is, starting your car and driving for a while and then turning off the engine and starting the engine again, and keep repeating it.

When you start the engine, the ignition system gets power from the battery. And the battery needs to supply a lot of power to the ignition system and puts a heavy strain on the battery.

If you repeatedly keep starting and stopping the engine, then the alternator will not get enough time to recharge the battery fully, and it will weaken the battery as well. Next time you start the engine; it will be not be so easy.

4. Weather Facts

The worst enemy of your car battery is the weather. Both extreme hot and cold weather can ruin your battery rapidly. If the temperature exceeds 100 degrees or comes down below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, know that both are killing weather for your battery.

Furthermore, if you drive your car in such temperatures, and start and stop the engine frequently, it will take longer than usual to start while harming the battery pretty badly.

5. Loose Battery Cables

Sometimes, the cars do not start the engine due to its poor connections. If the cables are not tight, and terminals have acidic corrosion and dirt on it, the engine does not start. In result, your battery becomes weak day by day.

Therefore, periodically check those connections and tighten them if you find any loose connections. If there are dirt and acidic corrosion on the terminals, use a toothbrush to clean them.

Also Read: Use Good Quality Coax Cable

6. Parasitic Drain

Your car battery supplies low volt current to power the clock, A/C, radio and alarm system even when the engine is stopped. That is why parasitic drain happens to some extent which is normal.

But, the battery goes through extreme parasitic drain if there are faulty wiring, wrong installation of accessories and defective fuses. This draining is quite serious as it keeps on draining the battery all the time. Therefore, fix extreme parasitic drain to save your battery from dying.

7. Human Error

Car owners have done this couple of times. Remember the last time you left your car’s headlights on and forgot to close the trunk and in the morning found the car is not starting?

Therefore, before leaving the car, make sure headlights, internal lights, radio, A/C, trunk and other things that use the battery, are turned off. Do not let the battery pay the price for your mistake.

Early Signs that Your Car Battery is About to Die

Car batteries do not die all of a sudden in most cases. If anything critical is going on with the battery, it will show signs before your unawareness kills it. You must know these signs to make your battery last a little bit longer.

1. Difficult to Start

It is okay if you find your car difficult to start once in a while. But if you struggle every single time to start the engine, that is indicating there is something wrong with the battery.

Do not get confused with hard starts caused by a sensor issue or fouled spark plugs. When it is hard to start the engine without any mechanical issue, it is surely for the draining or weak battery.

2. Lights Flicker

Have you ever faced the situation with your cat at night when suddenly headlights were flickering and fixed automatically?

It happens it the battery is drained. The instrument panel also dims at night if the battery is unable to supply sufficient power.

That happens because all your accessories in the car are powered by the battery alone. And if there is anything wrong with the battery, or it does not have enough juice to power all the accessories, then you will notice such activities from different accessories.

If the lights are working, but the engine does not start, then it is may be due to some technical problem.

3. Poor Alarm System

Cars that are equipped with an immobilizer or an alarm system, if the alarm system chirp on those cars gets weaker, or it is the central lock, all the signs of a defective battery.

Signs During Different Stages

A Dying battery shows signs before you start the engine, during the startup and when you drive the car. Based on these three stages, let’s have a look on how a dying battery behaves.

1. Pre-Startup

  • No matter what direction you turn the key to, there will be no lights, gauges, no electrical response whatsoever.
  • You will need to jump the battery more than 3 times a week. Sometimes, it can even be 5 times.
  • The battery will die if you let the car sit idle for about 30 minutes. It can be 15 minutes sometimes.
  • There is problem with starter andor alternator, even though you replaced it already.

2. During Startup

  • If there is an issue with the battery, your car will take up to 3 turns to start the engine. And it can be quite tiring for you. It does not feel good after trying for 3 times and all you get is the click sound from the engine.
  • Before starting the engine, lights of the accessories flicker and dim.
  • During winter season, the situation is even tiring and tough to start the engine. You will need to sit for long periods to finally roll the wheels.
  • During startup, accessories belt squeals concisely.

3. While Driving

  • During traffic stops, the car idles mildly roughly.
  • Radio, A/C, and other accessories shut off suddenly.
  • Accessories belt squeals when you drive up hills, or during hauling.
  • When you accelerate the car, lights of the accessories blinks or dims all of a sudden.

Diagnose Draining Using a Multimeter

You can also run an easy diagnosis at your home with a multimeter. It is a device that shows how much current is leaving at any given time. You can get this device just for 20 bucks.

Now, attach the multimeter to the negative post of your car battery and see what appears on the screen. If the device shows over 25 mAh, then the battery is draining somewhere.

Open us the fuse box and remove all the fuses until the device shows below 25 mAh. Now, you should be able to determine what is wrong with the battery.

How Long Does a Car Battery Last?

Typically, a car battery does not last long more than three years. Depending on the condition, it can be even less. However, there are some facts regarding how long a car battery last that you should know.

Here they are:

  • The maximum life expectancy of car batteries is two to three years, even if the manufacturer says the battery will last five years. So, if someone sells you a battery saying it has a "super long life," you should ask for a receipt for the warranty purpose.
  • Therefore, even if the condition of the battery is good, you have to replace after every two to three years.
  • The alternator, solenoid, starter, battery terminals, cables can affect the lifespan of your battery as well. Make sure they are okay under all condition.
  • If the battery is old and it does not show any signs of its age or runs without any issue, still you should not be relaxed thinking that you can run this battery for one additional year. Consider changing the old battery before a problem starts.
  • If the weather in the area you live in is extremely cold, and you overlook the maintenance part of your battery, you will need to change the battery more often than usual. So, you better take care of your battery before it gets worse.

Battery Maintenance Tips

If you want to use the best out of your car battery, you need to ensure that you take good care of it. Below are my top suggestions for maintaining your battery so that it can last longer.

  • 1
    Keep the battery always in a clean state, free of dirt, grime, and dry.
  • 2
    Inspect screws, clamps, the terminals, and cables for any breakage or lose connections. Keep them well tight and free from corrosion.
  • 3
    Moisture the posts and cable connections with a thin layer of high-temperature grease for further protection.
  • 4
    Also, inspect the case and look for any signs of damaging. If you find any damage spot on the case, it is due to overcharge. Consider replacing the battery soon.
  • 5
    When you are about to charge the battery, make sure caps are within the space.
  • 6
    Before charging the battery, fill it with distilled water. It will narrow the space for accumulating the gas.
  • 7
    Prevent the chance of catching fires by placing a wet cloth over the caps before charging.
  • 8
    Move any flammable gas or liquid to another space while charging.
  • 9
    Connect the charger to an AC socket after connecting to the terminals. It will prevent sparking to produce.
  • 10
    Do not keep any metal objects over the battery.
  • 11
    For removing corroded material, rock the charger clips with the terminals. Corroded material can create high resistance and make the terminals overheat and reduce charging flow. 
  • 12
    Avoid wearing any bangles or metal while handling the charger. It tends to burn your hands.
  • 13
    Always use a transformer based charger. Make sure you remove clips after the AC plug is removed from the socket.

Final Words

When it comes to the battery of your car, you should not overlook its condition. The car itself and other accessories depends on the battery to function properly. Make sure you take good care of the battery by avoiding doing things that drain the battery most.

If you see any symptoms of dying battery, consider replacing the battery as soon as possible.

Or, you might be in a situation when you need to go to a place on time, and your car is not starting. The situation will be worse if you are away from home in the middle of nowhere.

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