What to Do When Your Car Battery Dies?
When you're stuck on the side of the road with a dead car battery, it can be frustrating trying to figure out what to do next. Should you call for roadside assistance? Should you get back in your car and turn the ignition, even though it's obvious that nothing's going to happen? What if you have no cellphone service or cellphones are prohibited by your car insurance company? In this article, we answer all of those questions and more, providing tips on how to handle a dead car battery safely and efficiently, so you can get back on the road quickly and easily.
1. Getting to know the signs
If your battery is two or more years old, it may be time for a replacement. There are several things you can look for to help predict when your battery might die and how long it will last. If you notice any of these signs, chances are good that you'll need a new one within six months. Here are some warning signs:
- The Check Engine light comes on: This light is usually located in your dashboard near other lights like check oil and door open. It could also be on top of your dash by your windshield if you have an older car. The purpose of this light is to alert you that there is a problem with your engine. If it turns on, take your vehicle into a shop as soon as possible because there could be serious damage under the hood.
- You hear weird noises coming from under your hood: A clicking sound means something isn't working properly; metal grinding against metal means something has come loose; squealing indicates friction between moving parts. Any unusual noise coming from under your hood should send up red flags.
- Your vehicle won't start: If your car won't turn over, it could mean that your battery is dead. Don't get out and push!
- Your headlights seem dimmer than usual: If they seem unusually dim or don't turn on at all, check to see if you have enough juice left in your battery.
- You smell rotten eggs inside your car: Rotten egg smell means sulfur dioxide gas is being released from your battery.
- You see white smoke coming from your exhaust pipe: White smoke means you probably have water in your fuel system.
- Your car starts but doesn't run well: If your engine runs but doesn't work properly (for example, it keeps stalling), then it could be due to a bad battery.
- You have trouble turning on accessories such as power windows and radio.
- Your dome light stays on after you shut off your car.
2. Check the fuses
Before you call a tow truck or jumpstart your car, it's a good idea to make sure that your vehicle is suffering from an electrical problem and not just a dead battery. Fuses are usually found under the hood in one of two places: passenger side, near steering column; driver side, toward rear of car. Open your fuse box cover and check each fuse. If you see one blown out (burned), replace it with another fuse of similar amperage. Now try starting your engine again.
3. Connect another device
You could use jumper cables and bring another car over, but if you don't have a friend with jumper cables or a second car, there are other ways. A portable car battery booster is basically an external power source that provides up to 200 amps of power (that's four times as much as most jump-starters) in order to recharge a dead battery. It's very simple—just connect one end of the charger to your battery and then another device on which you want juice.
4. Charge the dead battery
If your car won't start, don't try jumping it or charging it just yet. Step one is finding out if you even have a dead battery in need of a jump. First turn on your lights; if they're dimmer than usual and don't go up any brighter when you step on your brakes, chances are you have a dead battery and will need help getting it going again.
5. Try jumpstarting
One option for reviving a dead battery is jumpstarting it, which involves using another car to supply power and get your engine started. If you have access to another vehicle, park both cars close together, with their hoods facing each other.
Turn off all accessories in both vehicles—radio, lights, etc.—and make sure that they're not touching one another. Connect one end of a jumper cable to an exposed metal surface on one of your car's batteries (the positive terminal) and then connect the other end of that cable to an exposed metal surface on your friend's car (the negative terminal). Repeat these steps with a second set of jumper cables connected from your friend's positive terminal to yours.
6. Call for help
If you're stranded in a dead zone, call for help. Whether it's AAA or a mobile phone mechanic service, there are always ways out of a dead-battery situation. Don't try to jump start your car unless you know exactly what you're doing—and even then, it's not 100% safe. Have someone who knows how jump your battery instead.