Charging or changing a car battery?
Your car’s battery is one of its most important components. No matter the vehicle, and whatever its condition, if the battery is dead, you aren’t going anywhere. For this reason, it is important to know how to properly diagnose and resolve potential battery issues, to be prepared should they arise.
If you turn your key and the engine either clicks or nothing happens at all, you may be looking at a car battery problem.
All batteries naturally degrade in their ability to maintain a charge as they are used over time. Generally, under normal conditions, a car’s battery should function adequately for approximately four years. Certain factors, such as repeated short commutes, regularly high ambient temperatures, or heavy energy usage from peripheral electronic devices such as GPS units or cellular phone chargers can reduce the effective life of your battery even further. A dead battery does not necessarily require replacement, however. It is best to test your battery’s ability to hold a charge before spending money on new equipment.
Testing your battery
The first step in identifying a potential car battery issue is determining whether the battery is simply depleted, or incapable of holding a charge at all. The simplest way to test this on your own is to supply the battery with an outside source of energy, either from a self-contained charging unit, or by connecting your vehicle to another car with a set of jumper cables. Once sufficient charge has been supplied, attempt to start your car again.
If the engine starts, run the vehicle for a few minutes, or take it for a short drive to allow your car to charge its battery further, and then turn off the engine and attempt to start it again. If the vehicle runs normally, it’s likely that your battery’s charge was simply depleted, and the problem may be solved. However, if at any point during these tests your vehicle fails to start, you may have a more serious problem on your hands.
Your car still won’t start. What now?
If your car fails to start even after the battery has been charged, it’s possible that the battery is no longer capable of storing sufficient energy to start your engine. There are a myriad of other issues that could also plague your vehicle at this point, however, so it may be wise to simply take the car to a technician to have the battery tested, along with other components. If you feel confident that the battery is to blame, replacing it is a fairly straightforward procedure.
Replacing the battery
First, check your owner’s manual for the appropriate battery type to ensure you purchase the correct battery for your car. Be sure your vehicle is not running, then locate the car battery (your owner’s manual may be helpful in this as well). With a wrench or a pair of pliers, loosen the nut around the negative (black) cable and remove it from the battery, then do the same with the positive (red) cable.
If there is a restraint securing the battery in place, remove that as well. Inspect the battery for any cracks or leakage, as the acid inside the battery is very hazardous. If the battery is undamaged, remove it from the engine, and clean the tray of any corrosion before inserting the new battery. Once in place, reinstall any restraining devices before reattaching the cables. If the cable connections are corroded, you should clean them with a mixture of baking soda and water and a wire brush before reattaching the cables to the new battery.