What do we do when we find out that car batteries die? When you try to start your engine and only to realize – “That’s it. My battery died.” Even when we know that one can indeed jumpstart a vehicle oneself, we still call a mechanic and patiently wait for our savior. It’s a convenient option, but not always an available one. Picture yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere, with a limited supply of water, without a stable phone connection and without any idea of how close the nearest mechanic is or how to start a dead car. Even when that is very unlikely to happen to you, it’s still best to know what to do when your car battery dies.
If we want to understand this issue fully, it makes sense to know why car batteries die in the first place. Here are the top 5 reasons:
There are a few ways how to know if your car battery is dead or soon to die. These symptoms, however, may have alternative causes like faulty wires or fuses. Keep that in mind and only assume that you have a dead battery if you spot several symptoms at once. Here’s what happens when a car battery dies:
The first apparent solution upon the realization that “my battery died” is, of course, to charge it. However, this may turn out too time-consuming, especially when you need to drive somewhere now. Usually, cells hold 48 amps. A usual charger gives 2-4 amps per hour, so you’ll need about 24 hours to charge your car fully. There are also industrial chargers that can do the job in “only” 12 hours. As you can see, a jumpstart is a more immediate solution.
Park any working car so that it faces the one that needs jumpstarting with a jump starter. Naturally, they must not touch each other; the ultimate distance between them is 18 inches. If a car has a manual transmission, set it to neutral; for automatic transmission – parking. This applies to both cars involved.
Both cars must be entirely off: lights, radio, etc. Remove the keys, too. Lay jumper cables on the ground. Make sure that their clams don’t touch each other.
Open both cars’ hoods. Find the batteries and their terminals; if you can’t find them at once, look it up in the manual. Usually, the terminals will be red and black and/or have a plus and a minus written on them. If there are no plus-minus signs and you’re not sure which one is positive and which one is negative, refer to the manual. If there are signs of corrosion (or any other dirt) on the terminals, carefully wipe them with a dry cloth or a wire brush.
The red cable clamp usually stands for positive. Connect it to the positive (red/plus) terminal of the car out of battery. While connecting, wiggle the clamp a bit to adjust it solidly.
On the other side of the jump cable, connect the red clamp to the red/plus terminal of the working car’s battery. Adjust it solidly.
On the same side of the jumper cable as in the previous step, connect the black clamp to the black/minus terminal of the working car’s cell. Adjust it solidly.
As you walk back to a dead vehicle, do NOT connect the remaining black clamp to the receiver car unit’s black/minus terminal. Instead, to ensure a safe and successful jumpstart, connect it to a neutral nut or bolt. There should be a shiny, unpainted part on an engine block for this purpose. Adjust it solidly.
Ignite the working car and wait. Depending on batteries’ age and capacity, the waiting time may be anywhere between a few seconds and 1-2 minutes.
Upon your waiting, try igniting the car out of battery. It should start. If it doesn’t, wait for another minute or two and try again.
If the dead auto still doesn’t start, try to rev the working vehicle’s engine while the jumper cable is still connected. Revving the working auto’s engine may be necessary to kickstart the process.
Once you’ve made sure that the dead auto is no longer dead, you may disconnect the jumper cable. Start with the black/minus clamps. It doesn’t matter whether you start with donor or receiver vehicle. Then, disconnect red/plus clamps. Auto order is, once again, irrelevant. Take care that neither of the clamps touch each other while either of them is still connected to a unit terminal.
Once you’ve disconnected the jumper cable and made sure that your formerly dead auto is up and running, give it a little drive. This is necessary to let the alternator charge your battery a little bit more so that it doesn’t die once again any time soon.
The jumpstart must help start your dead vehicle after one attempt, 2-3 tops. If that doesn’t happen and an auto keeps dying, how to fix a dead car battery then? Well, no use to keep trying. When jumpstart doesn’t work, it means that there are other problems with your vehicle. For example, if your battery is more than 5-6 years old, then no jumpstart will help it. You need to replace it.
With newer batteries, there may be more reasons why car batteries die. We’ve briefly touched upon earlier: they include other components being faulty – wiring, fuses, alternator, ignition switch, starter connection or corrosion.
Either way, if jumpstart doesn’t help, then your only way how to fix a dead car battery is to take your car to a mechanic. Luckily, most respectable car mechanics offer free inspection and diagnostics today. Mechanics should be able to find out and explain what to do when your car battery dies, what exactly needs fixing right now, and how.
There’s no convenient time for a “my battery died” moment, and such situations are always less than enjoyable. We know what happens when a car battery dies and why it happens. There are, however, tips on how to prolong their lifespan: