10 Signs You Need To Change Your Car Battery

Posted on Jul 5, 2022

Signs Your Car Battery Needs to be Replaced

It's a situation no driver wants to be in: You're cruising down the highway when you notice something new on your dashboard: The battery light is on! A dying car battery can cause many problems, but did you know there are multiple warning signs? Learn how to spot the clues, and you could save yourself from being stranded with a dead battery on the side of the road.

1. Strange Sounds

Do you hear a sputtering sound when you turn the key? This sound is a tell-tale sign that your battery isn't getting enough charge and, consequently, isn't sending enough power to the rest of the vehicle. This sound might be subtle at first, but as time goes on, the sputtering will get louder and longer. It's a solid sign of waning battery power.

2. Difficulty Performing In Cold Weather

Extreme cold weather temperatures can strain a car battery, as your vehicle needs more power to get sluggish engine oil moving. Winter weather will highlight problems when your battery isn't functioning at its fullest. Fresh car batteries can navigate changing climates quickly, but if the battery doesn't turn on easily in cold weather, this is a sign that your car's battery life is failing. 

3. Electrical Malfunctions

Are you noticing electrical anomalies in your vehicle? For example, maybe your doors aren't locking correctly, or you're unable to roll up the windows using the button. This could likely mean that the car battery isn't diverting enough power to these functions. It's best to fix this battery issue as soon as you notice it, as it will only get worse as time goes on.

4. Dashboard Lights & Lighting Issues

No one likes to see the check engine light or engine light show up on the dashboard. However, these are valuable indicators. They might tip you off that the alternator isn't returning enough charge.

5. Uncommon Odor

It's not uncommon to notice an odd smell (often likened to rotten eggs) when the battery ages. The odor will get worse with time. This smell occurs when the sulfuric acid escapes because the battery is leaking gas. If you start to notice this odd smell, don't hesitate to get your battery checked and replaced.

6. Malfunctioning Components

A weak battery will cause parts of your car to stop functioning correctly. Windshield wipers, headlights, air conditioning, and phone chargers are all electrical components that rely on the battery. If you notice that any of these are performing oddly, it could signify that your vehicle battery is dying. This can be a safety issue--especially in the case of headlights and windshield wipers--so get your battery checked right away!

7. Slow Crank

Have you noticed a certain slowness or sluggishness when your engine cranks? Maybe your vehicle's lights start to flicker, or your ears pick up an unusual noise. These can indicate a slowly degrading battery. Don’t ignore these warning signs! Consider taking your vehicle in for an inspection right away.

8. Using the Gas to Start

If you can only start your car after pushing on the gas pedal, that's a sign that you may be dealing with a weak or failing battery. If you find this happening often, consider getting a new battery.

9. Backfiring

This warning sign is hard to ignore. A weak or defective battery can let off sparks intermittently, which is especially problematic when fuel builds up in the cylinders. When this compounded fuel is ignited, it backfires, creating that unmissable sound. A bad battery isn't the only thing that can cause backfires, so it's best to go for a battery test if this happens.

10. Visible Corrosion

When you look under the hood, do you spy a whitish-blue, granular substance on your battery? This build-up is a sign of car battery corrosion. It comes from a chemical reaction between the battery acid from the inside and the metal on the outside. A little bit is standard, but an excessive amount can signify escaping gases or leaking battery fluid. 

How Long Do Car Batteries Last?

A car's battery lifespan depends on different things. How long can it hold its charge? How long is it capable of being recharged? Does your vehicle spend much time in extreme weather conditions (e.g., severe cold or excessive humidity)? In ideal conditions, a new battery can last up to six years. 

Keeping this in mind, it's usually a good rule of thumb to have your battery replaced every four years on average. Living somewhere with such extreme heat, such as in New Mexico, pay extra attention to battery performance around the three-year mark. Catching problems early can help save the overall health of your vehicle. When the time comes to replace your battery, know that a new car battery costs from $45-$250.

How to Jumpstart Your Car

Despite best intentions, sometimes you'll end up with a dead car battery before you can make it to the mechanic. Jumpstarting your car isn't a permanent fix, but it can get you going long enough to fix the underlying problem.

make sure to wear eye protection

First, ensure you always carry a set of jumper cables in your trunk (you never know when you or someone else might need them!). Then, find a driver who is willing to give a helping hand. Take special care to follow the steps, so you don't create a problem with the electrical systems.

Park the vehicles next to each other or towards each other. Make sure they're close enough for the cables to reach across. Don't forget to engage the parking brakes. Shut off both engines.

Prop open both hoods and locate the batteries and their terminals. Each battery will have a positive + (red) and negative - (black) terminal. Tip: Never connect the red cable to a negative terminal. It can create sparks and result in an explosion.

Identify a metal grounding in the dead vehicle (this can be part of the vehicle frame itself.)

Dead battery: Attach the red clamp to the positive terminal.

Charged battery: Attach the red clamp to the positive terminal.

Charged battery: Attach the negative clamp to the negative terminal.

Dead battery: Attach the other negative cable clamp to the metal ground of the vehicle. This is the last connection.

Charged battery: Start the car with the charged battery. Wait a minute or two and try to start the dead car.

If the car starts:
-Take off the negative clamp from the metal grounding
-Take off the negative clamp from the helping vehicle
-Take off the red clamp from the helping vehicle
-Take off the red clamp from the formerly dead vehicle

If the car doesn't start:
Wait a bit longer and try to start your engine again. You might have to try a couple of times before it works.

As we said, a helpful jumpstart isn't a permanent solution. Get your car battery checked right away so that you don't end up needing a tow truck!

The Master Tech Guarantee

Knowledge is power. Learn how to recognize the signs so that you can let our auto repair shop fix your car before you end up with a dead car battery. Our trusted mechanics are ASE Certified Master Technicians certified and can complete a battery replacement in no time. Call 505-471-1121 or visit our website for more information.

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