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How to Tell if Your Car Battery is Dying

Power - by Bryan Veldboom - updated on 6/28/2021

Guy on the phone looking inside car hood

Every day, your battery provides the initial burst of energy needed to turn over the engine in your car or truck. But what happens when your battery reaches the end of its life? Today we'll be answering some basic battery questions, including how long your battery should last, how to jump start a vehicle and how to tell when your battery needs to be replaced.

How Long Should a Car or Truck Battery Last?

A typical battery should last between three and five years, although that depends on a number of factors. Both your driving habits and the climate where you live play an important role in your battery's life cycle. If most of your driving consists of short trips, you may find that your battery dies much faster. When it comes to climate, both high heat and extreme cold can shorten your battery's life.

How Do You Jump Start a Vehicle?

So, what do you do when your car won't start? If you have a set of booster cables and another vehicle nearby, you can use them to jump start your dead battery. Jump starting is a safe and simple process provided that you follow the proper directions. For more information, read our 5 Easy Steps to Jump Start Your Car.

Don't have another vehicle handy? A jump pack (also known as a jump starter) lets you jump start your battery if you're stranded somewhere alone. Jump packs come in a variety of different amperages suitable for different types of vehicles.

How Can You Tell if a Car Battery Needs Replacing?

Unfortunately, jump starting a vehicle is only a temporary solution. If you find that your battery is dead each time you try turning over your engine, or that it takes you multiple attempts to start your vehicle, that's a good sign that your battery might be dying. Your "Check Engine" light may also turn on if you're experiencing battery issues.

You can also look at the battery itself. If you notice swelling on the battery's exterior or a build-up of corrosion on the terminals, those are good signs that your battery needs to be replaced.

How Do You Tell if It's Your Battery or Alternator or Starter?

A bad battery can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. That's because many of the warning signs mentioned above can also indicate issues with your vehicle's starter or alternator. Fortunately, there are a few ways to differentiate between problems with these three components.

A bad starter will usually be accompanied by a clicking, grinding or whirring sound. When an alternator fails, it provides your electronic accessories with an inconsistent voltage, resulting in dim or extremely bright lights. Other signs of a faulty alternator include slowdowns in the performance of accessories like power windows or malfunctioning speedometers and other instruments.

Have Your Battery Tested at Batteries Plus

The easiest way to tell if you have a bad battery is to have it tested. Batteries Plus offers this service for free at every one of our 700+ locations. Our in-store experts will test your battery, starter and alternator and let you know if you have a problem.

If you need a new battery, we have top-quality batteries for almost any make or model, including long-lasting AGM options. We even offer free battery installation on most model vehicles at most of our locations, so schedule your arrival time online today. Want to know more about this topic? Read our Top 5 Car Battery Maintenance Tips for Summer Weather.

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