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6 Reasons Your Car Battery isn't Working

Power - by Bryan Veldboom - updated on 12/9/2021

Woman in orange jacket on phone with car hood up

Regular maintenance is vital to keeping your car running, however, even a well-maintained vehicle can still experience issues. If you’re having a hard time starting your car it might be due to an issue with your battery. Here are a few troubleshooting tips to help you track down what’s causing the problem.

1. Your Battery is Dead

When your battery’s charge gets too low, it doesn’t have the power necessary to start your engine. This is the most common reason that cars won’t start. So, why is your battery dead? It could be that you simply haven’t driven it enough. Your driving habits can also play a role. If you take a lot of short driving trips, your alternator doesn’t have the time to recharge your battery. If you find yourself with a dead battery, you can jumpstart it with another vehicle and a pair of jumper cables or use a portable jump pack. If you find that your battery dies frequently, there are a number of possible causes outlined below.

2. You Might Have the Wrong Type of Battery

If you’re experiencing issues with a brand new battery, it’s possible that the battery type isn’t compatible with your car’s system and doesn’t have enough power to turn over your engine.

This is a mistake commonly made by owners of vehicles with start-stop technology. Because vehicles with this feature are constantly stopping and restarting the engine, they require more energy than an ordinary starting battery can handle. If you have start-stop technology in your car or truck, you need an AGM battery to keep up with its power demands. Learn more about AGM batteries in our blog article "Flooded vs. AGM: What is the Best Battery for Your Car or Truck?"

How Do I Find the Right Size Battery for My Vehicle?

Vehicle batteries are designated by a Group Size number, a series of numbers or numbers and letters, which can be found on the top or side label of the battery. A battery Group Size indicates the physical size of the battery, as well as its polarity, which tells you where its positive and negative posts are located. You’ll also want to pay attention to the number of cold cranking amps your system recommends.

The easiest way to find a replacement battery is to simply get the Group Size number off of your current battery and buy something with the same size. Keep in mind though that if you bought your vehicle used, the previous owner may not have used the right battery. You can also find this information in your owner’s manual or on the manufacturer’s website.

The Batteries Plus website makes it easy to find the right battery. Just enter your vehicle’s brand, model and year and you’ll receive a list of compatible batteries. Or, bring your vehicle to your nearest Batteries Plus location and our experts will be happy to help you find the right battery for your needs.

3. Your Battery Connections are Loose or Corroded

If it turns out you have the right battery and you’re still having starting issues, it could be due to a simple connection issue. Check to make sure that your battery cables are in good condition, with no visible fraying. You’ll also want to look for any possible corrosion on the cables or battery terminals, which will appear as a white, green or blue buildup. Corrosion limits the amount of power that can travel from the battery to the engine.

If your battery cables are in good condition, try disconnecting, then reconnecting them to make sure that they’re connected tightly. Disconnect the negative terminal first, then the positive, making sure that the cable connectors aren’t resting on any bare metal. When reconnecting the battery, you’ll want to go in the reverse order you did when disconnecting it. Start with the positive terminal, then reconnect the negative terminal.

4. Something Else is Draining Your Battery

If you have the right battery and it’s connected properly, it’s likely that something is draining the battery’s power. Read our blog entitled "6 Things That Can Drain Your Car Battery" for a list of the most common causes and what you can do to stop them.

5. Your Alternator isn’t Working

Your alternator works to recharge your battery while you drive. Typically, it takes your vehicle about 30 minutes to complete this process when driven at highway speeds. If you’ve looked into the draining problems mentioned above and still find that your battery won’t hold a charge, it could be that your alternator isn’t working properly. If that’s the case, you’ll need to have it repaired as soon as possible in order to recharge your battery properly again. Here are a few additional signs that indicate a malfunctioning alternator.

  • You hear a growling sound when starting your engine
  • You notice a burning rubber smell coming from the engine
  • Your headlights or dash lights start to flicker or become excessively dim or bright
  • Your gauges start behaving strangely

6. Your Battery is Too Old

If you’ve tried everything else mentioned above and you’re still having problems, you may just need a new battery. Vehicle batteries typically last between three and five years, although they can die even sooner if they’re not cared for properly.

Batteries Plus is Your Vehicle Battery Headquarters

Still experiencing problems? Bring in your vehicle for a free battery and systems check. Our experts will test your battery, starter and alternator and help you determine where the problem lies. If it’s time to replace the battery, we have plenty of top-quality car and truck batteries available. Plus, we offer expert installation services on most makes and models at most Batteries Plus locations. (Fees may vary from location to location or the difficulty of the installation.)

Want to know more? Learn how to find out your car battery’s voltage and how to keep a car battery from dying when it’s not in use.

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