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How to Know if Your Car Battery is Dead or Just Discharged

Your car battery is dead. Or is it? How can you tell if you have a worn out or damaged battery, or you just accidentally left the lights on all night and fully discharged it. Check out some of the ways you can tell if your battery is dead or discharged.

car mechanic checking charge on battery

Signs of a Discharged Battery

Some signs that your car's battery is low on juice include:

  • A slow engine crank when you turn the key. You may hear a sputtering sound. This can also mean a bad starter motor.
  • The dome light is dimmer than normal when you open the door.
  • Other electrical issues, such as the radio not turning on before you start the engine.
  • Your headlights are dimmer than normal.
  • You have needed a jump start recently.
  • Your car's heating or air conditioning isn't working with the engine turned off. That is, you can't pre-heat or pre-cool the cabin. Air conditioning in particular can become non-functional with low battery voltage.

If you see any of these signs you can recharge your battery either by using a battery charger or going for a long drive on the highway. Most batteries will recharge after 30 to 60 minutes of driving at highway speeds, but if your car is not starting then it's best to use a charger.

Signs of a Dead Battery

Cars generally last longer than their batteries. Your car's battery can wear out. How do you know when to consider replacing it? Some signs of a dead or damaged battery are:

  • The car won't start at all. Turning the key does nothing.
  • No dome light or door chime. Central locking may not work.
  • Headlights and radio won't turn on.
  • Your car won't start in the morning but is fine later in the day. This means your battery is draining too fast overnight.
  • The battery case is swollen or cracked. This is often caused by excessive heat and cold or by overcharging, but can also just be outgassing from age. Note that car batteries do not have the same explosion risk as swollen lithium-ion batteries, but the swelling shows decreased performance and you should replace it.
  • There is visible corrosion on the battery terminals.
  • Your battery is more than 3 years old.

If you think you may have a dead or worn out battery, it's simple enough to replace. At Custom Complete Automotive, we offer all kinds of electrical repair services including battery repair and replacement. Contact us to get your battery inspected today.

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About the Author
Eric Riddles

Eric Riddles is an ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician who has been working as an auto mechanic since 1998 and originally joined the team at Custom Complete Automotive in 2005. Eric has numerous certifications in various aspects of car repair and spent 10 years training the next generation of auto technicians at a local high school Auto Shop classroom.

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