Without your battery, your vehicle is a large chunk of metal with a variety of complicated mechanical parts. Your car will not start without it and a combination of other electronic components and multiple functions will begin to fail. Knowing how to fix your car battery is one of the basics of vehicle ownership.
If your vehicle battery isn’t holding a charge, that means you likely have a faulty battery. Take it to your local auto shop to run a load test on it or use a voltmeter. If your auto shop determines that your battery isn’t taking a charge or you are seeing voltage below 12.5, you likely need to replace it.
Thankfully, batteries aren’t too complicated of a subject. Regardless, many parents don’t pass this knowledge onto the next generation. So the rest of this article will be devoted to teaching you the most common issues your battery isn’t working. If you do make any DIY repairs, be sure that your battery is disconnected, your tires are immobilized, and your parking brake is on.
8 Common Reasons Your Car Battery Won’t Hold A Charge
#1: Your Car Battery Is Old And Damaged, So It Can’t Be Fully Charged
If your battery can’t hold a charge, you need to check for damage. Start by looking around for any cracks or worn portions of the car. Make sure that anything that would drain the vehicle is turned off (headlights, dome lights, etc.) You can use a voltmeter to test if your battery works.
If you want to know how to test your vehicle with a voltmeter, check out the video below:
Within a matter of minutes, any auto shop can determine whether or not you need a new battery. Your battery should be around 12.5 volts (give or take a little). If you let your battery go, the situation may result in corroded battery terminals, which is pretty common in any flooded battery system.
#2: Your Car Battery Has Corroded Terminals That Prevent Your Charging System From Working
Older vehicles with flooded batteries have a high chance of being corroded. Pop your hood and look about the battery terminals to see if they have some sort of rusty metallic look to them. You can clean them using any over-the-counter cleaner or a combination of water, vinegar, and a stiff brush.
#3: Your Vehicle Has Bad Wiring Which Prevents Power From Getting From Your Car Battery
If your battery is fine, that means you could have bad wiring. Check to see if you have any burnt spots around wiring clusters, especially around your starter. You will need to hire an experienced auto electrician in this case, as most DIY mechanics can’t diagnose where the problem is.
#4: Faulty Alternators Cannot Charge Car Batteries, Even In A New Battery
If your car battery is alright, a failing alternator has many of the same symptoms as a failing battery:
- Check engine light is on.
- Headlights or dome lights are dimming or flickering.
- Regular electric failures.
- Your car stalls and dies soon after you start it.
Your alternator is more likely going to be the problem if the battery dies over time. That means your vehicle will start stalling and sputtering within about five minutes of driving, with no response as your key and ignition system attempts to restart the car.
Check out this video for details if you want to know how to check out an alternator:
One way to determine that your alternator isn’t the problem is by driving it around. By doing this, your car battery should be charging naturally, so try and drive it for a minimum of 20 minutes before turning off the vehicle.
#5: Aftermarket Auto Parts and New Vehicles Drain Faster Than Your Battery Can Keep Up (Which Is A Problem)
Newer cars, or aftermarket parts, have a variety of gizmos and gadgets that can potentially drain your battery. You can avoid this issue by looking at your owner’s manual. Some hidden drain can come from anything from problems in your ignition to sensors in your tires. Check online to see if other fellow car owners have this issue. Online forums contain a wealth of information that will allow you to pinpoint these problems.
#6: Blown Fuses Prevent Your Engine From Receiving Power
If you check your fuses and find that there are some burnt spots, that means that your ignition system has drawn too much energy. This problem may not be related to charging, but is a strong reason why turning your key may result in nothing happening. To find out if this is your answer, look for burnt parts or a missing small metal wire
#7 Check Your Drive Belt To See If Your Alternator Can Charge Your Vehicle
When your engine starts, the drive belt runs through a system of pulleys that charges your batteries. If that drive belt is too old, this is likely where your charging problem comes from. Without running belts, your alternator will not be to charge your battery. Your belts also run other important components of your engine, so check to see if you have any old belt chunks that won’t give your battery any voltage to run.
#8: A Computer Error Can Drain Your Car Battery With Many Problems
With advanced technology, many of our car’s functions are based on controls from a computer. A computer error can fail to tell certain parts of your vehicle to shut off, causing unnecessary energy to be drained from the vehicle. A code reader from your auto shop will be able to determine what is happening here.
Vehicle Charging FAQs
Can I Replace Individual Auto Parts On My Car Battery? (Battery terminal, cell, etc)
When looking for a solution to fix your battery charger, you may be tempted to see if you can’t save money by replacing parts. Unlike an engine, the individual parts of your battery cannot be replaced, so you will need to replace the entire battery.
While there are mechanics who do have the experience to replace individual battery parts, it is generally less expensive and involves fewer steps to simply replace the entire battery. Replacing parts of your battery is not one of the ways you can save money with automobiles. Instead, you may just cause a bigger problem and have to clean your garage and your car.
Can A Car’s Battery Power Be So Dead It Won’t Charge With Help From The Starter?
You don’t have to be a mechanic to understand that your charger’s juice needs to maintain some level of charge to support that charge. You have a discharged battery if it falls below 12.6 volts, which means it is beyond the help of your alternator.
You also cannot force alternators to charge car batteries. Trying to do so might result in permanent damage that leaves your vehicle in the garage for longer than you may want. So open your hood and jump it once, but don’t go above and beyond if you have a charging problem.
What If My New Car Battery Won’t Hold A Charge?
As we’ve said earlier, new car batteries have a variety of electronic components that tell us that something in the engine, battery terminal or other electronic components may be draining. Given that these new vehicles are typically under warranty, you need to take the car battery back to the original place you bought it to inform them of the issue.
What If I Have Already Replaced The Alternator And The Car Battery Still Does Not Work?
Replacing the alternator is just one option on our “car battery won’t charge” checklist. It is best to go through the entirety of this list to ensure that the replacement cannot be handled by something less expensive. For example, the cost of fuses are far less expensive than replacing alternators.
What If The Car Won’t Start?
If your vehicle doesn’t start, it is most likely related to your ignition. Because the turn of your key sends a small electronic signal to your car battery so it may start the steps needed to get your car running, this issue can cause your engine to not respond.
In this case, a handy voltmeter is your method for determining whether or not cars have ignition problems.
Get A Battery Maintainer So You Can Charge The Battery Without The Car
A battery maintainer works to charge your battery when it is away from your car. This device will allow you to quickly determine why your battery is failing without driving to an auto parts store. Simply hook it up much as you would to your car (to each battery post) and wait to see your battery charges.
If you run into a situation where your car battery won’t charge, it can be related to various issues from age to damage. The first step to any troubleshooting process is looking at your battery for age, cracks, or corrosion.
If there is no clear sign that your battery needs replacement, you move onto the alternator. Test your battery’s ability to hold a charge by driving it around for about 20 minutes. If 20 minutes of driving doesn’t charge your battery enough to maintain it, that means your alternator might be the problem.