When your car battery dies once, it may be tempting to just write it off as a fluke. Car batteries can die for a huge range of different reasons, and there’s always the chance that whatever went wrong won’t go wrong again. But when your car battery keeps dying over and over again, it’s a pretty safe bet that there’s an underlying problem that needs to be dealt with before you end up stranded somewhere.
Why Do Car Batteries Die?
The list of issues that can cause a car battery to die is so long as to approach never-ending, but virtually every battery killer out there can be shoehorned into the three basic categories of battery problems, electrical system problems, and simple user error. Some of these can be dealt with at home, and others will probably require a visit to your mechanic, but there’s no way to know for sure until you roll up your sleeves and dig in.
It’s also important to note that when most people talk about a battery dying repeatedly, they are talking about a situation where the vehicle won’t start after it has been parked for any length of time. If your battery seems to die while you’re driving down the road, it’s more likely that you have some type of problem with the charging system (we’ll cover that situation as well).
What Causes a Car Battery to Keep Dying?
Some of the most common reasons for a car battery to die repeatedly include loose or corroded battery connections, persistent electrical drains, charging problems, constantly demanding more power than the alternator can provide, and even extreme weather. Some of these problems are enough to kill a battery on their own, while others are usually coupled with a battery that is already weak or on its last legs.
To avoid a dead battery, the first thing you need to know is what’s causing it. Put those jumper wires aside and check out these seven things that could explain why your car battery keeps draining.
1. You left your headlights on.
If your car battery continues to run out, the first thing to do is to check your lights. Many newer vehicles have headlights that can be turned off after a certain period of time. If your car doesn’t have this feature, your headlights may stay on until you either turn them off or until your car battery is completely discharged.
2. Something is causing a “parasitic draw.”
Even when your car is turned off, your battery powers things like the clock, radio, and alarm system. These things shouldn’t affect your battery much. Interior lighting, door lighting, or even bad fuses can discharge a car battery when it is switched off.
While your engine is running, the alternator charges the battery so you usually don’t have to worry about the battery running out while you blow the radio on your drive to work! However, when the engine is off, the alternator cannot charge the battery, so small electrical breakdowns can completely discharge the battery. The battery drain caused by these electric whoopsies is known as parasitic drag.
You can avoid parasitic pulling forces by turning off all lights and making sure the trunk, glove box, and doors are completely closed and latched before getting out of the car.
3. Your battery connections are loose or corroded.
The positive and negative terminals attached to your battery can sometimes loosen over time. These connections can also corrode. If your terminals loosen or corrode, you may have problems starting the vehicle as your battery cannot transmit its power properly!
They could even fail while driving or damage the vehicle’s electronic components. You can avoid corrosion problems by cleaning your car’s battery terminals regularly!
4. It’s extremely hot or cold outside.
Frozen winter weather and hot summer days can cause problems with your vehicle’s battery. Newer batteries tend to be more resistant to extreme seasonal temperatures. However, if your battery is older, extreme cold or heat can affect its performance or even cause it to become completely empty! When you notice your battery is struggling to brave the elements
5. The battery isn’t charging while you drive.
Your car relies on your battery to start the engine. However, when your vehicle is driving, your battery relies on the alternator to keep it charged. If your alternator isn’t working properly, it can’t effectively power your battery, which can make your car difficult to start even if you’ve just been driving!
If your car won’t start after driving, there may be a possibility that it is your alternator.
6. You’re taking too many short drives.
Starting the engine uses a tremendous amount of power from your battery, but as mentioned earlier, the alternator charges your battery while the engine is running. However, if you make frequent short trips, the alternator may not have enough time to properly charge the battery between pit stops, especially if you have an older battery. In the long run, frequent short trips can shorten the life of your car battery.
If I tell you, you can increase your battery life or run like new again. Check out How to increase battery life by reconditioning it.
7. Your battery is old.
Nothing lasts forever, including your car’s battery. In some cases, your vehicle’s battery can last up to five years. However, it depends on where you live and how you drive. Extreme temperatures, frequent short trips, and everyday life can shorten the life of your battery to two to three years.
If your car battery runs out quickly even after jump-starting, it may be time for a new one to Recondition your battery. But how? Check out How to recondition a car battery?
What To Do When Your Car Battery Dies?
The most common way to deal with a dead battery is to jump-start it up. All you need to jump-start a car is a set of jumper cables and another car (a good Samaritan) with a working battery. Remember that you should never attempt to start a car if the battery is damaged and there is visible acid leakage. Still, confused check out How to Jump-Start a Car?.
To safely jump a start, follow these steps:
- Take out your jumper cables: It is a good idea to purchase a set of jumper cables and keep them in your car. If you don’t have jumper cables, you need to find good jumper cables.
- Put both vehicles in the park or neutral and switch off the ignition in both vehicles: also apply both parking brakes.
- Attach one of the red clips to the positive terminal of your battery. It has “POS” or “+” or it is larger than the negative terminal.
- Attach the other red clip to the positive terminal of the other vehicle.
- Attach one of the black clips to the negative terminal of the other battery.
- Attach the last black clip to an unpainted metal surface on your car that is not near the battery. Use one of the metal braces that is holding the hood open.
- Try to start your vehicle: if it does not start, make sure the cables are connected properly and let the Good Samaritan run his engine for five minutes. Then try starting your car again. If it still does not start, your battery may need help.
Still, confused about what to do? Here is another article How to jump-start a car?
If the jump works and your car starts, don’t shut off your engine! Drive around for at least 15 minutes to recharge your battery. If the car won’t start the next time you use it, the battery isn’t holding a charge and needs to be replaced.
What may drain a car battery when it’s off are things such as interior lights, door lights, or even bad relays. While your engine runs, the alternator recharges the battery which is why you typically don’t have to worry about the battery dying while you’re blasting the radio on your drive to work!
Pull the negative off the battery. Put the test light between the post and the ground wire. If the light illuminates, you have a draw. Use the fuse pull method to find the draw; when the light goes out, you found the draw.
If the engine starts but dies immediately, your alternator probably isn’t keeping your battery charged. If a jump-starts and keeps your car running, but the car can’t start again off of its own power, a dead battery is probably your answer.
When you drive the car, the battery isn’t getting recharged, i.e., there is a mechanical charging problem. There is a parasitic electrical drain on the battery, possibly caused by a bad alternator. The battery is simply old and it’s time for you to replace it.
Four signs you need a new car battery
1. The engine cranks, but won’t start.
2. The engine won’t crank (and the accessories and lights are off)
3. You’ve had to jump-start your car a lot.
4. Your car battery is cracked, swollen, or leaking.