Your car battery won’t charge? You put your key in the ignition and attempt to crank the engine for the third time to no avail. There is nothing more frustrating than being stranded even if it’s in your driveway. When it comes to mechanical issues such as the car battery failing to hold a charge things can become more complicated than they need to be. Unfortunately, a lot of drivers aren’t educated on how their car battery charging and the electrical system works.
What Does It Mean When Your Car Battery Won’t Charge?
Knowing how to jumpstart a car battery is a good skill to have but what happens when a jumpstart fails to revive the battery? If you’ve tried hooking your portable jump starter to the battery or you had a friend come to give you a jump but the engine still won’t crank, the battery is most likely dead. This is a surefire sign that your battery just isn’t charging.
When the battery isn’t charging, it isn’t receiving enough juice to provide adequate energy to the spark plugs and the ignition system. The alternator is responsible for keeping the battery recharged. The alternator is one of the most essential components in your vehicle’s electrical system. It converts energy derived from the crankshaft into electricity that provides a steady stream of power to your car’s electrical system and of course it continually juices up the battery.
What happens when the alternator isn’t supplying a charge to the battery? Well, when the alternator isn’t charging the battery, the vehicle’s entire electrical system which includes the lights, car accessories, and the ignition system is being powered by the battery. This rapidly depletes all of the battery’s energy. When this happens the engine won’t even start which can indicate a serious problem. If the engine does happen to start the battery won’t have enough charge to keep it running.
Is My Battery Dead or Can I Get It Recharged?
When you’re having problems with your car battery you might be wondering whether it simply needs to be recharged or if it’s completely dead and time to purchase a new one. Even an alternator can’t revive a battery that has been drained of all its power. Jumpstarting a battery or getting it charged at your local Autozone store may be able to give the battery the energy it needs to start up. If you’ve tried jumpstarting or charging the battery and your car still keeps cutting off then you’ll need to invest in a new battery.
You can even have your battery tested with a multimeter to determine its exact condition. If it fails a load test chances are it doesn’t offer enough voltage. Even if your battery isn’t completely dead it has become unreliable and replacing it will help you avoid further car trouble down the line.
What Are The Most Common Signs That My Battery Is Dying?
When your car battery won’t hold a charge, there are usually telltale signs that it's dying. Some of the most common signs that a battery is dying are:
Check Engine Light Is On
Of course, when the Check Engine light illuminates this can mean anything but it also could signal that your battery is dying.
Engine Is Slow To Turn Over
Has it been taking a few extra seconds for your engine to fully turn over? A slow-starting engine is typically the last cry for help before your battery officially kicks the bucket. Eventually, the battery components become completely worn rendering them useless and ineffective. As a result, the battery will take a little bit more time to create a charge for the starter and the engine will slowly turn over.
Condition of the Battery
Is your car battery corroded? Another major common sign of a terminal battery is visible corrosion. This acidic, powdery blue material has a harmful effect on your battery. If the terminals are corroded it will interrupt and sometimes block the flow of electricity to the battery. In some cases, you may be able to thoroughly clean the acidic substance off of the battery and its terminals. Corroded positive and negative terminals can cause voltage issues and you’ll have trouble starting your car. After a while, this substance hardens and it depletes the battery of all its power.
Exposure to Extreme Weather Conditions
Regular exposure to extremely cold or hot weather isn’t good for your battery. Such extreme temperatures can cause your battery case to crack and swell. You’ll notice that it even takes on a different shape. If your car battery case isn’t rectangular then your battery has likely sustained damage from the cold or heat.
Do you smell rotten eggs in your car? Does it get worse when you pop open the hood? When your battery starts leaking gas this is a sign of an internal short.
Are your exterior lights dimmer than usual? From the radio, interior lights, and seatbelt safety features, and dashboard lights the battery powers all of your vehicle’s accessories. If you notice that the different electronics on your car aren’t working it’s likely that your battery isn’t sufficiently powering all of the electronic accessories.
Your Car Battery Is Old
When is the last time you replaced the battery in your car? Typically, a car battery can last about three to five years depending on maintenance and your driving habits. You should have your battery inspected and tested frequently especially once it hits the three-year mark. Regular testing is a safety precaution.
Why Isn’t My Car Battery Charging
Due to advancements in technology, the electrical systems used in vehicles have become much more complex. However, when it comes to charging your car’s battery fortunately not much has changed. Here are some additional reasons why your car battery isn’t charging:
Did you recently, install a new aftermarket radio, add new Bluetooth speakers or upgrade your vehicle’s security system? When aftermarket devices are installed your vehicle’s original electrical system is altered. It can be difficult to pinpoint electrical faults that are draining the battery.
Normally, your car’s accessories shut down when the engine is off. Some aftermarket devices have permanent live connections that drain the battery.
As previously mentioned the alternator is in charge of charging the battery. If the alternator stops working the battery doesn’t get the charge it needs to run properly.
A parasitic electrical drain could be the culprit behind your dead battery. Newer cars are equipped with all kinds of technologies that rely on a myriad of circuits and fuses that could be draining your car battery even when it’s shut off.
Why Is My Alternator Draining My Battery?
Besides recharging your car’s battery the alternator slows powers your vehicle’s AC and the ignition. Here are six reasons why the alternator is draining your battery:
Worn Carbon Bushes
Carbon bushes are the electrical contact that conducts current between wires and their moving parts. The carbon bushes are in place to transmit current to the wire coil in the alternator. When the carbon bushes began to wear the electrical contact received by the motor may not reach the alternator.
The bushes are located at the rear of the alternator and are impossible to see. Therefore, the best way to tell if the carbon bushes are worn is to perform a voltage check. Voltage checks are conducted with a voltmeter.
Connect the negative wire attached to the voltmeter to the negative terminal on the battery. Next, you’ll need to connect the positive wire on the voltmeter to the positive terminal on the battery. With the car shut off, the voltmeter should read 14.2 volts. If the volt reading is less than 13 then you have bad carbon brushings.
Turn on all the lights and check the readout on the voltmeter. When all the electrical equipment is on the voltmeter should remain at about 13-volts if it falls below 12-v then you more than likely have faulty brushings.
Broken Serpentine Belt
The serpentine belt is a long winding belt that regulates the alternator, water pump, power steering pump, and air conditioning. A worn or broken serpentine belt doesn’t sit properly in the alternator pulley which significantly reduces the output of the alternator.
How can you tell if the serpentine belts are in bad condition?
- If you hear a squealing noise coming from the front of your vehicle your serpentine belt may be worn or broke.
- A broken serpentine belt will trigger the Check Engine light
- You can pop the hood to visually inspect the serpentine belt. Are there cracks or other signs of wear? If so, then the serpentine belt is in bad conditions
In some cases, the serpentine belt simply needs to be tightened. Once the serpentine belt gives out the alternator will end up seizing the starter won’t be able to turn the engine over.
There is a big fuse connected to the power cable on your vehicle’s alternator. The type of fuse used on the alternator is an 80A fuse. The alternator fuse can be found right in your car’s fuse box. Refer to the owner’s manual to find out exactly where the alternator fuse is located.
Blown fuses are a result of power surges. When the alternator fuse wears out the current from the alternator stops flowing. In some cases replacing the alternator fuse can restore the alternator’s current flow.
In modern cars, the Engine Control Unit (ECU) controls all of a vehicle’s electrical components. The Engine Control Module manages the charging system which consists of the voltage, the battery, and the alternator. A bad ECM can drain the battery and even cause problems with the alternator. If you’re getting an ECM error this can directly affect both the alternator and the battery.
Installing a new alternator can help improve your car battery’s charge.
What Causes A Battery To Fail?
Like any other battery, your car battery won’t last forever. Sometimes battery failure can occur prematurely. Eighty-five percent of battery failures are a result of the battery being undercharged for long periods. This causes sulfate to accumulate in the battery.
An additional leading cause of battery failure is acid stratification. Acid stratification occurs when the sulfuric acid that is contained in the electrolyte mixture separates from the water.
A portion of the mixture begins to concentrate at the bottom of the battery and starves the top half of the cell. Refilling a conventional battery with electrolytes will give it about an eighty percent charge. Heat, vibration, deep discharges, fast charging, and overcharging can also cause your battery to wear at a fast rate.
Hot climates are the harshest environments for a car battery. One survey revealed that the average battery life in the Midwest was about thirty-seven months. In extreme heat, the battery will only last for thirty months. However, in North America, the average battery life is forty-eight months.
Can You Revive A Dead Battery or Battery That Won’t Charge
In some instances, you might be able to revive a dead car battery or a car battery that won't charge. The best way to revive a battery or a battery that is not charging is to recondition the battery. Fortunately, you can recondition your battery at home. Reconditioning the battery involves cleaning sulfates from the battery, replenishing the electrolytes in the cells, and thoroughly recharging the battery.
You can use abaking soda and water paste to remove acid from the battery. If the terminals are corroded you can use this cleaning solution to remove the corrosion.
Check the voltage of the battery to ensure it is in healthy condition. A good battery reads between 10Vand 12.6V. Next, clean and replace the battery cell solution.
Let the battery recharge for about thirty- six hours. After the battery is fully recharged you should hook the battery up to a voltmeter and verify the voltage. A normal reading should be about 9.6 volts.
Your car battery won’t start? Believe it or not, the battery is a complex component. Understanding the basics of how your car battery is charged can help you maintain it.