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Charging A Car Battery: How Does It Work? 

Charging A Car Battery

Charging a car battery involves several steps, including: 

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  • Prepare for charging the battery
  • Prepare all necessary equipment
  • Get the battery ready
  • Turn off all electronics
  • Disconnect the battery cables
  • Clean the cables and the terminals in
  • Connect the portable charger 
  • Allow the battery to be charged 
  • Disconnect the charger and test drive your car 


Dealing with dead batteries is a very common situation you might encounter at any point in your vehicle's lifetime. While you can reach out to a roadside service to help you charge the battery, there are plenty of options for you to do it yourself if you have the proper equipment.

Charging a car battery is not a complicated job and does not require advanced mechanical skill sets. All it takes is to understand how the method is done and be prepared with the right equipment in emergencies.

This article provides you with all that you need to know about charging a car battery. It walks you through the process step by step if you don't have any previous experience. It also highlights all equipment you need to have a backup in your vehicle if you're stuck with a dead battery. 

Charging a car battery: a step by step procedure 

To charge your car's battery, you need to follow certain steps to help you stay safe and charge the battery successfully in the shortest amount of time. 

  • Prepare for charging the battery 

Before we dive into the details about charging a car battery, you must perform certain steps as preparation. 

  • You need to review your vehicle's owner’s manual for any specific instructions. For example, while charging a car battery is very similar in any vehicle, it's important to look at the manual if there are certain things to keep in mind when charging your vehicle, depending on its make, model, and year.


  • Ensure that you don't start charging your car battery in an area where there are many sparks or smoke. You want to choose a safe location that also doesn't have a lot of moisture. For example, it's never recommended to start charging the battery when it's raining outside without any cover. 


  • It's important to make sure that the battery is not leaking, posing some risks of dangerous gases. One way to do so is to sniff for any smell like rotten egg, which indicates that the battery is leaking a dangerous gas to stay away from.


  • You can't work on the battery when it's overheated, and it's usually recommended that you allow it to cool down before starting the charge. Sometimes the battery might stop working just because it's super-hot. To confirm this, check the battery's temperature and see if it's very hot or not.


  • Confirm that there is no corrosion around the battery and the battery terminals. Sometimes if the corrosion is severe, the battery might not work properly, and there might be some safety issues when you try to charge it. 
  • Prepare necessary equipment 

To charge the battery, you will need a certain source of power. One of the most common sources is the portable charger. 

  • Get your battery ready 

Charging a car battery is not like charging your phone. For example, some car batteries might be sitting in a certain tree, which means that you must take them out to charge them. Other batteries are OK to be charged in the same location.

When the user’s owner’s manual is a great reference to determine whether you need to remove the battery or keep it in place when charging it.

  • Make sure all electronics are turned off 

Once the battery is ready, the next step is to turn off all electronics. When charging the battery while electronics are still sucking charge from the battery, this will cause an electrical arc, which is not a desirable situation. 

  • Disconnect the battery cables 

Once all electronics are turned off, the next step is to disconnect the battery cables. Disconnecting the cables should be done in a certain order to prevent any risky situations.

Refer to your vehicle's owner’s manual to understand which cable is which. The manual will tell you that the black cable is usually the negative or round table. It will also tell you that the red cable is the positive one. Some vehicles might not have color-coded cables, and instead, they will have a negative sign for the negative cable and a positive sign for the positive cable.

Start by disconnecting the negative cable first and ensuring it stays away from the positive cable to prevent any charge transmitted between the two. Then, you can go ahead and disconnect the positive cable and consider keeping it away from the negative cable once you disconnected.

Some vehicle's batteries might have a plastic cover on the terminals where you must remove them first to disconnect the cables. If you've not disconnected a cable before, the process should be simple, and it just takes a socket wrench to loosen the cable and then gently disconnect it from the battery. 

  • Consider cleaning the battery terminals 

Before you charge your car's battery, it's always a good habit to clean the terminals and prevent any malfunction soon.

To clean the terminals, you can either use a commercial solution designated for battery terminal cleaning or mix baking soda with water to create your solution.

It's important to thoroughly clean the terminals and not leave any residual debris, dirt, or corrosion. The cleaner the battery terminal, the easier it is for the charge to run smoothly without disturbances. 

  • Connect the charger to the battery 

After completing all previous steps, it's the right time to start connecting the charger and getting the battery charging process started.

To do so, you need to follow these steps:

  • Ensure that the charger is turned off before starting 


  • Connect the positive cable to the positive terminal of your battery 


  • Connected the negative cable to the negative terminal of your battery


  • Keep in mind that connecting the cables must be done in dimension order. You have to start with the positive and then the negative 


  • Turn on the charger and allow it to charge the vehicle for the designated time for your batteries.


  • If you don't know how much it takes the charger car's battery, you can always refer to your vehicle's owner’s manual to get more accurate instructions. But we will cover some rough estimates about charging time in the following sections. 

  • Disconnect the charger 

After charging the battery completely, you will need to disconnect the charger. Keep in mind that you cannot touch the charger unless it's powered off, and some charger might tell you when it's safe to touch them.

If you notice that the car's battery cables are not in good condition, you might need to replace those as well. Remember that you have to replace the positive cable first and then replace the negative one. 

How long does it take to charge a dead car battery?

It all depends on the battery size and the charger's power. Usually, charging a completely dead battery takes up to four hours. However, certain situations might take you up to 24 hours to charge the battery.

To get more accurate estimates, you need to understand how big your battery and how much power the charger provides you. 

Can a completely dead battery be recharged? 

Yes, if your car's battery is completely dead, you can always recharge it. However, keep in mind that any internal components like the alternator will not recharge the battery because it's not designed for this test.

You will need an external source of charge like a portable charger and follow the instructions mentioned in this article. 

There are other methods to get your vehicle started without needing the battery, including a jumpstart. To jump-start a car, you will need a jump cable, and you will need a source of power from another vehicle. Jumpstarting the car should be done in a certain way, and we've highlighted this way in detail in a separate article before

Do you put the positive or negative on a battery first? 

Order matters a lot when it comes to connecting and disconnecting positive or negative cables. You always want to connect the positive first and then the negative. If you are disconnecting the cables, start by disconnecting the negative and then the positive.

The whole idea is that you don't want the battery to be connected to the negative cable only at any point. 

Do I need to charge my car battery after a jump start? 

Remember that the jumpstart does not necessarily charge the battery; instead to, it skips the battery's role and gets your vehicle ready to go. Therefore, once you jump-start the car, allow the vehicle to run for at least 30 minutes to charge the battery.

If you did not allow the car to charge the battery completely, you might end up with the same situation needing another jumpstart once you turn off your vehicle. 

Can you leave a car battery charger on overnight? 

Yes, there are situations where you can leave the car battery charger on overnight. However, you need to know when to check back on the charger to avoid overcharging the battery.

If you're using a slow charger, it might make sense to leave the car charge overnight because it might take you up to 24 hours in some scenarios. 

How do I bring my car battery back to life? 

There are plenty of ways to bring your car's battery back to life, assuming that it's restorable. In other words, if the battery itself is not in good condition, it might be the right time now to replace it.

Assuming that your battery is not in a terrible condition, you can either use a jumper cable to get your vehicle started so that it can charge the battery, or use a portable charger and follow the method we highlighted in this article. 

It's also important to check the battery cables and the battery terminals to ensure they're all in good condition. No matter how you take care of the battery, if these connections and terminals are not working properly, you won't get your vehicle started. You can't take advantage of the battery. 


Car batteries are not designed to last forever, and there will be a point of time where they don't hold a charge, or they might die requiring some recharge. However, charging a completely dead battery is not a complicated process if you have the necessary toolsets.

This article provided you with a simple procedure for charging a car battery using a portable charger. To do so, you need to prepare all necessary toolsets, get the battery ready, disconnect the battery cables, clean the terminals, connect the battery with a charger, allow the battery to charge for a designated time frame, and disconnect the charger.

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