Getting stranded in the middle of nowhere with a dead car battery is every motorist’s worst nightmare. The ordeal gets even worse when the power cannot be restored with jumper cables. A truly dead battery will almost certainly require roadside assistance and possible even a towing service. When all is said and done, the breakdown could end up costing you hundreds of dollars, as well as several hours of your day. Here are five signs that you may need to take preventative action soon.
1. Engine Is Slow To Crank
When you try to start the engine and it’s slow to turn over, the problem is almost certainly electrical. Although the culprit could very well be a poor connection in the starter or starting circuit, the issue often comes does to a charging system shortfall. There’s also a chance something could be draining the power when the vehicle is parked. Either way, you should schedule an inspection with your mechanic ASAP.
2. Check Engine Light Appears
There are dozens of reasons why the dreaded check engine light might illuminate on your dashboard. One fairly common culprit, especially in older vehicles, is inadequate electrical power. When a low charge puts the vehicle in danger of breaking down, the engine light will come on. Once again, the charge should be tested by a qualified mechanic to ensure adequate electrical output.
3. Damaged Case
When a battery’s casing looks bloated or swollen, it’s often a sign it has been exposed to excessive heat. These high engine temps have been known to greatly reduce the life of the unit. As such, drivers should check the case from time to time to make sure it’s in good shape.
4. Leaking or Low Fluid
When the unit leaks fluid, it can easily cause corrosion around the posts, which prevents the electrical system from making a strong connection. In other words, the gunk may prevent your vehicle from starting. It is also true that when the battery fluid falls below the lead plates that conduct electricity, the unit may not work. As such, the charge should always be tested when it looks like the fluid level has fallen too low.
5. Old Age
Contrary to popular belief, the average car battery won’t last for the life of your vehicle. In most cases, modern units are tested at around three years. After that point, they should be inspected on an annual basis. We should also mention that your driving habits could shorten or extend the period between replacements.
Because the unit will not have enough time to fully recharge, short trips (less than 20 minutes) have been shown to decrease lifespan. And, as we mentioned, extreme temperatures can also reduce the longevity considerably. This is true of both extreme heat and extreme cold. Drivers should also avoid things that may drain their batteries (leaving the lights, fan, and radio on), since constant recharging can negatively affect longevity.
If you notice any of the aforementioned signs, have your car battery tested as soon as possible.