The dreaded clicking noise and failure to turn the engine over. Tell-tale signs of a dead battery. Few auto disappointments are as sudden, unexpected, and yet common as a battery that won’t start the vehicle. We’re accustomed to the turn of the key and the start of the engine. And when it doesn’t? Bad news.
Worse things can go wrong with your vehicle. And if you’ve experienced dead batteries in the past, there’s a good chance you now carry jumper cables. If not, someone nearby likely does. But battery issues aren’t always as straightforward as a jump.
Your battery is tied to multiple components of your engine, and, unfortunately, some of the same symptoms can be caused by several different problems. Diagnosing your battery trouble might be a task better left to professional help, especially one that can provide 24/7 assistance. Does a dead battery really warrant a mechanic? Not always. But when you have a roadside assistance plan, it’s often worth the call, giving you peace of mind that the issue was fixed appropriately.
Why do batteries go bad?
Let’s classify battery issues into two categories: terminal or causal. Terminal issues mean your battery is dead or dying for good and will require replacement. Knowing this can save you time and service charges trying to decide if another issue is responsible.
When batteries are at the end of their lifecycle, they will demonstrate frequent interruptions and show physical signs of wear, like corrosion.
Causal issues mean something has caused a good battery to perform otherwise. This can be as simple as leaving your lights on overnight or as significant as a problem with your starter, alternator, or electrical system. Diagnosing the reason why your battery is going bad often requires professional diagnostics to determine the root cause.
Signs of a dead battery
Because of the longevity of auto batteries–three to five years–we’re used to them working. And a dead battery often comes as a surprise. Your battery might be on its last legs if it exhibits the following signs:
- Clicking noise when you start
- Dim headlights
- Corrosion around battery ports
- No dome light
- Auto-unlock/lock failure
- Damage or warping on the battery case
- Electrical devices not functioning
Some of these signs of a dead battery indicate that your battery just needs to be recharged because yo u left your lights on or something caused the battery to die. For this problem, a simple jump will do. But that might not mean your trouble is over.
Even if you get your vehicle started with a jump, there’s no guarantee the battery will hold a charge for the next time you need to start the vehicle. Follow these steps to further diagnose the problem:
- Start the vehicle with a jump, if possible.
- Run the car idly and then drive it 15-20 minutes.
- Stop at your house or a shop and turn off/turn on the vehicle.
If your battery is dead again, then you likely need to replace the battery. But even then, you might not have solved the problem.
The risk of self-diagnosis
In the case of a battery that doesn’t seem to hold a charge, the alternator might actually be the culprit. This is the concern with self-diagnosis and batteries: you need someone who can test each individual piece of the system to definitively diagnose the issue. For example, auto shops can conduct load testing on a potentially bad battery to measure the amperers produced from a fully-charged battery.
User error is also a common issue. If you happen to hook up your charging cables incorrectly and the battery doesn’t start the vehicle, you might incorrectly assume the starter is the problem. When you can’t start your vehicle after charging your battery, your next option should be to call your roadside assistance provider.
Related battery components
Your battery connects to the alternator, and the two work in tandem. The battery kicks on the alternator, and the alternator regulates electricity back to the battery to recharge it. They work together seamlessly, and when one is malfunctioning, it can be difficult to determine which is responsible for the problem. And that’s where a professional can provide assistance.
Good Sam Roadside Assistance is connected to over 30,000 independent towing and service specialists. When you have a battery issue, a specialist with a tow truck can arrive at your location, determine the extent of the trouble, and fix or tow your vehicle at no cost to you.
Why choose Good Sam Roadside Assistance
When you consider the number of variables involved with diagnosing and fixing a battery issue, there’s good reason to rely on a roadside assistance plan to provide quality help. But do battery issues justify purchasing a full plan? That depends on your needs as a traveler. But Good Sam Roadside Assistance offers six distinct plans between RVs and auto that offer a range of services depending on your needs and coverage requirements.
Learn all that Good Sam Roadside Assistance offers travelers who want the peace of mind that comes when you know your vehicle is protected.