dead battery being checked

Every vehicle needs electricity to power its non-mechanical components. The electricity used to power the wiper, headlights, radio, and electrical components comes from the battery and the alternator. Without these two essential components, your vehicle is left completely dead in the water. So how can you tell if something is going bad in your battery or alternator? Is there any way to know when you need to replace a car battery?

Fortunately, Reliable Automotive is your local source for all things automotive. We’ve created this guide for you to know when you have a bad alternator or dead battery. Don’t get stuck somewhere; watch out for any of the signs below.

When to Replace a Car Battery

Your car battery is where everything starts for your vehicle. The battery provides electricity to the starter motor, which engages the engine. This process pulls tons of energy from the car battery for a short time to get the starter going. Once the engine starts to run, the alternator is powered and recharges the battery. However, if the battery is not charged, the whole process fails. Here’s how you can spot a dead battery:

Dashboard Warning Light

This is one of the most obvious symptoms that indicate you need to replace a car battery. If your dashboard warning light has a little battery lit up, it tells you that your battery is either dead or dying. Take this warning seriously. While it could be a sensor malfunction or simply indicate the need for a recharge, your car battery may also be on its last legs. By the time the warning light turns on, chances are your car battery is already almost depleted.

Engine Slow to Start

A slow engine crank is the second sign of a dead or dying battery. When you turn your key or press the ignition button, you normally hear some sort of engine rev or startup noise. If you have to try starting your engine multiple times, or it takes longer than usual, it is likely a car battery issue. The electricity needed to start the engine comes from the battery, and if there is not enough energy in the car battery, the starter may not be able to work efficiently to engage the motor.

Clicking Sound When Starting the Engine

Ah, the dreaded clicking noise. Hearing only a metallic clicking when you attempt to start your engine is a sure sign of a dead battery. This sound means there is not enough power in the battery to turn the starter motor. The clicking you hear is the feeble attempt to engage the starter when there is not enough energy to do so. When you hear this noise, your battery is almost entirely out of juice. You will either need to replace the battery or jump off your vehicle.

Dimming Headlights

Dimming headlights is one of the less noticeable signs that your battery may be on its way out. If the battery cannot provide enough power to the headlights, they will start to lose their brightness. Not only can this cause a safety issue, but it also probably means your car battery is no longer holding its charge.

Swelling Car Battery Case

If your car battery is exposed to extreme temperatures, it can impact the chemical reaction within the battery case. This can result in a swollen battery case and an electronically dead battery. When this happens, the car battery cannot be recharged, and you will need to replace it with a new one.

Signs of a Bad Alternator

The alternator is an essential mechanism that powers the electrical components in your vehicle. On average, the life expectancy of an alternator is about 100,000 to 150,000 miles, and an older alternator may show these symptoms:

Warning Light

Like with a bad car battery, the warning light on your dashboard is the most noticeable sign of a bad alternator. Some cars may lump in the alternator warning with the battery light, but most will have an indicator solely for alternator issues. This light may be an illuminated “ALT” near the battery symbol.

Grinding Sounds

Another sign to watch out for is strange noises. An odd sound from your engine is never a good thing. A grinding noise while the engine is running can often be caused by an alternator that is turning bad. This sound occurs when the alternator cannot turn properly to produce the electricity it needs to power the electrical components in your vehicle. If you hear a whirring or grating noise, it’s important to investigate it as soon as possible.

Headlight Problems

Because the alternator is used to help power the lights, if they dim or fail to turn on, they are likely not getting power from the alternator. This can make nighttime driving difficult or dangerous. While you may not notice it at first, eventually, your lights will be significantly less bright than they should be if your alternator is about to kick the bucket.

Engine Stalling While Driving

This symptom can be pretty scary. While driving, your engine may stall out, and your vehicle may come to a complete stop. Not only could this cause an accident, but it could also significantly damage your engine. If this happens, your car may start up again after turning it off and on, but you will need to make an appointment at an auto shop as soon as you can.

Electronic Failures

Systems such as your radio, lights, and heat rely on the alternator to get their power. If any of these accessories fail, it could be a sign that your alternator is bad. Since the alternator also recharges the battery, a dead car battery can also be a symptom of electrical failure in the alternator.

Any of these signs ring a bell? Get battery and alternator service at Reliable Automotive

Whether you see any of the signs of a dead battery, a bad alternator, or any other issue, our crew is here to help. Make an appointment today.


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