What to do when you have a dead car battery depends on what caused the problem. Some solutions are easier than others, and it is a good idea to research what to do in the event of a dead car battery so that you are more aware of what can go wrong and what to do about it. The following is a list of different problems that can cause a car battery to die and options for what to do in each case.
The most common way to fix a car that is completely drained of power is to jump start the car battery. To do this, you will need to have a working car that you can use to give your dead battery a boost right next to your car. Jumper cables are necessary for this process, so if you don’t already have a pair in your trunk you should buy some as soon as possible. Open the hoods of both cars and connect the positive cable to the positive terminal of the good battery, then to the positive terminal of the dead one. Next, connect the negative cable to the negative terminal in the good battery, then to the frame or engine of the car with the dead battery. Start the working car and let it idle for a few minutes. Your car should now be able to start.
When you get home after jump starting your car, you should check to make sure that it is in good working condition. Unless you left the lights on to drain the battery, there could be a problem with the battery that is causing it to go dead, such as a car battery drain. You should be more suspicious of this is your car battery dies frequently. Open the battery caps and check the electrolyte levels. If they are low, you can top them off by adding distilled water. If the terminals are corroded, you can clean them with a toothbrush and a mixture of water and baking soda.
After doing all the necessary maintenance work, it is time to check the battery with a voltmeter and a hydrometer. Use a voltmeter while the car is off to find the voltage between the two terminals. A normal reading is between 12.6 volts and 12.8 volts. Stick the hydrometer into the electrolyte cells to measure the sulfuric acid concentration. It should read around 1.215 to 1.28. If either of these readings are too low, it is time to replace the car battery. When replacing a battery make sure that the replacement has all the same electrical specifications and physical dimensions as the old one.
It is very frustrating to have a dead car battery, and even worse if you don’t know what to do about it. By taking the time to research the different problems that can go wrong with car batteries to make them die, you will be more aware of how to diagnose and fix the problem when it arises.