Your battery just started to sputter and you’re worried about being able to make it stay alive without a jump start. One way to make sure that you avoid a “flat battery” is to drive your car so that the alternator can charge your car’s battery.
Did you ever need to charge your battery by driving? It’s a thing, and you might be wondering how long it will take before you can assume that your flat battery will be alright. Let’s talk about it.
How long do you have to drive before you charge a car with a flat battery?
This is a good question, and in truth, it’s not an easy question to answer. It all depends on the voltage that you have in your battery and how drained your battery is. A faulty battery won’t react well to this method of charging,
If your battery isn’t entirely drained and rechargeable, it usually takes about 30 minutes of steady driving at highway speeds. If you choose to drive at a slower (neighborhood street) pace, then you may need to drive as much as 60 minutes or more to get a full power charge.
This also can vary from vehicle to vehicle, as well as the overall temperature of the car.
During these 30 minutes, you should not stop your car to get gas or anything similar to that. You should keep used of any electrical components (lights, radio) to a minimum so that your car can recharge quickly.
PRO TIP – Add gas before you jumpstart the car. This way you don’t end up running the risk of ending up stranded.
How many miles do you have to drive until a car is fully charged?
This means that you should expect to drive at least 30 miles for a full charge.
How can you tell if driving will charge your car battery?
If a voltmeter shows that your battery is flat (under 11 volts of power) or if you notice that your car battery’s connections are grimy, then you might not get a good charge by simply driving. Busted batteries will not act as a charger.
It’s worth noting that your car battery is not the only way you get power to your car’s electrical system. At 0 degrees Fahrenheit, your battery will only supply around 65 percent of your car’s power.
Can car batteries charge while idling?
If you don’t feel like driving away on a highway, there is some good news. You do not actually have to drive in order to charge a flat car battery. If you want to, you can idle your car. However, this is not a smart idea.
In order to get your battery fully charged, you would have to idle your car for long periods of time. You also would have to shut down any accessories, such as your radio. This means you would probably not have a good time and that it’d take longer than you’d want it to.
Is driving a good way to get your car charged?
While driving around after a jump start can work well for modern cars or an old truck, the truth is it’s not ideal. It can be effective, but it is not the safest option for your car. The best way to charge a car is using a car battery charger.
Or better yet, you might want to bring your auto to a mechanic. A battery that keeps falling flat could be a sign of a bad battery, a bad alternator, or a poor battery installation.
Can drive to charge a car harm your vehicle?
Yes, driving your car to charge your battery can potentially harm your car. There are several parts that are more likely to suffer than others:
- Your belt. Your belt will have to clock in overtime in order to help run your car. This is what drives your alternator.Extensive use of the belt could also break it, leading to a costly repair.
- Your alternator. Your alternator is what generates the power that would charge your car during a drive. If you charge your car via driving on a regular basis, you will put an undue burden on your alternator. Eventually, this will lead to wear and tear, which then leads to breakage.
- Car electronics. If your battery goes offline for a while, this could cause your car to recalibrate. This is usually more of a nuisance than anything else, but it can still lead to annoying situations.
It’s worth noting that cars weren’t really designed to be charged up by driving. Driving will always add some level of wear and tear. The same can be said of idling, though to a lesser extent.
The best way to treat the option of charging your car during a drive is to assume that it’s not something that should be done on a regular basis.
How can you tell if you need a new battery?
There are several signs that you can use to tell if it’s time to replace your battery. These include:
- Needing to charge your car every day. If your car is struggling to deal with bad weather or cold, or if you have to jump start a car daily, get a new battery.
- Dim lights and wonky electronics. In some cases, your check engine light will keep staying on when you need a new battery, even when your car is otherwise fine.
- Corrosion around the battery itself, in large quantities. A cracked, corroded, or broken battery isn’t something to be trifled with. That’s a major warning sign that you must get a new battery fast.
- Regularly dying on the side of the road after ignition. A bad battery will often leave you relying on the alternator for power. When this happens, your car might start after a jump, but it will die on the side of the road not too long after.
- A bad smell from the battery. A dying battery might emit a foul, sour smell.
- Battery age. While batteries are meant to last a long time, but it’s not as long as you think. Modern batteries usually only last between three to four years.If you haven’t replaced your battery in that long, it may be time to get a new one,
Does this work for electric cars?
Not all battery types can use driving as a way to gain more power.
Unfortunately, electric vehicles cannot charge while driving. This charging technique is more or less relegated to traditional gas machines. If your EV has decided to run out of battery, you may need to get it towed to a nearby charging station.
In some cases, your vehicle’s user manual will have advice on how you can charge your car when there are no charging stations nearby. This may require you to have an extra car battery on hand, or it may require you to call AAA.
PRO TIP – While companies like Tesla are starting to offer free plugs across the country, it’s important to recognize that there are still fairly rare in many parts of the US. Don’t buy an EV if you need to do long haul drives in rural areas. It could be too much to handle right now.
If you love the idea of an EV but don’t live in an EV-friendly area, consider getting one of the many plug-in hybrids on the market. Hyundai makes some fairly affordable ones.
How can you find a charging station in a new city?
If you are on the road and don’t know where to find a place to charge your EV, don’t panic. There are apps for that. Tesla and several other groups have interactive maps featuring guides to public charging stations across the country.
PRO TIP – PlugShare is one of the more popular apps for people to find nearby charging stations for Teslas and other EVs. It’s updated fairly frequently, so it’s safe to say it’s a reliable way to locate a plug near you.
If you have to charge your battery by going for a drive, it’s not ideal. It will not work if you have an EV, but if you have a traditional car, you have a fighting chance of getting it juiced up. The best way to do it is to drive with no accessories turned on.
If you want to get a full charge from a drive, you will need to drive at least half an hour on highway speeds. This is about 30 to 40 miles. You can also idle your car to get power, but it will take a far longer time.
When at all possible, check to see if you need a new battery. It can prevent problems later on.