Is your car making strange noises when starting? Unusual noises when starting a car can be a sign of a dead battery. But how can you be sure that the sound is originating from the battery and not from something else such as the alternator?
In this article, we will explain not just what a dead battery sounds like, but also how to tell the difference between a dead battery and a dead alternator. We also give you tips on looking after your car battery to get the most out of it for as long as possible.
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What Sound Does A Dead Battery Make?
If your battery is nearly dead, you are likely to hear a clicking noise each time you turn the key in the ignition. The clicking noise is created when the battery tries to send a charge to start the car but it hasn’t got enough power. You can watch this very short video for examples of the type of clicking sounds you might hear.
While clicking is the most common sound, there may be no sound at all if your battery is completely dead. An engine running louder than usual can also be a sign of battery problems. So if you can hear a clicking sound when the engine cranks, the car will not start, or the engine is louder than usual, it is most likely because of a car battery issue.
If you have a corroded battery or a disconnection between the battery and its terminal, you might get a spark as well as a loud noise when you try to start your car. If this happens, you will probably need a new battery.
Other Symptoms of a Dead Battery
A dying battery is not an irreversible problem, but having it die on you completely is a hassle. If you want to avoid having a dead car battery, there are some warning signs you can look out for.
- Headlights: if your headlights go dimmer when your car is idling, it is a possible sign of a problem with your car battery. However, it could also be a problem with the alternator. We will cover how to check which it is a little later in the article.
- The Engine: is the engine of your car cranking slowly? While your car might not be starting because of a bad starter motor or an alternative mechanical issue, slow cranking is usually a sign of a dead battery.
- Dashboard lights: if you have a dying or a weak battery, the lights on the dashboard are likely to dim or flicker.
- Battery terminals: check the terminals for corrosion. If you notice corrosion on them, it is a sign of acid leaking from the battery. When you have corrosion on the battery terminals, electricity will not flow properly. Unfortunately, in the case of a corroded battery, you may have to get a replacement battery even if there is still life in the old one because it could be dangerous.
- Check engine light: has the check engine light come on in your car? This is commonly caused by a dead battery or a faulty alternator. When the engine light comes on, check both your battery and your alternator.
- Electrical Systems: if the electrical components in your car are not working, this is likely because of a dead battery.
Reasons Why Your Car Battery May Die
There are several reasons why your car battery may die. This can happen simply because the battery is old. Even rechargeable batteries have a shelf life. They can go through a certain number of charging cycles and when they reach the maximum, they will no longer hold a charge.
The climate can cause your battery to die. If you live in an area where you experience extreme cold or hot temperatures, this can affect the chemical reaction that takes place in the battery when it provides the power needed to start the engine. Leaving your lights on will also drain the battery.
You can avoid issues with your battery and prevent it from wearing out prematurely by looking after it properly. Below, you will find key tips on maintaining your car battery. You can usually find more information specifically related to the battery you have in your car owner’s manual.
What Can You Do to Avoid a Dead Battery?
You can keep your car battery in good working order and avoid a dead battery with proper battery maintenance. Keeping your battery charged is important. When it drains completely, this can damage it. Check the level of fluid in the battery and the battery cables at regular intervals to ensure everything is in good shape.
Driving your car regularly will also help to avoid the battery dying. When you keep using the battery, it stays fully charged. If a car is left for weeks or even months without someone driving it, the battery will die because it is not getting used. Take your car for a drive, even a short one, at least once a week to keep your battery charged up.
Checking that the alternator is working correctly will help the car battery last longer, too. The alternator powers the car and charges the battery when the engine is running. If the alternator is not working properly, your battery will not charge.
Finally, you also need to avoid unnecessary running of the car engine. This means not leaving it idling for long periods. It is always best practice to turn the engine off when you are not driving.
What Can You Do if Your Battery Has Died?
If your car battery dies, it may be possible to jump-start it. How do you do this? You need jumper cables and another car. If there are no other cars around or you are on the road, then you will need to call someone you know or roadside assistance.
The process of jumpstarting your battery is straightforward. Here is how you do it.
Park the car that you are using to jumpstart your car close enough for the jumper cables to reach from one battery to the other. About three feet should be close enough, but it depends on the length of your cables.
Switch off all electrical items in both cars. This includes the GPS, the radio, and anything plugged into the cigarette lighter such as your mobile phone.
Now you need to connect the car batteries by identifying the positive terminal on your dead battery and connecting the red cable to it. Connect the opposite end to a metallic part of your car. Next, repeat with the black cable on the negative terminal of the other car.
Start both cars. Run them for five minutes minimum. Then try starting your car again. If this hasn’t worked, you will need another, stronger battery to jumpstart yours. If you still cannot jump-start your car battery, you may need to get a mechanic to examine it.
How Do You Know if it is a Battery or an Alternator Problem?
The symptoms of a dead battery and a faulty alternator can be similar. One clear sign of an alternator problem is if your battery starts your car but discharges while the car is running. This happens because the alternator is not recharging the battery. Other times, it is not obvious which is causing the issue, so you will need to conduct a simple test.
You can test your battery using a voltmeter. Turn your engine off and measure the battery’s voltage. The reading should be at least 12.6 volts. A lower reading means a weak battery and you need to replace it.
You can also test how well your alternator is working by starting the car and letting it run. Now, measure the battery’s voltage. You should get a reading from 13.5 to 14.5 volts. A reading below 13.5 volts is a sign that the alternator is not working properly and you need to replace it.
Note that if you hear unusual noises when starting the car, the fault is more likely in the battery than the alternator. A failing alternator will not make any sound and with a dead alternator, your car simply will not work.
If you hear unusual noises such as a clicking sound or a loud sound with a possible spark when starting your car, it is often a sign of battery problems. While a dead battery doesn’t always mean you need to replace it, it is an inconvenience that most of us could do without.
You can try jump-starting a dead battery or call for roadside assistance. However, in some cases, for example, if there is corrosion, you will need to replace your battery. Sometimes, the issue might not be with your battery, but with the alternator. You can easily check this with a voltmeter.
We hope to have covered all your questions about the sounds and other symptoms of dead batteries. Should there be anything more you would like to ask about the topic, you can write your question in the comments section.