OK, so the battery is dead but you want to try and
deal with it yourself, what SHOULD you do now? Lots of people
just run down to the local parts store and buy a new battery,
but if you do that you have less than a 25% chance of FIXING your
Ask yourself these questions FIRST:
There are many problems that can cause a dead battery, or make
a vehicle not start and you need to do a little testing if you
don't want to waste money buying parts you don't need.
- Is the battery REALLY dead or is the starter not working?
- Is the battery dead or is there a bad connection somewhere?
- Is the battery dead because it is no good, or is it dead
because the alternator hasn't been recharging it?
- Is the battery dead or is there a problem in the ignition
switch, starter relay or solenoid?
I will just give you a few checks that you can do, without
any testing equipment that will help get you going in the right
First, turn off all accessories and open a window so that
you can hear what is going on. (Unless you are in a rain storm
or an area with a lot of noise around.)
Turn the key to the start position and see what kind of noise
you hear. If you just hear one click as you turn the key, you
may not have a battery problem at all.
Turn on the interior lights so that you can watch them as
you turn the key to start again and see if the lights go out
or go real dim. If the lights don't change a lot, you most likely
don't have a battery problem.
If you just get a single click and just a slight blink of
the lights when you try to start, you have a problem with the
starting system. (Not necessarily the starter.)
However, if you don't hear any noise AT ALL, do the test again
with the interior light on as above. If nothing happens, check
to make sure the shifter lever is in the park or neutral position
or make sure the clutch pedal is pushed all the way to the floor
if it is a standard transmission. You should even try moving
the gearshift lever between park and neutral a couple of times
and try it again. If you vehicle has a clutch, pump the pedal
up and down a couple of times.
If you still don't get anything to happen you may have problems
in any of the following areas; Neutral safety switch, (Clutch
switch if it is a standard.) Ignition switch, Starter relay
or solenoid. Needless to say, this testing will only work if
there is enough "JUICE" in the battery to make the lights come
on. If the battery is "STONE" dead, you will have no lights
So, what if the battery is stone dead?
This is when you need help from a friend or neighbor with
When you get the vehicles hooked together with the jumper
cables, being careful that you hook them up correctly, turn
on the interior lights BEFORE you try to start the vehicle.
Watch the lights as you start the vehicle and when the cables
are disconnected after it starts. The lights SHOULD go a little
dim as the vehicle starts, but then they should go full bright
as soon as the engines is running and STAY that bright after
the jumper cables are disconnected.
If the vehicle will not stay running after the jumpers are
taken off, just leave them hooked up for a few minutes, with
the other vehicle running, to get a little juice into your battery.
Now try the test again but still keep an eye on the interior
If the vehicle starts and stays running now turn on your headlights
after the jumpers are taken off and see what happens to the
interior lights. They SHOULD stay as bright as they were when
the vehicle first started.
If the interior lights go dimmer as you turn on the headlights,
turn the blower fan and wipers on to see if they go dimmer yet.
If this does make the lights go dimmer, you have a Charging
system problem. (Not necessarily the alternator.)
Next week, how to figure things out if all you get is a Rrrrrrring
noise and the engine just turns over very slow.