A dead car battery can leave you stranded, but some issues are minor ones and can be corrected with a little know-how. Follow the below tips and tricks to get back on the road.
My car won’t start
Check the battery
If all you hear when you try to start the car is a dull click, your battery is likely flat and needs to be recharged.
- If the dome light doesn’t come on when you open the door, or the dashboard won’t light up when you turn the key, don’t bother to check the battery. You can be fairly certain it’s the culprit.
To recharge a battery, you’ll need an inexpensive trickle charger, available at low cost from all auto stores.
- First, make sure the ignition is switched off. If possible, use a wrench to loosen the clamps on the battery posts, then remove them.
- Connect the red clip from the charger to the battery’s positive terminal (marked Pos or +) and the other to the negative terminal (marked Neg or — ). Don’t let the metal clips touch each other or any other metal.
- Once connected, plug the charger into an electric wall socket and turn it on. Run the charger for a few hours or, if possible, overnight. Unplug the charger, disconnect its cables from the battery, reconnect the battery’s cables to the battery posts and start the car.
Corroded battery contacts may prevent your car from starting.
- With a wire brush, vigorously clean both battery posts and inside the connector clamps until you see nothing but clean metal.
- Reinstall the connectors, tighten the clamps and try again.
Some batteries are sealed units, but others can be topped up with distilled water if the battery fluid level drops.
- Unscrew each of the (usually six) plastic screw heads on the top plate of the battery.
- Look inside using a flashlight — the metal plates within should be covered with liquid; if not, top up with a little distilled water (not tap water).
Have your battery checked at your garage as outside temperatures fall — cold weather can drain a battery because you make more demands on it during winter as you run wipers, heating and headlights. Recharging or replacing your battery in good time means you won’t get stuck in the cold.
My battery is dead and I’m in a hurry
Jump-start the vehicle
When you just can’t wait for your battery to recharge, you can try jump-starting the car from another vehicle. It’s always worth carrying a set of jumper cables (available from auto stores) in case you’re stranded with a dead battery or need to give roadside assistance to another motorist.
Time needed to jump-start a car: 10 minutes.
You will need a set of jumper cables.
- Check that the two cars use batteries of the same voltage — most use 12V batteries. Park side by side or front to front so that the jumper cables reach between the two batteries. Turn off any nonessential electrical functions on both vehicles.
- Attach the positive (red) cable to the donor car’s positive battery post; attach the other end of the cable to the positive post of the dead battery.
- Clip the negative (black) cable to the donor car’s negative battery post; clip the other end to a metal bracket on the engine of the dead car. Ensure that the cables are away from any moving parts.
- Start the donor car and run it for two minutes; then try starting the dead car. If it starts, keep both cars connected for a few minutes, if not, call for auto assistance.
- Disconnect the cables in reverse order to how they were connected.