Your car's battery allows the starter to fire up the engine. After the car starts, the battery continues to supply electrical components with power. Headlights, dashboard illumination, and the fans pushing hot or cold air into your vehicle's cabin require battery power to operate properly.
A vehicle with a weak or dead battery can't supply the power needed to start the engine. If your car won't start, it's important to check the battery.
Warning Signs that Your Battery Is Weak
Your car's battery is easy to see when you open the hood. It looks like a large brick. Bulges on top or a buildup of white or yellow material are visual clues that your battery may be weak.
Weak batteries can also cause dim headlights, a car that's slow to turn over, or a clicking sound when you try to start the car. Often, weak batteries don't have telltale symptoms. They simply stop working.
What to Do if Your Car Battery Is Dead
If you think your battery is dead and you have access to a running vehicle and jumper cables, you could try to borrow power from the other car to start yours. If you don't have experience jump-starting a car, follow the instructions included with the jumper cables closely. You may also find jump-starting instructions in your vehicle's user manual or online.
Roadside services will jump-start your vehicle, as well. You'll need an active subscription, like the one offered to Idrivesafely.com students. If you have a newer car that's still under warranty, you may have roadside assistance included with that coverage. Check the warranty manual, which should be in your glove compartment with your vehicle's user manual.
As with many issues relating to automotive emergency management, prevention is crucial when it comes to taking care of your car battery.
"Check your battery date," said Richard Reina, product training director at CARiD.com. "Many of us have nightmares about dead batteries stranding us on the side of the road during a harsh winter. However, car batteries are more likely to die in the heat of the summer, putting a damper on your road trip plans. If your battery is over three years old, get it tested. If you aren’t sure when you got it and it’s been a few years, it might be a good idea to get a new unit as a preventative measure."
How to Check the Age of Your Car Battery
If your car's battery is less than three to five years old, it may be covered under a warranty, even if you don't have a warranty on your vehicle.
Look at the top of the battery cover for the four or five-digit date code. Here's how to read the code:
The first digit from left corresponds with the month (A = January, B = February, C = March, etc).
The second digit from left correspond with the year (9 = 2009, 0 = 2010, 1 = 2011, etc).
If your car's battery is more than three years old, consider replacing it. Many auto parts stores or battery stores will test your battery at no charge.
How to Teach New Drivers About Basic Car Maintenance
New drivers have a lot to learn about handling a vehicle on the road. They also need to understand basic vehicle maintenance. Participating in online driver's ed is a great way to give new drivers the knowledge they need to stay safe on the road and help them understand how vehicles operate.