How to Tell if a Car Battery is Dead

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Diagnosing car troubles. Learn how to spot the signs that your car battery is dead in this free car maintenance video.

Part of the Video Series: How to Change a Car Battery
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Aaron Gregory on behalf of Expert Village. We are going to talk about what happens when your car battery dies. How to select a new battery and how to see what the problem is. Well today we are talking about what happens when your car battery dies. The first and most obvious symptom that your car needs a new battery is when you put the key in the ignition turn it, and nothing happens. Sometimes you will hear a small click which is usually the starter cylinoid engaging, but maybe the battery does not have enough power to turn the engine over. Let's turn the headlights on and see if we have enough power for the headlights. Not enough power for the headlights. These symptoms together lead me to believe that the battery is completely dead. Let's do some tests to see if we can figure that out. First, I'm going to open the hood and take a look around for dirty connections, terminals, corrosion and then I am going to use a tester to see how much voltage is in the battery. Sometimes the battery can be jump started but if it is below 11 volts it probably needs to be replaced. Now we are going to take a look under the hood and see what we can figure out with the dead battery. Now just about everybody knows what a car battery looks like but it is not always so easy to find once you lift the hood. There is a lot of stuff to look at; rubber hoses, metal tubes, engine blocks, batteries, and wires. Now we are going to take a look under the hood and try to find where the battery is, tell you where it might be in some other cars. Sometimes the battery is hidden inside a plastic box but most of us have seen a car battery. You are looking for a big square thing that has two big lugs on top or two big cables going to flat things that bolt on the side; this is a side post battery. Let's have a look. We found the battery here in the front corner of the engine compartment. On some cars you might find it in the back corner under a plastic cover or down inside the fender with a rubber flap over it to keep water off of it. The two main identifying characteristics of the battery are going to be the two big lead terminals and the two big cables leaving them. That allows the battery voltage and cranking amps to go to the starter. This is a top post battery. You can see these are called posts; they are lead to conduct as much electricity as possible. They are coming straight up out of the top, top post. These posts are slightly different sizes so if you replace the cables you need to be careful to get the right size for positive and negative. That is so that you don't cross the cables. It is still possible to cross them and that will cause damage to your car. A side post battery is identified by a small bolt going through the terminal into the battery itself. Don't over tighten those. There are lead lugs inside, they will strip out easily. To remove a side post bolt you will need a 6 mm metric box end wrench. Some people will use pliers. Now we can perform a simple test on this battery before we remove it from the car or buy a new one.

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