Your vehicle’s battery provides the charge that starts the engine and to power its electrical components.
Electrical components are connected in series, meaning that a problem with one component can sometimes seem like a problem exists with something else.
There are two other major components to your vehicle’s starting and charging system.
When you turn the ignition key, you are actually activating the starter, which then cranks the engine. When the starter isn’t working, the engine will not switch on. Starter problems may be due to electrical and/or a mechanical starter component failure or an outright circuit breakage.
The alternator recharges your battery while the vehicle is running. The alternator also works in conjunction with the battery to operate the vehicle’s electrical components such as the headlights and windshield wipers. A malfunctioning alternator can result in electrical components operating erratically, or even cause your engine to suddenly stop running.
If you have battery trouble, there are a few things you may want to check before calling for an assistance or replacing the battery. Be sure the battery is properly secured. Vibration caused by an unsecured battery can affect battery life. The cables to the battery terminals must be clean and securely connected. A build up of corrosive elements on the terminals can seriously weaken starting power.
Signs of Battery Problems
The most obvious sign of a battery problem is a dead battery. However, because the battery is part of a larger system connected to other electrical components in the vehicle, a dead battery may indicate another problem such as a malfunctioning alternator.
The best way to test a battery is with an electronic tester available at an AutoZone store. Connect the tester to the battery to take a voltage reading of the battery’s condition. This will indicate whether it needs to be replaced.
If the battery has voltage, then the fault lies elsewhere in the vehicle’s electrical circuit. This check should be part of the vehicle’s routine maintenance and done each time you service the vehicle or do an oil change. If the battery is older than three or four years, start expecting problems. Secondly, short trips and long periods of inactivity will draw on the battery’s life. And batteries tend to give trouble in winter more than in summer.
Thirdly, take a look at the battery itself. Corrosion or battery acid stains mean a leaking battery. Look for corrosion buildup around the terminals.
Clean the buildup with a baking soda and water mix. Use gloves and safety glasses when working with the battery. The electrolytic solution is partially sulfuric acid, which can burn the skin.
If the battery has an odor similar to rotten eggs (sulfur) or the smell suggests abnormal battery overheating, consult an AutoZone specialist to correctly diagnose the problem. AutoZone offers free battery testing in conjunction with Sabat Batteries to ensure your battery is operating correctly.