How to Diagnose Car Battery and Starter Problems

Do you know what really happens in your home when you are away? Now you can. Watch more How to Make Simple Car Repairs videos: Use these tips to diagnose your car's battery and starter problems. Step 1: Turn on your ignition Turn on your ignition if your car engine won't turn over. Listen carefully to any sound produced. Step 2: Consider a dead battery Consider the possibility of a dead battery. If trying to start the engine only produces a "click" sound, this may be the case. If you left your car lights on the night before, the battery could have gone dead, and you'll need to have the battery jump-started. If the battery is very old you may have to get a new one. Tip Car batteries typically only last 3 to 5 years. Step 3: Consider a possible alternator problem Consider a possible alternator problem if turning on the ignition produces a whining sound, but you have a newer battery. If the alternator is bad, it will not charge the battery when you drive the car. You can use jumper cables and another battery to start the car, but the same problem will occur again. Have the alternator checked and replaced if necessary. Step 4: Consider a possible starter problem Consider a possible starter problem. If you hear a click when you turn on the ignition and the problem is not due to your battery, the starter's solenoid may have a weak spot inside. If so, the starter will not be able to produce enough current to start your engine, and you will have to have it replaced. Step 5: Visit a mechanic Visit a mechanic if you're having trouble determining the sound your car is making. It's always better to be safe than sorry! Did You Know? The Oxford Electric Bell, a battery-powered bell at the University of Oxford in England, has been ringing almost continuously since 1840.

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How to Test an Alternator
Do you know what really happens in your home when you are away? Now you can. Watch more How to Take Care of Your Car videos: Your vehicle's alternator is a vital component because it assists in charging your battery. Test your alternator to make sure your battery will continue to charge. Step 1: Find the battery Locate your car's battery, usually located on the left side of the engine if you're facing the front of the car. If it's not there, check the right side. Some cars even have their batteries under a seat in the middle of the car. Tip Consult the owner's manual for your vehicle if you can't find the battery. Step 2: Connect at the voltmeter Connect the voltmeter to the battery while the car is off. Connect the red positive wire on the meter to the positive battery terminal, and connect the black wire on the meter to a bare metal grounding source, such as a nut or bolt on your car's frame. Step 3: Read the battery's voltage Read the voltage on the meter to determine how many volts your battery is producing. Twelve is average, and if goes much lower than 11, you need a replacement. Step 4: Turn the engine on Disconnect all wires and turn the engine on and reconnect the meter to the battery. Step 5: Read the voltage Read the voltage on the meter as the car is running. If the voltage with the car running is higher than the voltage when the engine is off, then the alternator is fine. If it's lower, your alternator needs to be repaired or replaced. Did You Know? Americans buy almost 3 billion dry-cell batteries every year.

How to Jump-Start Your Car
Do you know what really happens in your home when you are away? Now you can. Watch more Driving & Car Safety videos: There's nothing more frustrating than getting into your car, turning the key, and—nothing. The good news is that a quick jump-start is just a jumper cable away. Warning Never attempt to jump-start a battery that is frozen, cracked, or damaged in any way. It could explode when connected to another battery. Step 1: Position cars Position the working car as close to the 'dead' car as possible. Ideally, that means hood to hood with a few inches in between. Step 2: Turn off both engines Turn off both engines. Tip Never light a match or smoke near a car battery. The battery contains hydrogen, a highly explosive gas. Step 3: Open hoods of both cars Open the hoods of both cars. Step 4: Identify terminals on car batteries Identify the positive and negatives terminals on both car batteries. They will be labeled with a plus sign for positive and minus sign for negative. Step 5: Connect red clamp to dead battery Connect one of the red clamps on the jumper cables to the positive terminal on the dead battery. Step 6: Connect red clamp to working battery Connect the other red clamp to the positive terminal on the working car’s battery. Step 7: Connect black clamp to working battery Connect the black clamp on the jumper cables to the negative terminal on the working car’s battery. Step 8: Clip black clamp to dead car's engine Clip the remaining black clamp to a clean metal part of the dead car’s engine to ground the circuit. Step 9: Attempt to start dead car Attempt to start the dead car. If it doesn't start, disconnect the jumper cables in the reverse order: first the black clamps (starting with the once-dead car), then the red clamps (starting with the working car). Start the engine of the working car and allow it to run for about five minutes to Boost its battery. Step 10: Attempt to start again Turn off the working car and again attempt to jump the dead car by connecting the cables -- in order -- and starting the ignition. Step 11: Disconnect jumper cables Once the car starts, disconnect all the clamps in the reverse order. Step 12: Charge battery or go to repair shop If you’re confident that your dead battery was just drained by accident, keep your car running to charge it back up -- otherwise, go directly to a repair shop without shutting off the engine, or you risk having the battery die on you again. Did You Know? Contrary to popular belief, heat -- not cold -- is the most common cause of car battery breakdowns.

How to Clean Car Battery Terminals
Do you know what really happens in your home when you are away? Now you can. Watch more How to Take Care of Your Car videos: If your car battery is corroded, not enough electricity can be passed to the terminals and through the cables to power your car's electrical system for optimum performance. You can clean away corrosion with a few simple steps. Step 1: Rinse and scrub the terminals Rinse the battery terminals with a solution of one heaping tablespoon baking soda to 1 pint water, and then thoroughly scrub the terminals and around the base of the posts with an old toothbrush. Step 2: Dry the battery Dry the battery and terminals with a clean towel, making sure to wipe away residue and corrosion around the terminals. Step 3: Remove battery terminals Loosen the nut on each cable clamp and remove the terminals from the posts by twisting and pulling them off. Tip Remove the terminal from the negative post, marked with a minus sign, first. Then remove the terminal from the positive post, marked with a plus sign. Step 4: Inspect the cables and clamps Inspect the cables for excessive wear and corrosion, and inspect the battery and terminals for damage. If there is excessive damage, replace the parts or the battery to avoid future problems. Step 5: Clean the terminals Insert the end of the battery brush into the terminals and rotate it back and forth until the inside of each terminal is uniformly shiny and all of the grease, dirt, and corrosion is scrubbed away. Tip Since battery brushes are conical and terminals are different sizes, you may have to flip the terminal over to effectively clean the other side. Step 6: Clean the posts Push the open end of the battery brush over each post and rotate it back and forth for about a minute, or until the posts are uniformly shiny and all of the grease, dirt, and corrosion is brushed away. Step 7: Clean the battery Pour more of the baking soda and water solution over the top of the battery, wipe it down with a clean rag, and then dry it off with the towel. Then reattach the terminals to the posts, starting with the positive cable. Step 8: Perform regular maintenance Perform regular battery maintenance, checking for corrosion several times a year, to ensure your electrical system stays in good working order and you don't get stranded. Did You Know? A car battery contains 18 pounds of lead and one pound of sulfuric acid.

How to Push-Start a Car with a Dead Battery
Do you know what really happens in your home when you are away? Now you can. Watch more Driving & Car Safety videos: tery Left your lights on at the mall again? Here's how to get your car started without the use of jumper cables. Step 1: Turn ignition on Turn your ignition to the "on" position. Step 2: Engage clutch; put into gear Press the clutch firmly to the floor and put the car into gear. Tip First or second gear will work, but try second gear to reduce the jolt when the vehicle starts. Step 3: Push car Have your friend or friends push the car until you have achieved a speed of five to 10 miles per hour. Tip Let your friends know when you are about to pop the clutch so that they can get out of the way. Step 4: Release clutch Release the clutch pedal slowly. Tip Don't be afraid to give the engine a little gas at this stage, but not too much. Step 5: Drive Drive for a short distance after you feel the car start; just to make sure that the vehicle is actually running. Don't forget to go back for your friends. Did You Know? On average there is over 3,000 feet of wiring in every car.