Friday, April 1, 2011


I will be discussing here a totally gas driven engine, not a hybrid or totally electric car.

So your vehicle will not start, or the engine stops while you’re going down the road! If it will not start, this can be caused by numerous potential problems, but I will only be addressing the fact that your battery “pooped the bed”. If your engine stops while running, this may be an alternator that’s gone bad and it could easily have also ruined your battery.

If your engine cranks real slow and your headlights are real dim, or it doesn’t crank at all, then chances are real good your battery is either in need of attention, or the battery’s fuse is blown. So, what do I do now you might ask. Read on and we’ll cover some need to know information.

The battery is the initial source for all of the electricity in your car. In most cars, it's a 12-volt, wet-cell battery that creates electricity through an electrochemical reaction caused by immersing a series of dissimilar metal plates in an acid solution. To keep your car firing on all cylinders, it's important to have a good working electrical system, and that begins with maintaining the battery. In general, a good working system involves three things: keeping the battery filled, charged and clean.

Maintaining the battery is easier today than ever before, because in most cases, today's batteries do not need water added under normal driving conditions, or the batteries are sealed. They still have acid in them, but you can't add to it even if you wanted to. If your car's battery does have removable caps, you should check the level about once a month or so to make sure it's full. Here's how:

o Make sure the engine's off.
o Open the hood.
o Remove the battery caps. (Do not force the cap off; it may appear to removable but is not.)

Look inside each battery cell. See the little ring, near the bottom of the opening? That's the "Full" line. The battery should be filled to one-quarter of an inch below the bottom of the opening. If the water level is low, use only distilled water to bring it up to the proper level. Replace the caps. (Be sure to wear eye protection and be careful when doing this.) If you're adding water to a battery when the outside temperature is below freezing, ensure that the battery is charged immediately after the water is added.

Most of the time you won't have removable caps to fill the battery. Some batteries have a small "eye" that indicates whether the battery is full or not. In most cases, the eye should be green when the battery is full and charged. Some imports use yellow to indicate that it's full. If the battery eye turns black, it means the battery either is too low, or it has become discharged. Take your battery into the shop to have it the battery charged and tested.

Next, check the battery itself. Is it clean or covered in grease and dirt? Believe it or not, grease on the battery case actually can discharge the battery. If the battery is dirty or greasy, clean it with a mild detergent and a damp cloth. Be careful: Batteries contain sulfuric acid. If you get any on your skin, always flush it off immediately with a solution of cold water and baking soda to prevent acid burns. Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling the battery.

Finally, look at the battery terminal ends. Those are the cable ends that connect the battery cables to the battery terminals. The terminal ends should be clean and free of any signs of corrosion (white powder looking stuff).  If there is corrosion, baking soda and water work real well for getting rid of it.

Buying a New Battery - Automotive batteries come in different types, sizes and price ranges. Whether you buy it yourself or get it through your repair shop, it's important to know how to identify the differences and how to choose the one that's right for your car. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help, if you need it!

Warranty - Most decent batteries last three to four years, regardless of warranty length. Often manufacturers offer longer warranties at higher prices just to hook you on their batteries. If you get rid of the car before the warranty expires, they win. If the battery fails while still in warranty, you take it back and they prorate your refund from the cost of a new battery.

Size - Don't be fooled by the size of today's batteries. New technology has enabled battery manufacturers to develop much smaller batteries that provide just as much power as the older, larger ones did. When choosing a battery, there should be only three size considerations:

  1. Does it fit properly in the battery tray?
  2. Is the battery short enough for the hood to close without causing a problem?
  3. Are the terminals on the proper sides, so the cables will reach?

As long as the answer to these three questions is "yes," the battery fit just fine in your car.

Capacities - This is the real difference between batteries.  How much they provide, and for how long. All battery manufacturers must declare this information using three standard measurements:

Cranking Amps - Cranking amps (CA) is the amount of power the battery provides for cranking your car's   starter for 30 seconds at a temperature of 32 degrees F (zero degrees C), while     maintaining at least 1.2 volts per cell (7.2 vol total). As you might expect, the higher the number, the more power the battery provides for starting your car .

Cold Cranking Amp- CCA is virtually the same as cranking amps, but with one difference: The measurement is taken at zero degrees F (-17.8 degree C). So, cold cranking amps indicates how well the battery will crank the starter in really cold weather when the engine is hardest to crank.

Reserve Capacity - This measurement indicates how long your battery would keep the engine running if the alternator stopped charging. It's a measurement of how many minutes the battery will deliver 25 amps at 80 degrees F (27 degrees C) while maintaining at least 1.75 volts per cell, or 10.5 volts total. In other words, this is about how long your car will continue to run with the headlights, wipers and defroster on, if the alternator quits.
So what capacities would be adequate for your car?  Bigger doesn't necessarily mean better when it comes to batteries. The climate where you live plays a factor. In a cold climate, bigger is better, but if you live in a hot climate, the lighter CCA may offer an increased life expectancy for the battery.

Not sure what the specifications were in the original battery? Check the owner s manual. If it doesn't provide the battery specs there, check the application guide from the battery manufacturer. They'll usually list a minimum recommendation for your car. Choosing a battery with higher specs won't hurt, but choosing a battery with lower capacities could leave you stranded one day.

Last and VERY important – make sure when putting the terminals back on the new replacement battery that you hook the red battery cable to the terminal that has the + sign for positive, and the black battery cable to the terminal that has the – sign for negative! If you reverse them, you can cause yourself more trouble and money. Pay attention when you remove the old battery and note where the + and – are facing, then put the new battery back in facing the same way. Be careful when lifting the battery out/into the car seeing they are pretty heavy and fairly awkward to lift!!!!

Hope this provides you with some useful information to make you a “happy motorist”!


  1. This is great. A few weeks ago I had my battery die..I jumped it, week later it died again. Had to get it replaced.

  2. My bros car has been having trouble with his car battery, i will most definitely show him this

  3. Thanks for the information, I think I'll use it. My headlights have been looking really dim lately.

  4. Last time I bought a Battery it came with red jelly kind of stuff that they say will prevent corrosion. Didn't have any directions so I didn't use it.

  5. I hope this becomes more helpful as I familiarize myself with the woes of used cars.

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  6. nice blog.. just bought a semi-reliable 4-banger 83 honda civic. nice little car and i know my way around a bit engine-wise but might pick up something useful here.

  7. Great tips! The battery is the cause of so many non-start issues.

  8. These are some useful guidelines, good insights as well. Thanks!

  9. Wow, this could be useful :)
    Following for updates.

  10. once again, thanks for this guide!

  11. i like your blog. keep up the good work

  12. I should print this up and put it in my car! Thanks for the info.

  13. My battery just died. I thought about adding wine to the battery McGuyver style, but opted to wait a day for a friend to bring some distilled water. Hopefully it starts today when I go out.

    ~H. Coct

  14. this is great! very informative. :D