Nothing is as frustrating as turning your ignition key and not be greeted by the usual, melodious rev. Nine times out of ten, such a predicament is the result of an electrical failure, finding the culprit of which can be quite cumbersome. However, there is always that one place to start your investigation: the car battery.
For automobiles, the battery is of vital importance, and not short of being the heart and soul of your beloved car. It powers your air conditioners, lights, wipers, and also your collective (or solitary) music jamming sessions. So, if your automobile is croaking upon ignition, or downright unresponsive, here are some ways which you can employ to check whether your car battery is still working, or completely conked out.
Start with the Indicators
Since vehicles nowadays have pretty smart self-diagnostic systems, chances are, your dashboard battery indicator is already blinking in protest against your negligence. If the warning light is blinking or stays on at all times, it might be the time to pop open the bonnet and check your battery physically.
New gel-type batteries often have an integrated gauge indicator, which changes colour depending upon the output electric power generated. The colour interpretation chart is usually provided on the batteries itself.
Bring out the Voltmeter
Once you open the bonnet, the assembly inside can be quite overwhelming to the untrained eye. Worry not, the car battery is usually the easiest to find. Once you’ve located the battery and have the multimeter ready, remove the cover on the battery terminals, and make sure that all the battery-draining car accessories are turned off.
Connect the positive end of the voltmeter to the red battery terminal and the negative end to the blue one. Check the readings. A healthy battery should indicate a value anywhere between 12.4 volts to 12.7 volts. As a rule of thumb, anything above 12.5 volts is an indicator that everything is fine, whereas anything below 11.8 volts is a sign of low charge.
Also, here are some typical values which correspond to a fixed battery percentage: If your voltmeter registers a value of 12.3 volts, it is 75% charged. On the other hand, an amount of 11.8 volts corresponds to a 25% charged state.
Hydrometer and Headlight Test
Since the chances of having a voltmeter lying around in your garage is pretty slim, you may need an intuitive method to check your car battery. Performing a headlight test in such situations proves to be quite useful, and provides you with enough information regarding the state of your car’s power supply. It includes turning your headlights on when you turn on the ignition. If the intensity of the light is dimmer than usual, it may be an indicator of low battery.
If the headlights get brighter over time, your alternator isn’t providing sufficient current to charge the battery.
On the off chance that you have a hydrometer lying around, you can acquire relatively accurate results than the headlights test. Since your car battery gets charged due to the ions present within an electrolyte, usually an acid, a low acidity level may mean a deficit of ions, and thereby, a weaker battery.
But before you go on about testing the potency of the acid, be sure to wear gloves, since the acid is quite harmful. Begin with lowering the hydrometer into battery cell and pressing the bulb. When adequately submerged, release the hydrometer bulb and watch the electrolyte flow into the apparatus.
Take a note of the readings. It’s a good sign if the acid concentration lies between 1.265 and 1.299. If the measurements are less than the recommended values, it may be an indicator of low charge, or in the worst-case, sulfation.
A load test is similar to the voltmeter test, albeit with an additional application of load to the engine.
The easiest way to conduct the load test is by starting your vehicle while setting your voltmeter to measure the “min/max” voltage. When the engine comes to life, the starter draws a lot of energy from the battery, so the battery is somewhat drained. If a minimum voltage of 9.6 volts is maintained for at least 15 seconds, your battery has passed the test. If not, you may need a battery replacement or the help of a car-battery expert.
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