Top Auto Battery Drains
Posted: April 29, 2019 By: MattM
Most Common Reasons Your Car Battery is Dying
Nothing is a greater equalizer of automobiles than the necessities like a battery and fuel. If you car isn’t getting electrical power or fuel you aren’t going anywhere regardless if you have an old clunker or a million dollar super car. Dead batteries and drains on your battery can happen to anyone. We decided to list our top reason your car battery might be dying or getting weak. Symptoms like slow cranking, no cranking, no start, blinking gauges, and other problems can be a sure sign your battery or car has an issue.
- Parasitic Drain- All vehicle batteries have a small load on them or parasitic drain when the vehicle isn’t running. These draws or parasitic drains should be very small and come from things like your clock, car alarm, vehicle presets, etc. These are standard on most all vehicles and shouldn’t be enough to drain a good battery. Now if you leave an interior light, radio, chargers, headlights, etc on these might be too much for your battery and could drain it as quick as a few hours or overnight. We’ve also seen aftermarket accessories like radios, radar detectors, trailer controllers, accessory engine gauges, etc that are installed incorrectly cause these problems too. If you have aftermarket add-ons on your vehicle it can cause this issue to. The last reason is a wiring fault in the vehicle. A broken, split, or bad wire, or even a short circuit can cause a drain in the system also.
- Charging System- Your vehicle is designed with a self-charging system in which an alternator or generator spins on the engine and backfeeds a charge to the battery. Most modern cars can’t last more than 30 minutes driving without a charge. Because of this a poor or failing charging system can cause a battery to die or be weakened. If you notice that your engine is spinning over slower than normal on start-up or won’t start at all your charging system could be culprit. Commonly we see people replace their “dead” battery with a fresh one; only to find the new one dies a day later. We suggest jump starting your car and checking to see what the battery voltage is when the vehicle is running with a digital multimeter. If you’re seeing 12.5-14 volts when running your alternator and charging system are working and it could be another issues. If your battery is reading under 12 volts when running it may be bad or there’s an issue with your charging system.
- Extreme Weather or Temperatures- If you live in a climate where it gets extremely cold or hot it can cause battery issues or symptoms that seem like your battery is bad. It’s a fact that a weak or old battery will tend to fail or show it’s age when it is really cold out. When temperatures are consistently below freezing for days you may notice your vehicle starts slowly. This could just be because the engine is cold and it is harder to turn everything over when cold, or your battery could be weak and the extra force needed is too much for the old battery, When it gets into single digits or below 0F a poor battery will fail and leave you stranded on cold start up. We suggest having your battery tested each fall before winter. If you’re car is close enough to an outlet you can also invest in a battery maintainer or engine block heater to help out the battery in the winter.
- Lack of Use- If your vehicle sits for a long time or you only take very short drives the charging system may not be able to fully charge the battery. This is often a problem with classic cars in storage or people that have very short commutes to work. If your vehicle regularly doesn’t fully warm up when driving you may wear your battery out much quicker. We suggest at least starting and running your car once a week and let it get up to temperature. It is never good practice to let a vehicle just sit or drive it without letting it fully warm up. The ideal situation would be to take at least a short drive letting the vehicle get up to a medium speed and normal operating temperature once a week so the battery and other parts stay in good shape. If the weather is poor or you can’t get time to take it out for a drive you can at least let the vehicle sit and idle until it gets up to operating temperature. If you’re in this group of people that don’t drive your vehicle much you definitely could benefit from a battery maintainer or remote battery shut off to keep the charge on your battery up and require less frequent starts of the vehicle. It can also be use to help keep the battery charged when you only take short regular drives.
- Corroded or Frayed Battery Cables- This isn’t an issue with the battery but could cause intermittent issues that may seem like the battery is to blame. We suggest checking your battery cable connections at both the battery and where they connect to the engine or chassis to make sure there’s no corrosion build up or frayed wires. Over time battery cables can get massive corrosion (white dust.powder) on the terminals and will block the connection between the battery and the wire causing a no-start issue. A good practice is to check your battery health and cable condition on every oil change/service to assure everything is in good shape.
Hopefully those tips give you a head start on tracking down a dead battery and maintaining your battery health. If you need other automotive maintenance tools and supplies we have full line on our site HERE.