How Do You Tell if Your Battery is Going Bad?

Tips & Support
OPTIMA Batteries
Milwaukee, WI

Did you go out to your car, only to find it won't start and now you're wondering if your battery is going bad? It might seem like the advice a battery company would offer would be to replace it immediately, just to be safe. However, we think such advice is wasteful. Car batteries that are deeply-discharged won't start a car, but that doesn't necessarily mean they need to be replaced and we don't want you to replace your battery if it doesn't need it.

The first thing you need to do if you think your battery is going bad, is to figure out the voltage level of the battery. It's best to measure voltage directly at the terminals and most auto parts stores sell voltmeters for less than $10. A fully-charged battery typically measures at least 12.6 volts and a completely discharged battery typically measures somewhere below 11.3 volts. Chances are, if your car won't start, your battery voltage will probably measure somewhere below 12.6 volts and could measure lower than 11.3 volts.

If you have a quality battery charger, you should attempt to fully-recharge your battery. If you don't have a battery charger or don't have a way to get to one, you can use a set of jumper cables or a jump box to get your vehicle started, but try to get the battery fully-recharged with a battery charger as soon as possible. Your vehicle's charging system IS NOT DESIGNED TO RECHARGE DEEPLY-DISCHARGED BATTERIES and using it in that way can diminish the lifespan of your vehicle's charging system and may not fully-recharge your battery.

Keep in mind, if your battery is deeply-discharged, it could take several hours to fully-recharge with a battery charger, depending on how deeply it was discharged. Once you have it fully-recharged, you should have the battery load-tested. Many auto parts stores will offer this service for free. The results of that load test will give you a good indication of the health of your battery and whether or not it needs to be replaced. In many cases, all a battery really needs is a good charge with a battery charger and it will continue working for several more years.