How to deal with a dead car battery

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5 min read

Uh-oh! What’s that sound? If your engine sounds similar to a moody cat (rur-rur-rur), there’s a good chance you have a dead car battery.

Before you get on the phone and call for a tow truck, check to see if your car won’t start but the starter “clicks.”

Some solutions:

If you’re feeling handy and know your way around, down, and inside and out of a car… try cycling the key. Turn on the dome light and watch it while you try to start your car’s engine. If the light stays out, the battery is weak. But, if the light stays on and you’re feeling confident, try tapping on the battery terminals. You’ll need tools to clean corroded battery terminals, but you can try to to move the terminals to make contact—slightly tap on them. Lastly, if you have access to the starter motor, try smacking the starter with the tire iron from your car jack. Tapping on them can free electrical contacts.

If you’re not finding much luck with the above solutions, you most likely have a dead car battery. But don’t fear! Jumpstarting the car is an option. (And yes, there’s still a way to jumpstart your car without cranks.)

the jumpstart process

  • Call a friend or family member to meet you. Have them park so their car faces yours—this is so the jumper cables touch both batteries. (little known fact, this is how cars say “hello”)
  • Make sure neither car is on and that no keys are left in the ignition.
  • Locate the positive and negative cables. Red = positive. Black = negative. Do not let the cables touch.
  • The jumper cables contain two red and two black leads. Take one red lead and attach it to the positive cable in the car with the dead battery first.
  • Take the attached black lead and rest it against a plastic part of the car for now. No metal!
  • Now, take the other red lead and attach it to the positive terminal of the working battery. You can now attach the black lead to the negative terminal of the working battery.

Head back to the car with the dead battery and find a good ground—this is a piece of bare metal. Many cars will have a dedicated ground bolt, indicated with a “-” and arrow indicating it is safe for jumpstarting. Make sure that the wire isn’t too thin so the lead has something to latch on to.

  • Inspect both cars to ensure that your cables are not near any cooling fans.
  • Start the engine on your working car and allow it to run for two minutes. Then, start the engine on your dead battery. If all is good, remove the negative cable from the recently revived car first, and then the red cable. Do not let the cables touch.
  • Lastly, remove the red and black cable from your friend’s car.
  • Thank your jump starting buddy with a high five at least, tacos if you really mean it.  Off you go!

Now maybe your battery is dead and can’t get a jump. In other words, it’s dead dead and needs to be replaced.

what you should do

  • Head to the auto supply store.
  • Make sure to keep your old battery with you and don't tilt batteries on their side. If you do not, battery electrolyte (sulphuric acid + water) can spill out.
  • If you head to a parts store, they can help you. But if you’re curious to know what kind of battery you’ll need, there is an easy way to figure it out.
  • Get your battery replaced. But you’re not done yet! If your car is less than three years old, you may have a defect and need car repair. It’s definitely worth looking into, and can save you money in the long run.

other options

If these steps are too complicated, or if your car’s life doesn’t seem to match up with the time and cost of replacing a dead battery, it may be a good time to find out how much your car is worth.

If your car is, in fact, defective (bummer) parting with your current wheels may seem like the worst case scenario. Did you know Peddle will buy anything—dead battery or not, defected or not? Selling to Peddle is an easy way to get cash in your hand, quick.

If you decide to sell your car through Peddle (yay!), knowing what to expect will make the road ahead feel that much smoother. We’re ready when you are.