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How to troubleshoot car battery-related issues

There is nothing more annoying than waking up to a dead battery whether you need to go to work, bring a sick child to the clinic or run errands. When your ride won’t start, you begin looking at all car battery-related issues which can be the culprits. Sometimes it is easy to fix the problem, but it can also be larger than one thinks. The truth is your car battery is as important as any part of the vehicle to make it work.

What to do

There are several car battery-related issues that affect how your car runs. When it does not start, some simple things to do under the hood include the following:

  • Check the voltage

Some car owners fit a battery voltage regulator, usually in the glove compartment. If you happen to have one, check voltage levels. You can also use an electronic voltmeter. When a battery is charging correctly, it should read 12.6 volts.

  • Jumpstart the car

If the engine runs when you jumpstart the battery using cables, then it’s an indication the battery needs replacement.

  • Check for corrosion and clean the battery

Corrosion and stains affect the contact of terminals. Check what’s going on underneath. Clean the stains with baking soda and water and check afterwards to see if this is the issue affecting battery performance.

  • Test the ignition switch

Put the key in the ignition and turn it halfway. If you don't see the warning lights on the dashboard, then there is a problem with the battery. When the battery connections are okay and the lights are not visible on the dashboard, the ignition switch might be faulty and needs replacement.

  • Verify fuse

Depending on the model of the vehicle, glow lamps help in starting the car by pre-warming the engine. During cold weather, it takes some time before glow lamps do their job. When you start the car, check if the glow lamp indicator lights up on the dashboard. If it does not, then chances are a few of the lamps are not working and need replacement.

  • Check the fuel pump

A dirty fuel pump can prevent a car from starting. If the engine does not start, turn on the ignition key while pumping the gas pedal continuously. You should see a lot of smoke coming out of the tailpipe indicating that the fuel pump is either not working correctly or your fuel is dirty and contaminated. The fuel filter might also need replacement which is part of normal maintenance procedures.

Other things you can do

There are other spot checks you can do provided you have the necessary automotive tools in your garage like coil testing and verifying distributor caps. If you’re well versed in the electrical wiring system, you can also check the connections to see if other car battery-related issues cause failures. If you are unsure, do not attempt to perform any complicated tests for your safety and let a qualified mechanic look at the problem.

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