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What if my Car Battery Won't Hold a Charge?

So you’ve already went through the steps of How to Jump your Vehicle: A step by step guide and something is still not right.


Let’s say for a moment that you successfully get your car battery jumped, and are able to make it to your destination. But then, the next time you try to start your engine, you experience the same problems—clicks, sputters, all the telltale sign of a dead battery.

If your battery “dies” twice in a row like that, it simply means that it didn’t successfully hold its charge the first time. There are several potential causes to consider.

The Causes of a Failed Charge

Some of the most common reasons why a battery won’t hold its charge include:

  • You’ve left your lights on—or some other accessory that draws battery power—even when the car hasn’t been running.

  • Even while you were driving the car, the battery wasn’t recharging. This is a mechanical problem, and something you’ll want to discuss with the service pros at Danny’s Auto.

  • You simply didn’t drive the car around for very long once you jumped it; remember, you’ll want to keep the engine running for at least a few minutes to ensure it builds a decent charge. Spending about 20 minutes driving around town is ideal.

  • There is some sort of a parasitic electrical drain on the battery—more likely than not caused by a bad alternator.

  • The battery is simply old, and no longer capable of holding a charge for very long. If this is the case, you will need to replace it.

These are not the only potential causes of your battery woes, but they represent the most likely scenarios.


Diagnosing the Problem

To determine which of these scenarios you are dealing with, here are a few troubleshooting tips.

  • First, simply turn on your headlights. If they come on with their normal brightness, your problem is probably a bad starter or poor wiring—not the battery itself. If the lights do not come on at all, or if they’re dimmer than normal, then the problem is more likely with the battery.

  • Next, assess the voltage of your battery. To do this, get a voltmeter and connect the red lead to the positive terminal and the black lead to the negative terminal. Hopefully, you’ll get a reading of over 12.6 volts, showing a fully charged battery—but if not, there’s definitely an issue with the battery being poorly charged.

  • From there, consider the condition of the battery itself. Does it look obviously corroded or worn out? Is it more than four years old? If so, then the simplest solution may be to have the battery replaced.

  • Finally, consider whether the problem is your alternator. If you detect cracking or fraying in the alternator cables, that’s an obvious sign that something’s off. And if you jump start the car only for the battery to quickly lose its charge and the engine to stall, that’s suggestive of an alternator issue.

These are some effective ways to figure out why your battery won’t hold a charge—but what if it won’t jumpstart at all? If you followed our step-by-step guide and your engine still will not turn, there could be a number of potential reasons.


3. Why Won’t Your Engine Jumpstart?


If your efforts to jumpstart the battery don’t go anywhere, it’s likely for one of these reasons:

  • First, it may be that the terminals on your car battery need a deep cleaning. Tips to fix this issue can be found here: “How to Clean a Car Battery”.

  • Your battery may simply be very old, and beyond the point at which it can be repaired—in which case, of course, it will need to be replaced.

  • Finally, note that there could be another mechanical problem somewhere in the vehicle, such as blown fuses or a bad alternator. A Danny’s Automotive Service technician can help diagnose and fix any of these problems.

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