Signs your battery is on the way out
Updated 4 May 2021
Whenever we press a button, flick a switch, turn a key, swipe a card or activate voice recognition, we want a response.
In fact, there are only two reasons why you wouldn't.
The first is to foil some international super-villain who's managed to access the nuclear codes and has a finger poised above the button marked "To End World, Please Press Here".
The other is if you've been wrongly convicted of a capital crime and have just been strapped in to ride the lightning aboard Old Sparky.
Most of the time, however, we anticipate a predictably proper and pleasing reaction from our press-flick-turn-swipe-activation action.
This is especially true in your vehicle.
Whether it's doors open, windows down, lights on, wipers waving, indicator flashing, The Who's Greatest Hits cranking or, most fundamentally, the ignition engaging and the car actually moving, your battery is key.
These days there's a variety of vehicle batteries on the market and they come at a range of costs.
Price aside, what unites them all is the task of supplying the electrical current without which your vehicle cannot function. No flow; no go.
It pays to familiarise yourself with the clues and cues of battery problems, such as:
1. The sound of silence: Batteries go flat for several reasons, including age, faulty connections and components, fuel system issues, ignition/alternator failure, and draining overnight due to a light being left on or some other power-plundering process sure to ruin your morning.
Whichever is to blame, when you attempt to start the car your engine will either make that dreadful whining, grinding sound that you know spells trouble, or it will make no sound at all, which spells TROUBLE in capital letters.
2. Jump starting: Some battery problems make themselves known beforehand.
If you're regularly jump starting your car then that’s the battery telling you it's coming up for retirement.
3. Visual clues: Don’t ignore cracks, leaks or other visual clues, particularly swelling of the battery case.
It’s not doing that because it’s pleased to see you.
4. Smell: Who smelt it dealt it, right? Not necessarily if your battery’s at fault.
If you detect a sulphurous stench and neither you nor last night's curry are at fault, check your battery.
Also, smoke from the battery is a no-brainer for immediate attention.
5. Engine light: If your engine light comes on, or the vehicle's light display/consistency is dimmer than it should be, check the battery.
And while you're under the bonnet, take note of the battery fluid level.
If it’s too low, your battery might need testing.
6. It's missing: OK, that’s being a bit tongue-in-cheek, but hey, not everyone is as trustworthy as we AutoGuru fans, right?
Remember, flattery will get you nowhere, but a battery can get you everywhere.
So, like everything to do with your vehicles, vigilance and maintenance are your friends.
We can also help you find a local, high-quality mechanic to take a look at and replace your battery if needed, grab a quote!
Michael Jacobson is an award-winning Queensland-based writer.
His appreciation for motoring began as a young journalist covering racing from Simmons Plains in Tasmania.
Over the years he has interviewed many Australian and international motoring greats.
He has also been driven around Lakeside Raceway at ferocious speed, circumnavigated the Gold Coast Indy circuit at more than 200kmh and managed to squeeze 365,000 kilometres out of a Toyota Starlet.