My car battery is not charging

If the engine won’t start, the battery might be dead. Getting it jump started or charged should resolve the problem. However if the vehicle has a charging fault your car may not start in the morning, or after a short period of time the car may cut out in use. There could be more than one reason for this, so it’s important to carry out some simple checks before you can determine the correct solution.

  • Check the battery voltage and state of charge by turning on the headlights. If they are normal brightness your battery is probably not the problem. If they are dim or don’t come on then there is probably a battery fault.
  • Next, use a voltmeter to check the voltage. A fully charged battery should read 12.6 volts with no load. If the reading is below 12.45 volts then it needs to be recharged.
  • Now test the battery to see if it is holding charge using a hand held electronic battery tester.

If the battery is not holding charge, further checks will be needed to determine whether something is draining the battery. This is best done by a Vehicle Technician as current drains can be complex problems to diagnose.

My car battery is not working or won’t start

If your car won’t start, the cause may be immediately clear. For instance, you might have accidentally left your lights or your radio on and run the battery down. In this case, a jump start should get the battery going and when the engine is running it will begin to charge up again. Jump starting a modern car can be tricky, so visit our information page on ‘how to jump start’ for more information (link to new jump starting page). Try to drive the car for between 15 and 30 minutes after the jump start to get a decent charge. If the battery was completely discharged you may also need to use a battery charger.

There may be a number of other reasons why the battery is not working or the car won’t start. The best way to diagnose these is to identify your circumstances and try acting to remedy each situation.

If your car makes a clicking noise but won’t start, a dead battery is most likely the cause. In other circumstances such as complete silence when you turn the key, the engine starts but dies or the car won’t start in cold or rainy conditions, factors other than the battery are a more likely cause.

Common car battery issues

One of the most common reasons for a car battery issue is leaving on electrical equipment. This is easily done, so try to mentally check that you’ve turned everything off when you leave your car. Your battery can also be affected by cold weather, which increases the time it takes to recharge. It’s worth checking your battery in preparation for the winter. Visit our information page for further tips and advice on avoiding car battery issues in the winter.

Short journeys that don’t allow the battery to fully charge can also cause issues. Try charging the battery at home at regular intervals to avoid this. Also try not to put the battery under strain by turning off any electrical equipment that isn’t vital.

Your battery can be prone to corrosion and loose connections, and requires the alternator to charge it. Therefore alternator problems will also affect the battery, and may make it difficult to determine where the problem lies. If the battery checks outlined earlier indicate that the battery is functioning as normal, you should check the alternator next.

What is the expected life of a car battery/ Do car batteries have a life expectancy?

Yes, car batteries do have a life expectancy, just like other rechargeable batteries. A good battery can last for over five years with proper care. However, battery failure can occur in as little as three years, depending on the usage, maintenance and seasonal temperatures. Short trips can harm a battery as they don’t give it chance to get up to proper working temperature or achieve full charge, so cars used for short trips may experience battery problems earlier.

How often should I replace my car battery?

Your car battery should be replaced every three to four years. This should tackle any problems in good time before the battery fails. In major service reports you will also be notified if your battery needs replacing. It’s better to do this at a convenient time rather than getting caught out by a dead battery when you need to travel.

My car battery is dead, what should I do?

Don’t worry! With the RAC Shop’s car battery service you can buy a battery online and we’ll fit it the same day. Our handy car registration lookup will help you to find the right battery, so you know you’ve made the right choice for your vehicle. All our car batteries are manufacturer quality and will be fitted by experienced and trusted technicians. You can choose to have the battery fitted at an approved garage or by and RAC patrol. Let the RAC shop take all the hassle out of replacing your car battery. Visit our car battery service here.

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