Many car owners recognize battery issues with their cars when the car won't start and they discover that the battery is dead. Sometimes, they get a bit of an early warning when they notice the lights dimming or other power problems. Most cars are equipped with a battery-charging gauge on the dashboard, but when you don't understand its readings, you may not recognize when your battery is starting to deteriorate. Here are a few things that you need to know about your car's battery and that battery gauge.
Understanding When Your Battery Is Failing
When you know what to watch for, you can sometimes identify the signs of a failing battery right away. One of the first things you should think about is the age of your car's battery. Batteries that are older than a couple of years are often at the greatest risk of failing. You may notice that your car is slower to crank when you start it in the morning. In some cases, it may only start intermittently. In other cases, it may become increasingly more persistent.
You should inspect your battery periodically, too. Give it a once-over any time you check your fluids. If it is leaking, appears swollen, or has any visible cracks in the case, those are also signs of impending battery failure. Also, your battery should never feel warm to the touch. If you start to notice any of these signs, you can have the battery tested at most auto part stores for free.
Understanding Your Car's Battery Gauge
Most every car has a battery gauge on the dashboard. That gauge is designed to let you know what the charge level is for your battery. There are typically two lines placed on either side of the meter, and so long as the needle on the gauge is between those lines, your battery is operating in your car's normal range.
Your car's owners manual will explain the optimal range for the car's battery. Make sure that you are familiar with that range, and keep a watch on the gauge regularly so that you know where the battery typically operates. Knowing the standard operating point will make it easier for you to spot any anomalies, such as when the power drops in the battery.
Understanding Your Car's Battery Charging System
In most cases, the battery gauge is a pretty straightforward component. However, some of the later models of cars have a charging system that is unlike your traditional units. These charging systems can lead to some confusion when you are relying solely on your battery gauge to monitor your battery's condition.
The newer charging systems are what is known as on-demand systems. Instead of a constant battery charge, as is provided with the traditional systems, an on-demand charging system only supplies a charge to the battery when it is actually needed. As a result, you may notice your battery gauge running at different levels depending on when you look at it. If you don't have many accessories running, your battery gauge may run lower than if you have your lights, radio, and other accessories running. That's because your charging system won't supply a charge to the battery unless it is experiencing a significant power draw. If your battery gauge seems to be fluctuating without explanation, you can check your vehicle's manual to determine if the vehicle has an on-demand charging system or not.
The more you understand about your vehicle's battery and charging system, the easier it will be to identify any potential charging system problems or battery failures. If you have any questions about your car's battery charging system, you can talk with your local auto technician, such as an Audi service, or auto parts store.