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Having trouble figuring out how to check car battery with multimeter? Then your journey has come to an end.
Below, we’ll explore how you can test a battery with and without a multimeter.
Either method is acceptable, but it would be a lot quicker if you can get your hands on a multimeter.
They’re pretty cheap, and you can get one for roughly $20. You can test your battery without a multimeter, but it’s nowhere as effective as a multimeter.
That said, we’ll also go over common signs to tell whether the battery is about to die or not.
5 Common Signs Your Battery Is About to Die
Don’t know if you have a faulty battery? Then check this out:
Car Won’t Start
Got on your car and noticed it wouldn’t start no matter how many times you tried to crank your vehicle? Well, it means there’s something wrong with the battery.
If you’re in a similar situation, you can get around that by giving it a jump start, taking the vehicle to your local mechanic, and fixing the problem. That’s the easiest way to get out of that terrible mess.
Car Takes A while to Start
Your engine needs power from the battery to start. If your battery can’t provide enough power, you might be able to start the vehicle, but the crank will be extremely slow.
So, if your vehicle takes some time to start, it means there’s something fishy with the battery, and perhaps it might need to be replaced.
However, keep in mind that if you’re trying to start up the engine in cold weather, then perhaps that’s your problem, and if you haven’t started the car in a while, it’s normal to hear a slow crank since the battery is working hard to send enough power to the engine.
Corrosion Around the Battery posts
Popped the hood of your car and noticed that the poles got corroded? Well, you might be able to fix this problem by cleaning off the corrosion around the battery poles. Simply clean them off and then tighten the connections.
After that, the vehicle should start just fine. If it doesn’t, jump start the car and then take it to a certified professional.
Swollen Battery Case
Physical damage and age are potential causes of swelling. If your battery swells up, consider getting a new one as soon as possible. It’ll affect your battery’s performance and eventually blow it up.
Not sure if your battery went bad? Pop the car’s hood and take a look at your battery to make sure that all four sides are flat. It should never be swollen.
Low Battery Fluid Level
If you’re running low on battery fluid, it’ll be hard for the battery to work properly. So, take a look at the battery and make sure that it is at the recommended level. If it’s low, consider getting a new battery.
How to Check a Dead Battery With a Multimeter
Having problems with your car battery but don’t want to take the vehicle to your local mechanic? Then follow these simple steps to learn how to check car battery with multimeter:
1. Set up the Multimeter
To set your multimeter, look at the small holes on the bottom. Noticed that there’s some text next to them? Well, COM, which stands for common, is where the black lead is supposed to be.
On the other hand, the red lead should be plugged where it says “VΩ.” Once that’s done, turn the wheel to 20 DC volts.
2. Turn On Your Headlights
Before testing the battery, please turn on the headlights for 2 minutes to get rid of the surface charge. If you skip this part, you might get a higher voltage when testing the battery.
After that, turn off the lights.
3. How to Check Auto Battery With Multimeter
Grab the black lead and hook it up to the negative terminal on the battery, then take the red one and attach it to the positive side. The multimeter will show the voltage on the screen.
You’re looking for anywhere from 12.4 to 12.8 volts. If you’re getting anything below 12.4 volts, perhaps there’s something wrong with the battery. If you’re getting a higher voltage, turn on the accessories to eliminate any surface charge.
4. Start The Engine
Even if you’re getting the proper voltage on the multimeter, you still need to do a load test on the battery. To do this, start up the vehicle.
As the vehicle is running, check the multimeter. It should never go below 10.5. If it does, there’s a high chance the battery is no longer working.
Before replacing the battery, clean off any corrosion it might have around the poles. If this doesn’t fix your problem, it’s safe to assume the battery no longer works.
For more information about this topic, watch this video:
How to Check Your Car’s Battery Without a Multimeter
Please note that checking your car’s battery without a multimeter is not accurate enough to determine your battery’s health. Still, here’s how to check your battery without a meter:
1. Take a Look at the Battery
Using a multimeter is the easiest way to inspect a battery, but if you don’t have one, take a look at your battery and look for any signs of damage.
If the battery is swollen and doesn’t look flat anymore, it must be replaced. Furthermore, if the battery is leaking, it means it must be replaced as soon as possible.
2. Turn on Your Headlights
You can also test your battery by turning on the lights. Once you turn them on, leave the headlights running for roughly 15 minutes.
3. How to Check Car Battery without Multimeter
After turning on the lights, rev up the engine. Now take a closer look at the headlights. They might dim a little bit, but the headlights shouldn’t look completely dark. If the headlights turn off, you could have a problem with your battery.
How to Find a Parasitic Battery Drain
A parasitic battery drain is a pain in the neck to deal with. Luckily, you don’t need special equipment to find one. To do this, follow these steps:
1. Unplug All Devices from Your Car
Turn off your radio, A/C, lights, and pretty much any other accessory that draws power. You won’t find a parasitic battery drain if any of your accessories are taking power away.
2. Turn the Multimeter to DC Volts
Before getting started, you want to make sure that the battery is in great shape. So, set the multimeter to volts DC.
3. Test the Battery
Plug the red lead with the positive terminal. Then, attach the black lead to the negative side. Start the vehicle, and make sure the voltage does not drop below 10.5. You should get close to 14 volts when testing the battery.
4. Move the Red Lead
Remove the red lead from the “VΩ” side, and plug it where it says “AMPS.” Now set the meter to DC AMPS.
5. How to Check for Battery Drain with Multimeter
Remove the negative terminal. Next, put the red lead on the negative cable you just disconnected and the black lead on the negative terminal.
If the multimeter shows anything higher than 50 milliamps, you have a parasitic draw.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
For more information about how to use a multimeter to test your car’s battery, refer to this short section:
How do you know when the car needs a new battery?
- If your battery stopped working, then you’d experience several problems—like not being able to start the car and having to jump-start the vehicle. Furthermore, if your battery is low on fluid, you should replace it as soon as possible.
Can a faulty alternator destroy a new battery?
- Yes! If there’s something wrong with the alternator, it’ll blow up the battery. It won’t happen overnight, but you should replace the faulty alternator as soon as possible.
How long does a car battery last?
- It really depends, but in general, expect your battery to last anywhere from 3-6 years. But keep in mind that cold weather will quickly wear it out. Moreover, keep an eye on the battery to prevent corrosion. If it gets corroded, make sure to clean it off.
At what voltage is a 12V battery dead?
- If your multimeter reads anything below 10.5 volts, it means the battery stopped working, and there’s nothing you can do to bring it back to life.
Learning how to check car battery with multimeter is one of the most valuable skills you could master. Not only is it helpful in testing your car’s battery, but it’s also helpful if you’re trying to check voltage at home with a multimeter.
We know that multimeters can look pretty intimidating at first glance, but you don’t need to know every single symbol it has. As long as you know the basics, you’ll be able to test anything you have.