How can I tell if my battery level is low?

By Mariana Saenzpardo

Battery problems don't just prevent cars from starting; they can cause odd symptoms that you might never associate with the battery. Backfiring is one, because an irregular spark lets fuel build up in the cylinder. Squealing belts can be another, occasionally tracing back to low battery charge or poor connections.

Battery Level

A more obvious symptom is a warning light on the dashboard. However, the light that comes on may not be the battery light. Your car’s dashboard is powered by the electrical system, so problems with the electrical supply sometimes confuse the computer, causing it to report the wrong problem. Relying on your battery light is no substitute for regular battery checks. All the same, never ignore your dashboard warnings.

Know your dashboard

Most dashboards use a convention to indicate the seriousness of a detected issue. A red symbol is more serious than an amber one, and a blinking one more urgent than one steadily illuminated. A flashing light usually means get off the road and stop, because driving on could cause permanent damage. Steady lights may mean that you can drive on until you have the opportunity to check it out.

Know your battery

Even if your dashboard firmly indicates a battery issue, it's unwise to head straight to a motor parts outlet for another one. Just as battery problems can cause misleading warnings, not all battery warnings mean that the battery is the root problem. A short, belt or alternator issue can drain a battery. When you drop in a new battery, the real issue then reproduces the problem in your replacement.

Always get a free check from the qualified fitters at a Protyre garage before wasting money on parts you may not need. Whether you need replacement tyres from leading brands such as Pirelli and Bridgestone, or you require assistance with battery and electrical issues, the Protyre team is here to help and you can book a free vehicle check online.

Other signs of a dying battery

If the engine cranks over but doesn’t quite start, this may suggest that you need a new battery, but the starter motor is another possibility. Unfortunately batteries, starters and alternators can degrade each other when one is at fault, so a professional check always makes sense.
If the car is absolutely dead, and nothing lights up, it’s often a combined problem with the battery and alternator. However a simple broken cable or short can achieve the same result.
If it starts on some days and not on others, check your battery terminals and cables first. Also, examine your lights and radio because they may be draining power when they appear to be off. A worn distributor rotor can stick on a cold morning but work fine later.
Your lights and radio shouldn’t dim or fade when you accelerate. Nor should you need to tap the accelerator to get the engine turning. A healthy battery can power everything at once.

DIY battery testers

Multimeters are great if you know how to use them, but Protyre’s free tests are more comprehensive than just a voltage test. We examine how the battery charge changes under load and we can check the condition of the cells inside.

Looking for other mechanical services?

Protyre offer a range of free checks to keep your vehicle healthy on the road. Click the button below to view our full range:

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About the author

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By Mariana Saenzpardo
Mariana is a Digital Marketing Specialist for Protyre who is also responsible for the running of our Protyre website.
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