Dealing with a Drained Car Battery when the Engine won’t Start
It’s easy to forget about the car battery, especially with new cars. If you own a car for two or more years, you’re going to have to deal with a failing battery eventually. You can keep from finding yourself stranded with a battery that won’t start the engine if you’re ready to find your car battery dead at any moment.
I’m going to tell you a story where my wife, Josie, wasn’t ready and it happened yesterday. While I’m telling you the story, I’ll share the same advice I shared with her.
A Jeep with a Drained Car Battery
Josie drives a 2004 Jeep Liberty to and from work. She won’t let me drive it and I won’t argue with her. I hate to drive. The battery was replaced within the last couple of years, but I don’t remember when.
She parked the Jeep on Friday night, when she came home from work. We were supposed to go somewhere yesterday afternoon but when she tried to start it, the only result was a fast clicking starter. The lights and everything else came on, so I knew it the battery wasn’t dead.
Something was still on when she parked the Jeep. She just didn’t know it. It doesn’t take much to drain a car battery barely enough to keep it from starting the engine. Even a warning light can sometimes be enough to do it in.
The first thing I looked for was a set of jumper cables. She didn’t have any. I chastised her because if there’s one thing that every vehicle needs, it’s a set of jumper cables stored somewhere in the vehicle. Luckily, our next door neighbor (in our apartment complex) had a set, so we didn’t have to go from apartment to apartment.
A car battery charger would’ve done the trick, even if it took longer, but there isn’t an electrical socket close enough to any of our parking areas to plug one into.
After jumping the battery, we drove around for a while and then parked the Jeep at home. I wasn’t sure if it was enough, but it started right up this morning. What if it didn’t? Well, Josie was ready to call a friend and get a ride to the closest Walmart to buy a new battery. Of course, I’d be the one who’d have to install it.
I suppose keeping an inexpensive car battery tester in the Jeep would also be a good idea. It’s pretty easy to test the battery.
Car Battery Life
There’s a reason new car batteries carry a warranty of only two or three years. Many of them won’t last longer. How long they can last depends on a few things, but the worst enemy is the climate. Car batteries usually don’t last through three hot summers in Arizona.
The safest way to prevent getting stranded with a bad car battery is to test it often. I recommend testing it every time you get the oil changed. Some places, like Jiffy Lube, have car battery testing and maintenance services.
One thing I recommend, if you can afford it, is to buy and store a replacement battery if your battery is still good at the three-year mark. It would probably be wise to store it, along with an adjustable wrench, in your vehicle if you’re going on a long road trip.