Have you ever thought to yourself what would happen if your car battery dies while you are cruising down the highway?
While the chances of this scenario happening may sound unlikely to you. It is always essential to be prepared for unexpected situations that can pop up without notice.
In this article we are going to take a look at the consequences of a dead battery while driving. To make it even better we are going to give you some crucial tips to make sure you can handle this type of situation safely.
Signs Of A Failing Battery
Before we take a look at what happens when your battery dies while driving, let’s identify some of the common signs that you will notice if your vehicle has a failing battery.
Headlights that are slowly losing their brightness is a sign of a failing battery. While the vehicle is running and the alternator is working you may not notice this symptom. You will notice this condition when the engine is off and the lights are turned on.
Slow Engine Crank
If the engine is cranking much slower than is normal you may have a failing battery. Depending on how bad the battery is, the vehicle may not start at all when cranked.
Dashboard Warning Lights
Illuminated lights on the dash are a good indicator of a failing battery. Look for charge and battery lights as these dashboard warning lights are usually the first that you will notice.
Clicking Sound When Turning The Ignition
This symptom indicates a battery that may have already failed. If your vehicle is doing this, make sure you repair the issue as soon as possible. If you do no you will end up stranded on the road.
What Causes A Dead Battery While Driving?
There are many reasons as to why a battery could fail while you are driving. We have compiled a list of the most common reasons below:
- Old age: Batteries have a limited lifespan when they are installed in your vehicle. If your battery is old and has not been replaced for many years, it can suddenly fail.
- Electrical issues: Problems with the charging system of your vehicle can lead to a drained battery. Over time this can strain the battery and cause it to fail earlier than expected.
- Accessories left on: Something as simple as leaving your interior lights or headlights on can drain the battery’s power. If left for a long enough period of time the battery can drain completely.
- Parasitic draw: Electrical systems can fail causing them to drain power from the battery when they are turned off. Testing a parasitic draw can be easy to do on your own with the right tools such as an automotive multimeter.
- Extreme temperatures: Just like our bodies, both extreme heat and cold can change your batteries performance and lead to failure.
The Immediate Effects of a Dead Battery While Driving
The most common misconception of what will happen is the engine will shut off leaving you stranded.
While this may be true for certain vehicles, most vehicles use the alternator to provide power to the electronics when running. This means that even if the battery fails your vehicle may continue to run until the vehicle is shut off.
When your vehicle is shut off however, the failed battery will not allow you to restart the vehicle. Leaving you stranded with no choice but to call the tow truck.
Be prepared for anything to happen if your battery fails while driving. Below are the most common things that you will notice:
- Loss of power: Your vehicle may have a loss of power to your vehicle’s electronics. This can cause your engine to lose power, stutter, and stall. Your exterior lights may also go out depending on the electrical system of your vehicle.
- Difficulty steering and braking: These power assisted systems require your vehicle to be running in order to operate correctly. If you lose power you can lose the assist systems in your vehicle.
- Dashboard indicator lights: The most likely thing that you will notice is the charge and battery indicator lights coming on in your dash.
Staying Safe When Your Battery Dies
If you find yourself with a vehicle that has a failed battery it is important to stay calm. Follow these steps to make sure you can safely exit the road.
Pull Over to a Safe Area
If your battery fails, do not panic. Safely and gradually steer your vehicle to the side of the road or the nearest safe location. Use the momentum that your vehicle has remaining to get to a spot that is safely away from traffic.
Avoid Abrupt Movements
Like we discussed above, your car’s power assistance may be gone. Avoid sudden manoeuvres and slamming on your brakes to stop. Slowly coast to a stop in a safe location.
Turn On Your Hazard Lights
Once you are safely pulled over, turn on your hazard lights. This will alert other drivers of your situation by making your vehicle more visible. This will help reduce the chance of a collision.
Call For Assistance
Hopefully you remembered to charge your cell phone before you left. Contact a friend, family member, or roadside assistance to help you. Don’t hesitate to call roadside assistance if you are on the side of a busy road. These drivers are trained in working in these hazardous conditions, your Uncle Barry is not.
Preventing Battery Failure While Driving
Like the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Avoiding a failed battery is the best way to avoid a situation like this from happening. Here are some tips to avoid this situation:
Like all the systems in your vehicle, regular preventative maintenance is important. Regular battery testing and replacements when needed is key.
Limit Electrical Load
Minimize the use of electrical accessories when the vehicle is not running. If you enjoy a large stereo or in car entertainment, make sure your battery and the alternator are sized correctly.
Monitor Warning Signs
Pay close attention to anything that may indicate a failing battery. Make sure that you address the issues early.
Keep Jumper Cables Handy
This is something I practice to this day. Making sure that all the vehicles I drive have jumper cables allows me to know that I will not be stranded if I have someone close to boost the battery.
While a battery that dies while driving can be a challenging situation. Staying calm and taking preventative measures will allow you to handle the problem safely.
Regular maintenance and being aware of the warning signs can go a long way in preventing battery failure.
Remember, be prepared and aware to prevent chaos when unexpected things happen on the road.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can jump-start your own car if you have another vehicle and a set of booster cables. Make sure that you follow the correct steps to prevent damage to the electrical components on your car.
Car batteries last on average between 3 and 5 years. It is still important to inspect and test your car battery regularly to ensure it is performing at is maximum potential.
Extreme heat and cold temperatures can shorten a batteries lifespan significantly. If your vehicle is used in these climates, often battery inspections are important.
If you are in a remote area when your battery dies, stay with your vehicle. If possible use a distress sign to bring attention to passing motorists. Wait for help to arrive or a good samaritan to stop and help.
You need to check your vehicles warranty policy. A battery is considered a wear and tear item so it may not be covered.