Comparing Dead and Discharged Car Batteries

No vehicle owner wants to deal with a car battery that isn’t working or allowing the vehicle to start, but you may not have realized that not all car battery issues are created equal. In particular, knowing the difference between a dead battery and a discharged battery can be quite valuable for many vehicle owners.

At Tip Top Transmissions, we’re here to help clients around Salt Lake City with all their auto repair needs, from transmission service and diesel repair to various standard areas of basic auto care – including batteries. Here are the differences between dead and discharged batteries, some signs that you’re dealing with one or the other, and the tests and remedies to deal with any such situation, whether on your own or with help from our auto mechanics wherever necessary.

Comparing Dead and Discharged Car Batteries

What do Dead and Discharged Batteries Mean?

Firstly, many vehicle owners are not aware that their battery can experience two distinct states, and can be overcome by one or either of them.

  • A dead battery is when the battery has become completely drained of any power or charge, making it impossible for the vehicle to start. This could be a result of leaving your headlights on overnight or not driving the vehicle for an extended period.
  • On the other hand, a discharged battery means that the battery has been drained of power that is essential to start the vehicle, but not completely dead. This could be a result of leaving your interior lights on for an extended period or using electronic devices while the vehicle is off.

Signs of a Dead Battery

Some common signs of a dead battery include:

  • No key response at all: When you turn the key in the ignition, nothing happens. This typically means that your battery is completely dead and needs to be recharged or replaced.
  • Simple age: While not necessarily a “sign” per se, many batteries that die on their own are simply old and have run their course. Most car batteries last between three to five years, so if you haven’t replaced yours in a while, it may be time for a new one.
  • Swelling or bloating: If your battery case appears larger than usual, this could be a sign of an internal overheating issue. This often happens due to heat levels that are not controlled within the engine.

If you notice any of these signs and are able to confirm that your battery is dead, it will need to be replaced. A dead battery cannot be recharged and will need to be disposed of properly. It is important to never try to jump-start a dead battery as it could cause damage to your vehicle’s electrical system.

Signs of a Discharged Battery

Some signs that you may have a discharged battery include:

  • Dim headlights: If your headlights appear dimmer than usual, or if they flicker on and off, this could be a sign that your battery is not properly charged.
  • Slow or struggling engine start: If you turn the key in the ignition and the engine takes longer than usual to start or struggles to turn over, it could be an indication of a discharged battery.
  • Weak power for electronics: A discharged battery may also affect the performance of other electronic devices in your vehicle, such as the radio or power windows.
  • Needing frequent jump starts: If you find yourself needing to jump start your vehicle frequently, it could be a sign of a discharged battery that is not holding a charge.

Testing for Battery Issues

Luckily, there are simple ways to test for both dead and discharged batteries. Some examples:

  • Basic visual inspection: In many cases, you can tell if your battery is dead or discharged by simply looking at it. Signs of corrosion, leakage, or an unusually swollen battery case can indicate a problem.
  • Multimeter: To measure the voltage of your battery, you can use a multimeter. A reading of 12.6 volts or higher means that the battery is fully charged, while a reading below 12.4 volts indicates a discharged battery. Anything well below 12.4 is a likely sign that the battery is dead.
  • Load test: While this test should only be performed by professionals, it refers to a process that involves applying a load to the battery while measuring its voltage. A healthy battery should be able to maintain a certain level of voltage under this load, so if it drops significantly, it could be an indication of a dead or discharged battery.

With the right basic tools and knowledge, you can determine if your battery issue is dead or discharged and take the necessary steps to address it.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at Tip Top Transmissions for any assistance with your vehicle’s battery or other auto repair needs in Salt Lake City. We’re here to help keep your car running smoothly and safely on the road!