How to Test Your Car Battery with a Multimeter

A multimeter is like three tools all at once – the voltmeter, the ohmmeter, and the ammeter. Multimeters are also known as digital meters, digital voltmeters, and digital volt-ohm meters in the auto repair world.

Testing car battery with multimeter image 849894894How to Check Your Car Battery

Having a multimeter on-hand is a good thing when you need to verify whether or not there is an electrical charge coming from your car battery.

Even those that buy junk cars test batteries because a car battery is a viable piece of scrap when it is turned into a junkyard.

To check your car battery, you need to start by configuring your multimeter. The black probe goes in the COM socket, the red probe goes in the V socket, and the voltage needs to be set to DC.

Once the multimeter is configured, then you test the battery. The black probe gets held against the negative terminal, and the red is pressed against the positive.

You can check the battery if the engine is on or off, although the readings will vary a few volts if the battery is fully charged. According to Hagerty, a fully charged battery should read at least 12.6V.

How to Clean a Car Battery

Battery corrosion can cause a battery not to read correctly. If there is a build-up, you’re going to want to clean it off before you write off your battery as dead.

Clean it using a baking soda and hot water solution with an old toothbrush. Once the corrosion is cleaned off, you can check your battery.

When to Replace Your Car Battery

Knowing when to replace your car battery isn’t black and white, but some factors influence the life of your battery.

Time is a natural enemy as the longer a battery sits without being used, the more likely it is for the electrical charge dissipate.

Cars vibrate which leads to battery housing vibration. The vibrations cause a natural wearing down of internal parts. Housing hardware secures the battery, but it can loosen over time, leading to shorter battery life.

Heat also affects the life of a battery positively and negatively. Cooler climates tend to lead to batteries that will last about five years. Conversely, southern, warmer climates tend to have batteries that don’t live past around three years.

Recycle Your Car Battery

Recycling is an easy process. You turn in your old battery to the retailer when you get your replacement, and they take care of recycling for you.

If you wanted to get some cash for cars’ parts, you could also take old batteries to junkyards, and you’ll get a few bucks for it.

How Often to Replace Your Car Battery

Your best bet is going to be to check the battery’s charge regularly. When you start to see the charge fall below 12.6V when the engine is off, you’re on borrowed time.

You can do a quick test by starting your car with the headlights on, as an example, and see if the headlights are dim on startup.

Dim headlights indicate a weak battery. If they get brighter when you press the accelerator, it’s a good idea to think about replacing your battery.

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