You put your key in the ignition, turn and crank and nothing happens. The lights will not come on, the radio will not play and the car just will not start. Chances are your car battery is dead and it is time for a charge or a complete change.
How can you tell the difference?
You can start out by trying to charge the battery that is already in place. If you have a charger, fantastic. If not, you can get a jump from someone else.
Before trying to charge the battery, do check to see if its fluids are filled up and that the battery terminals are clean. If there is a lot of powder on the terminals, clean this off with a wet rag that has some baking soda on it.
Once the battery appears to be in good working order, go ahead and connect the charger or jumper cables. Make sure the charger is turned off or the jumping vehicle is not started at this point. To connect the cables, start with the red one and connect it to the positive terminal and the black to the negative. This will be the same setup for a charger or a jump. When the cables are in place, start the jumping car or turn on the charger. Do give the battery some time to charge up. If your battery has a charge indicator, make sure it is in the green zone before disconnecting.
If the battery charges and will hold the charge, this is all you need to do. If your battery will not accept a charge, you may need to purchase a replacement battery. To change out an old battery with a new one, follow these steps:
Purchase the right battery ? Check the size of the battery in your car owner manual or from the existing battery itself. Then go to a shop that sells batteries. If you cannot determine what size battery you need, an auto parts store can get this information from the make, model and year car you are driving.
Take out the old battery ? Make sure the car is off and then take off the negative cable from the battery. You will need to loosen the nut with a wrench to get this done. Now, pull up and twist on the end of the cable to get the terminal to come free. Repeat the process with the red cable, or positive. Once the cables are detached, you will need to remove the battery clamp. A combination wrench or socket and ratchet will be needed for this. Lift the battery out of the tray to fully remove it from the car.
Clean the tray ? Take the time to wash out any corrosion left behind in the tray. A water and baking soda mix will work fine here. Make sure the tray is dried off before proceeding to the next step.
Put the new battery in ? Lift the new battery into the tray and replace the hold-down clamp. Make sure both terminal ends are free of corrosion and then attach them to the appropriate positive or negative slots. Tighten down the connection.
At this point, your car should start normally. If it does not, you may have a problem that goes beyond the battery. If your new battery loses its charge rapidly, a problem with the alternator could be indicated.