Can Car Battery Die While Driving? Causes and Fixes

“Can car battery die while driving?” is a good question to ask if you think it may have happened to you. The short answer is yes.

Car Battery Die While Driving

It’s possible for the battery of a vehicle to die while driving. In this article, you’ll discover the various causes and solutions to this problem.

Why Does Your Car Battery Die While Driving

Your car battery dies while driving because of a bad ignition switch, faulty fuel pumps, and/or malfunctioning alternators. The problem can also stem from having no gas in your tank or driving with a battery that is at the end of its lifespan.

  • Bad Ignition Switch

A bad ignition switch is one of the major things that can make your battery run out of juice while you’re driving. The ignition switch provides electric power to your starter motor so your engine can crank and eventually start. If this component goes bad, your motor engine won’t start, or it will fail to restart after you switch off the engine. A bad ignition switch may also cause your vehicle to break down while driving as it prevents electric power from getting to the engine.

  • Bad Fuel Pump

A bad fuel/gas pump can also be the reason why the battery of your car dies while driving. The gas pump is responsible for transporting the gas from the tank to the engine via the fuel pipes. A bad gas pump won’t send gas to the fuel lines, even if your gas tank is full. As a result, your engine won’t receive fuel to drive the alternator, which charges your battery.

Consequently, your vehicle will be forced to run on battery power only until the battery eventually gets depleted, bringing the car to a halt while you’re driving. It’s important to note that sometimes the gasoline pump may not be entirely bad, just clogged with dirt.
  • No Fuel in the Tank

Having no fuel in your tank can cause it to run down while driving. Your vehicle needs fuel to ignite with the spark plugs and start. If you’re out of fuel, your engine will stop mid-driving, even with a good battery.

Your vehicle needs to consume fuel inside the engine in order to drive the alternator. Without fuel, your alternator will fail to work, and your car will run on just the battery. Since vehicles weren’t designed to run on battery for long distances, your battery will end up dying while you’re still driving.

Reasons of Faulty Car Battery

This is why it’s important to note your vehicle’s fuel gauge and check for the slight buzzing sound from the engine when you start the engine, which indicates something is wrong. If you notice your vehicle running out of fuel when the fuel gauge/sensor is not reading empty, it’s a sign that you have a faulty gauge/sensor.

  • Alternator Problems

Alternator problems can also make your battery fail on the road. The alternator is attached to the engine and is responsible for generating electricity to power up your vehicle. Alternators also charge the motor battery while driving. Even new batteries need to be charged by alternators before they can reach optimum battery life.

Ideally, an alternator works hand-in-hand with the battery to power your vehicle’s electrical system without any problems. Motor battery power is usually engaged during ignition and idling. If your alternator dies while driving, your car battery has to take up all the electrical load, thereby making it drain much faster. In no time, your battery will be dead, and your car won’t start.

Alternators also keep the motor running when batteries get depleted. This can happen when the alternator is strong enough to generate sufficient electric power to power all the electrical appliances in a vehicle. However, if you have a bad alternator, it won’t be able to replace a dead/faulty battery, and so the vehicle will come to a halt. One common sign of a faulty alternator is a flickering red battery light on your dashboard. This light is usually the S.O.S. signal an alternator sends.

  • Faulty Sensors

Faulty sensors can also make your battery die while driving. Vehicle sensors are intelligent devices that monitor vehicle conditions, get data, and send information or feedback to the driver. Modern vehicles use sensors to operate and regulate nearly all the functions of a car. These sensors monitor different aspects of your vehicle’s performance, like speed, temperature, oil pressure, fuel injection rate, etc. If your sensors are faulty, they may fail to pick up crucial data or faults on your vehicle’s operating system.

As a result, your sensors will report incorrect data, causing severe consequences for your car’s functionality. For instance, a bad oxygen sensor will cause the Power Control Module (PCM) to release a wrong fuel/oxygen ratio, causing the engine to misfire or cease.
In the same way, a bad battery sensor will cause your battery to charge incorrectly, thereby leading to a low battery or battery drain. Sometimes, dirt, debris, and corrosion can malfunction a battery sensor.

A functioning battery sensor regulates battery temperature and charging voltage and sends real-time information about your battery status. If your battery suddenly goes flat without your battery sensor informing you, then your battery sensor needs changing.

  • Your Battery Has Exceeded Its Lifespan

If your car battery has exceeded its lifespan, it will die while driving. Usually, even when a battery is weak or dying, it may not show any issues when starting. However, it can suddenly fail while you’re driving. Most batteries have a lifespan of two years, but you can always tell how old a battery is by looking at the label or the code inscribed on it.

What To Do if Your Car Battery Dies While Driving

If your car’s battery dies while driving, safely pull over and activate the emergency lights of your vehicle or mount roadside flares. Then try restarting or jump-starting your vehicle. If it still refuses to start, fix the alternator or request assistance.

  • Turn On Emergency Lights and Pull Over Safely

The first thing to do when car batteries suddenly die while driving is to turn the emergency lights on. This alerts the drivers behind you so they know something’s wrong and give you the proper distance. Next, park the vehicle at a safe corner of the road. This will ensure you do not obstruct other vehicles coming behind you and provide you with the needed space or clearance for troubleshooting.

Fix Dead Battery on Car

In vehicles with Electric Power Steering (EPS), the steering will fail if the battery goes bad. If this happens, try the emergency hand brake and find a way to park in a good position. Note that if you have a good alternator, it may kick in and enable some systems like brakes (or steering) to function. However, if alternators are also bad, your vehicle will break down and refuse to start.

Even when your car breaks down, you can get someone to push it from behind while you turn the steering wheel (which will become very hard since the vehicle shut down) to steer it in the needed direction. Remember to put your car in neutral gear, as this is the only way it’ll move when pushed after a breakdown.

  • Mount Roadside Flares and Cones

The next thing to do after parking safely is to mount roadside flares or cones to warn off other incoming drivers (especially those driving at high speed). Flares are more effective and appropriate for use during nighttime. The flares and cones also draw attention to you, so you may quickly get help from other drivers.

If you have no flares and your vehicle breaks down at night, you can use any LED light or just keep your emergency lights flashing. If your vehicle breaks down during the day, use any easily noticeable roadside objects you can find to set up a barrier.

  • Try Restarting Your Vehicle

Restarting your vehicle can be a quick solution if your car battery died while driving. But you shouldn’t do this right away. First, take out your keys and allow the engine to cool down for a few minutes before trying to start it again. If you’re lucky, the vehicle will start, and you can continue on your journey or take it to the nearest automobile workshop for a quick fix.
However, if you do successfully restart your vehicle in this scenario, turn off your AC, radio, and all electrical components so as to minimize electricity consumption as much as possible.

  • Use a Jump-Starter

If your vehicle refuses to restart, the next possible solution is to use a jumper to recharge the battery. First, as a precaution, switch off all electrical components and avoid wearing or holding any metals during the jumping process. Next, open the hood of your vehicle and locate the battery. Then remove terminal covers and corrosion on the terminals.

Attach the positive jumper cable to the dead battery’s positive terminal, and attach the negative jumper cable (black cable) to the engine block or any piece of metal you find. Ensure cables are clamped correctly on battery terminals, then turn on your jumper. After a few minutes, try to start the vehicle. If it starts, turn off the jumper and disconnect the cables.

If you don’t have a jumper, you can try to use the healthy battery from another vehicle to revive yours. Simply connect the jumper cables to the other vehicle’s battery and follow the same steps listed above. However, using a jumper has been proven to be faster at jump-starting batteries.

Note that this solution is temporary as the charge won’t last long. If your alternator is bad, or if you’re a long way from your destination, jumping isn’t advised because your vehicle will totally depend on the battery for electric power, and so you’ll find your battery dying all over again.

Also, be careful when using a jumper as a short-circuit to the car’s electrical system could be fatal to certain components. If you notice your alternator died after jump-starting it, it means you used the jumper cables wrongly.

  • Fix the Alternator

Fixing the alternator can help restore your dead or weak battery to life. To repair your alternator, first unclip the wire harness connected to it, then undo the bolts holding it in place. As a precaution, try to video or take snapshots of each step as you dismantle or remove the alternator.

Next, remove the outer cover of the alternator, then take out the old brushes and regulator inside. Take note of the wirings while doing this. Install new regulators and brushes just the way the former ones were installed. Replace all wiring, alternator cover, and bolts.

Finally, mount the alternator and reinstall the nuts/bolts, as well as the wire harness. If you can’t locate the alternator in your vehicle, consult your manufacturer’s manual. Repairing an alternator may be less expensive but difficult and tricky. This is why it’s more advisable to replace malfunctioning alternators with new ones.

If you can’t get your vehicle to restart even after fixing/changing the alternator, tow your vehicle to an automobile workshop or request roadside assistance.

FAQs

– How Long Should You Keep Your Vehicle Running After a Jump-Start?

You should keep your vehicle running for at least 30 minutes after a jump-start. It generally takes 30 minutes to recharge a drained battery to a half-full charge. However, the actual time you keep your vehicle running will depend on the battery condition and the initial amount of charge.

– How Much Does It Cost To Get A Replacement Battery?

It can cost between $50 and $450 to get a replacement battery. The actual amount you pay will depend on the battery power and size used by your vehicle, as well as the quality you go for. Premium batteries can cost twice as much as their standard counterparts.

– How Can You Tell Your Vehicle Battery Is Dying?

You can tell your vehicle battery is dying when you see signs like check engine lights flashing, the engine doesn’t crank or gives a hard start, dim or flickering lights, and swollen battery case. In extreme cases, you’ll perceive an odd smell or find acid leaking from your battery.

Protecting Bent Frame

What are the Common Causes of a Car Battery Dying While Driving?

Common causes of a car battery dying while driving can be attributed to various factors. One of the main reasons is the failure of the alternator to recharge the battery, affecting both the positive and negative side of batteries. Other causes include faulty wiring, old age, excessive use of electrical components, and leaving lights on. Regular maintenance and timely battery replacements can help prevent such issues.

Conclusion

Finding yourself with a dead car battery while driving can be very inconvenient and distressing. Thankfully, with our comprehensive guide in this article, you no longer have to panic.

Let’s go over the major points one more time:

  • Your car’s battery can die while driving due to bad sensors, a faulty ignition switch, a bad gas pump, and malfunctioning alternators.
  • The problem can also arise when your vehicle runs out of fuel or your battery expires.
  • The first thing to do if you find yourself with a dead battery while driving is to turn the emergency lights on and park safely. Also, use flares or cones to signify you’re in an emergency situation so other drivers can help.
  • Try to restart your car after a while. If it doesn’t work, jump start it and try again. You can also fix or change your alternator and try to restart your car again.

You can make your car start after your battery dies by following the steps outlined above.

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