Battery Care and Troubleshooting

Some tips for taking care of your battery.

Image of a mechanic using a multi-meter to check the voltage of a car battery.Fall is upon us and it’s time to think about winter preparations. Among the many things on our lists, making sure our cars are in tip-top shape to handle the tough Minnesota winter is a big item with many little things to be done. Among those little things is something not so little if it fails – the battery. Because the battery powers all the lights and accessories in your car, you need to make sure it’s ready for the long, hard job of powering through winter. Here is a quick breakdown of tips for you to make sure your battery is good condition as we roll into cold weather.

Related: Minnesota’s Best Car Battery Service

Signs your car battery is about to die.

Car batteries usually last two to five years, depending on quality, operating conditions, and condition of the vehicle.

There are a few simple warning signs that will tell you it’s time for a new battery.
Long crank times in any kind of weather.

If your car takes longer to start than usual, especially if the battery has not been replaced in more than three years, this is a sign that the battery is wearing out. If the engine has to crank excessively in order to start, the battery should be checked. Keep in mind that cold weather affects the battery and its ability to perform, so it’s fairly normal for your car to start with difficulty in the wintertime. Everything slows down in the cold, including electric current. It is also hard to vaporize gasoline, and oil thickens up when it’s cold. Batteries put out only half their normal power when the temperature is freezing – so be patient, but be aware. If your car “cold cranks” in warmer weather, it’s a good time to change the battery.

Engine cranks, but won’t start.

The engine cranks, but won’t turn over. This a pretty solid sign that the battery is dying or already dead. You could get a jump start, but you’ll just need another one when you turn off the car. Driving around town, going from jump to jump might be a unique way to meet people, but let’s face it – it’s no way to spend a weekend. Get a jump and get a new battery.

image of jumper cables attached to car battery terminals.Too many jump starts will kill a battery.

Jump starting a battery too much will kill it. It’s hard on a battery when you basically shock back into action. If you have to jump start your car more than three times in a week, it’s time to replace the battery. One thing you can try that will get you through the interim is get the jump, then let the engine run for 30 minutes so the alternator can recharge the battery. Once this is done, shut off the car, wait two or three minutes, then try to start the car again. If it starts, turn it off, wait another couple minutes, then start it again. If it consistently starts, you probably won’t be stranded wherever you go next – but that doesn’t mean your battery is good to go. Your next stop really should be to get a new battery.

Engine won’t crank, won’t start, and there are no lights.

This is a pretty sure sign the battery is dead. Again, you could get a jump, but the battery has left the building – or the engine compartment, as it were. Something to consider in this situation is there might be a combined issue with the alternator, because that’s the part that keeps the battery charged. If the engine won’t crank, but you do have lights and other functions, then there could be other problems in the car’s electrical system or other areas of the engine. Some issues might be a bad ignition switch, a failed starter or solenoid (which usually causes a check engine light), or a poor electrical connection somewhere in the ignition system. Electrical problems should be properly diagnosed and fixed by a mechanic.

Your car starts fine one day, then does not start at all the next day.

There two battery-related issues that might cause your car to start intermittently or unreliably.

Battery terminals are loose, broken, or corroded.

A visual check usually will reveal if there is any corrosion or other problems with the battery terminals. You should check for tightness of cables, as well. If there is corrosion or the terminals are damaged, the battery will not perform at its best.

Parasitic draw on the battery is slowly draining its power.

Sometimes there is a condition somewhere in the electrical system called a “parasitic draw” that drains the battery of its power slowly, usually overnight. A certified mechanic can help diagnose, find, and fix this problem. If you decide to do it yourself, you’ll need a multimeter with amp capabilities up to 20 amps (A) and down to 200 milliamps (mA), and a fuse checker.

Simple battery maintenance will save you a lot of trouble.

  • Visual inspection to check for corrosion around the battery terminals. Look for a white powdery chalk-like substance. Corrosion affects electrical conduction. Clean the terminal with a wire brush. Never ever put baking soda on a battery to clean it. Coat it with grease before reconnecting the battery. The grease prevents further corrosion and improves electrical conduction.
  • Check the battery cables, as they are usually a prime cause of battery issues and are easy to check.
  • Make sure the cables are attached securely to the terminals and are not frayed, damaged, or falling apart. They should not wiggle or move around if they are properly tightened.
  • On older batteries with access to the cells, you can add distilled water to help the battery keep a charge.
  • Keeping a clean engine compartment in general prevents a lot of dirt and crud from covering the battery and collecting around the battery terminals, and possibly compromising its performance. It also makes overall engine maintenance and troubleshooting easier and less messy – and mechanic’s job a little easier if you have to bring your car in for a diagnosis.

SAFETY NOTES: Proceed with caution when performing maintenance on a battery. The sulfuric acid in batteries is highly corrosive and can burn your skin and eat holes in your clothes. There is even a slight danger of explosion. Always work in a well-ventilated area. Wear gloves and eye protection. Never lean over the battery when charging or testing it, or when jump-starting the engine. Keep a solution of water and baking soda handy in case battery acid gets on your clothes or skin. This mixture can neutralize the acid.

Related: Tips for Affordable Car Maintenance

image with text - Car Battery DiagnosticsAAMCO Minnesota Can Diagnose & Fix Battery Problems  

AAMCO Minnesota locations in Minneapolis, West St. Paul, Fridley, Hopkins, and Maplewood provide expert battery services that include diagnostics and testing. Based on the diagnosis, your Minnesota AAMCO mechanic will recommend the battery service that’s right for you, replacing only the components that are needed. If your car won’t start and you want help figuring out what’s wrong and having it fixed right, it’s time to call a mechanic and have it inspected and repaired. If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned in this article, or suspect that there could be issues with your electrical system, engine or other systems that are causing your car to not start, stall, or perform poorly, schedule an appointment with a professional mechanic to diagnose the problem and recommend next steps for repair.

Visit Your Local Minnesota AAMCO Auto Repair & Transmission Center

If you have any questions, feel free to call and talk with one of our courteous technicians. Or, book an appointment online to reserve your time, date, and location.

 

   

Reasons Your Car Won’t Start

There are many reasons your car won’t start.

There are few things worse than the feeling you get when you put your key in the ignition of your car, turn it, and… nothing. Silence. Probably more aggravating is when your car does make sounds like it’s going to start – it’s trying, it’s turning over, chugging, coughing. It just won’t catch and sputter to life.

Here are a few of the most common causes of your car not starting.

Starting with the starter…

A bad starter might lead you to think that the battery is weak or nearly dead. If the starter pulls more current than the battery has, it will turn slowly and make a “GRR, GRR, GRR” cranking noise, which sounds a lot like a weak or dying battery. If you hear a lot of grinding, that’s the starter, and it might be damaged – either the fly wheel or the teeth should be checked. If the starter doesn’t even respond, its relay or, solenoid might be burned out. The ignition switch could be the culprit, too.

image of jumper cables attached to car battery terminals.Of course, it’s the battery!

That is what many people immediately assume. It is indeed one of the most common causes of a car refusing to start, but a dead battery doesn’t mean a completely bad battery to be thrown away. It just means the battery doesn’t have a charge, and it might be that another component has failed. There are a lot of ways to knock out a battery.

  • Forgetting to turn off the headlights.
  • Door/courtesy light has been left on (door ajar, switch set to on).
  • Defective interior light generally unnoticed – trunk, glovebox.
  • Dirty, corroded battery terminals, or low battery water.
  • A defective, failing charging system that does not recharge the battery (see alternator).

Of course, batteries do get old and start to fail. Most have a life expectancy of about 3 to 5 years, depending on quality and your driving habits and conditions. Batteries have to work harder in cold temperatures, and usually show signs of failing when the weather turns cold.

Related: Transmission Problems Caused by Battery Corrosion

The alternator has failed and nothing is getting any electric love.

If the alternator has died, the battery has not been getting a return on its output and has not been charging. When the car is running, the charging system (alternator, voltage regulator) should recharge the battery and provide sufficient electrical power to the vehicle. The battery then serves merely as a backup. If the vehicle requires more electrical current than the charging system can provide, the battery picks up the slack. This can happen in extremely cold weather, particularly if you’re stuck in traffic and it’s snowing or raining. You’re constantly starting and stopping, brake lights are constantly on, headlights on, heater, defogger (which usually is accomplished through the air conditioning), interior dash lights, devices like smart phones being charged, radio on, possibly integrated wireless, phone, Bluetooth, onboard computer, entertainment, internet/satellite/cell service connections. It all takes electrical power. The alternator has a pretty tough, thankless job. The battery just sits there!

If the starter can crank the engine without a problem, then the battery and alternator are probably fine.

So, the engine cranks fine, but won’t turn over and go.

When you turn the key in the ignition and the engine cranks normally, but won’t catch or fire and start running, this means the battery and alternator are working as they should, and the problem lies elsewhere. If you keep cranking the engine, the battery will eventually run down and need to be recharged. So, what else could be wrong? Determining where or what might require a trip to a mechanic, but here are some things to be aware of.

Image - mechanic fixing fuel pumpThe fuel pump has conked out.

Here’s another component with a dirty, thankless job. The fuel pump sits in the gaseous darkness of the gas tank, pumping fuel the length of the car to the engine. A malfunctioning fuel pump can give different signs of imminent failure: faint whining, chugging or sputtering at high speeds, chugging or lack of power during acceleration, noticeable loss of power and performance, unexpected surging, and of course, an engine that won’t start.

Out of gas?

If the fuel pump is operating properly, then maybe you’re just out of gas. Check the needle on the dash. In some older cars you might have to turn on the ignition for the needle to register, but you shouldn’t have to start the entire engine. Of course, if the battery is dead, then checking the needle is not an option.

Cold weather and ethanol can cause problems.

Sometimes in cold weather, ethanol that is mixed in the gasoline can cause water vapor condensation in the fuel tank or fuel line. In cold weather, this water can freeze and cause blockages in the fuel line. Keep your gas tank at least half full during the winter to avoid this problem.

Your car might just need a tune-up.

It’s easy to forget about more simple, smaller parts and processes that happen in the engine. Spark plugs are a good example of things that often go overlooked. A thorough engine tune-up will address any basic operational issues, including spark plugs, timing, air/fuel mixture, and other things that can affect your car’s ability to start and run reliably.

image of happy female driver leaning out window showing thumbs up.AAMCO Minnesota Can Help Get Your Car Started

If your car won’t start and you want help figuring out what’s wrong and having it fixed right, it’s time to call a mechanic and have it inspected and repaired. If you start noticing any of the symptoms mentioned in this article, or suspect that there could be some issues with your engine or other systems that are causing your car to not start, stall, or perform poorly, schedule an appointment with a professional mechanic to diagnose the problem and recommend next steps for repair. It might be that it’s just time for a good tune-up – and at your local AAMCO Minnesota auto and transmission repair center, it won’t cost a lot. We diagnose the problem, tell you what needs to be done, and fix it right. We get you back on the road quickly and safely.

Find Your Local Minnesota AAMCO Auto Repair & Transmission Center

If you have any questions, feel free to call and talk with one of our courteous technicians. Or, book an appointment online to reserve your time, date, and location.

 

 
AAMCO West St. Paul

1571 S Robert St | St Paul, MN, 55118

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AAMCO Transmissions West St. Paul is your Twin Cities one-stop shop for transmission repairs, rebuilds, and car maintenance. Our certified technicians can handle any transmission repair or rebuild, as well as auto repair and maintenance service for your vehicle. You can rely on our mechanics for automatic and manual transmission problems and rebuilds, clutch service and replacement, and more. We use modern computer diagnostics to identify transmission and engine issues so we can repair your car quickly and get you back on the road. We work on all makes and models, including 4x4s.

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AAMCO Minneapolis

5231 West Broadway | Minneapolis, MN, 55429

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Transmission repair and rebuilds are our specialty. From transmissions to brakes, radiators, air conditioning repair, tune ups, check engine light diagnosis and car maintenance, people who know call AAMCO Minneapolis Transmission Repair and Auto Services. Our expert technicians use the latest tools and technology to diagnose and repair your vehicle. From automatic and manual transmission repairs, clutch service and replacement, and more, we know all vehicle makes and models. We back our work with the best nationwide warranty. AAMCO of Minneapolis, MN is your one-stop transmission rebuild and total car care center.

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AAMCO Maplewood

1905 County Rd D E | Maplewood, MN, 55109

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People come to AAMCO of Maplewood, MN because we care about making sure you car is running safely and reliably. You can count on us for all your automotive repairs and maintenance. From transmission repairs and rebuilds to brakes, radiators, air conditioning, check engine light and tune ups. AAMCO Maplewood transmission and auto repair technicians use the latest technology to diagnose and repair your vehicle right the first time - and we back it with the best nationwide warranty. At your local Minnesota AAMCO of Maplewood we know all vehicle makes and models - we're your one-stop total car care specialists.

Convenient payment plans available.

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AAMCO Fridley

940 Osborne Rd NE | Minneapolis, MN, 55432

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At AAMCO Fridley we believe in performing honest and affordable transmission and auto repair services. We do the job right and get you back on the road safely and reliably. From transmission repair and rebuild to brake service, air conditioning repair, tune ups, check engine light and car maintenance, AAMCO Fridley, MN is your one-stop auto mechanic. Trust AAMCO’s expert auto technicians to use the latest tools and technology to diagnose and repair your vehicle, and back it with the best nationwide warranty. At AAMCO of Fridley, Minnesota we know all vehicle makes and models and have the latest in diagnostic tools and technology. We are your total car care specialists.

Convenient payment plans available.

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AAMCO Hopkins

10921 Excelsior Blvd #117 | 10921 Excelsior Blvd #117, MN, 55343

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At AAMCO Hopkins, MN we believe in the value of good, honest work and giving you and your family the peace of mind a safe, reliable car provides on a daily basis. From transmission repair and rebuild to brake service, air conditioning repair, auto tune ups, check engine light and car maintenance, AAMCO of Hopkins is your one-stop shop for car repairs and maintenance. Trust the transmission experts at AAMCO of Hopkins transmission repair to diagnose and repair your vehicle right the first time and back it with the best nationwide warranty. At AAMCO Hopkins transmission and car repair we know all vehicle makes and models and have the latest in diagnostic tools and technology. We are your total car care and repair specialists.

Convenient payment plans available.

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Signs of Bad Fuel Injectors

Is It Time for New Fuel Injectors?

A fuel injector is part of your vehicle’s fuel system. Fuel injectors are the component that spray the fuel into the engine. These are controlled by the vehicle’s engine computer (ECM), which controls how it sprays fuel into the engine, following purposely timed intervals and patterns that help optimize the engine’s efficiency and overall performance.image of used, dirty, fuel injectors.

Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Fuel Injector

There are many things to look for to determine if your fuel injector is failing in some way or needs to be replaced. Since these are a part of the fuel system, it’s important to watch for these symptoms to determine if the fuel injector is bad or failing.

Engine Performance Issues

Often, when a fuel injector is clogged or starting to fail, you will experience engine performance issues. These types of issues can include everything from engine performance issues to strange smells – all of which your local Minnesota AAMCO auto repair center can diagnose.

Check Engine Light Comes On

A bad fuel injector can cause too much or not enough fuel to be delivered into the engine – this will cause the Check Engine light on the car to turn on, indicating an issue. Your trusted Minnesota AAMCO auto repair center can help decipher your check engine light and figure out what issues need to be addressed.

Vehicle Won’t Start or Struggles When Starting

If the fuel injector is not delivering enough fuel to the engine system, this can cause the car to struggle when trying to turn over or not turn over at all (just cranks with no result). This can also cause the engine to stall due to the air-fuel ratio not being correct.

Vehicle Misfires

This can occur if your engine is not receiving enough fuel from the fuel injector – which stems from fuel injectors being clogged and dirty.

Poor Idle

You will notice a rough or choppy engine idle when the car is not moving. It might even feel like the engine it going to stall every time you stop. This can be caused by the fuel not being properly injected to the engine cylinder.

Engine doesn’t Reach Its Full RPM

If too much fuel is being injected into the engine, this can cause the engine to surge. This will make it feel like your car is jumping forward quickly but struggling to fully take off. You may also notice a loss in power or acceleration. 

Smell of Fuel

Another symptom of a failing or leaking fuel injector is a fuel odor. Because fuel injectors hold high amounts of pressure, and over time they can begin to leak around the seal at the tip of the injector or nozzle. A leak from either of these areas can affect engine performance – most noticeably fuel efficiency – and will give off the smell of gasoline. If you begin to smell gas fumes, you should take your car into a mechanic as soon as possible to avoid any further damage or safety hazards.

Related: Some Causes of Smells Coming From Your Car

AAMCO Can Help with Your Fuel Injector Repairs & Replacements

image of new, clean fuel injectors ready to be installed.Because fuel injectors are one of the main components for an engine being able to run – by providing fuel to the engine – they are extremely important to the overall functionality and performance of your vehicle. If you start noticing any of the previously mentioned symptoms, or suspect that there could be some issues with your fuel injectors or any part of the fuel system, schedule an appointment with a professional mechanic to diagnose the problem and provide next steps for how to fix it. 

Find Your Local Minnesota AAMCO Auto Repair & Transmission Center

If you have any questions, feel free to call and talk with one of our courteous technicians. Or, book an appointment online to reserve your time, date, and location.

 

 
AAMCO West St. Paul

1571 S Robert St | St Paul, MN, 55118

Details Directions

Call Now Set Appointment

AAMCO Transmissions West St. Paul is your Twin Cities one-stop shop for transmission repairs, rebuilds, and car maintenance. Our certified technicians can handle any transmission repair or rebuild, as well as auto repair and maintenance service for your vehicle. You can rely on our mechanics for automatic and manual transmission problems and rebuilds, clutch service and replacement, and more. We use modern computer diagnostics to identify transmission and engine issues so we can repair your car quickly and get you back on the road. We work on all makes and models, including 4x4s.

Write a Review

AAMCO Minneapolis

5231 West Broadway | Minneapolis, MN, 55429

Details Directions

Call Now Set Appointment

Transmission repair and rebuilds are our specialty. From transmissions to brakes, radiators, air conditioning repair, tune ups, check engine light diagnosis and car maintenance, people who know call AAMCO Minneapolis Transmission Repair and Auto Services. Our expert technicians use the latest tools and technology to diagnose and repair your vehicle. From automatic and manual transmission repairs, clutch service and replacement, and more, we know all vehicle makes and models. We back our work with the best nationwide warranty. AAMCO of Minneapolis, MN is your one-stop transmission rebuild and total car care center.

Write a Review

AAMCO Maplewood

1905 County Rd D E | Maplewood, MN, 55109

Details Directions

Call Now Set Appointment

People come to AAMCO of Maplewood, MN because we care about making sure you car is running safely and reliably. You can count on us for all your automotive repairs and maintenance. From transmission repairs and rebuilds to brakes, radiators, air conditioning, check engine light and tune ups. AAMCO Maplewood transmission and auto repair technicians use the latest technology to diagnose and repair your vehicle right the first time - and we back it with the best nationwide warranty. At your local Minnesota AAMCO of Maplewood we know all vehicle makes and models - we're your one-stop total car care specialists.

Convenient payment plans available.

Write a Review

AAMCO Fridley

940 Osborne Rd NE | Minneapolis, MN, 55432

Details Directions

Call Now Set Appointment

At AAMCO Fridley we believe in performing honest and affordable transmission and auto repair services. We do the job right and get you back on the road safely and reliably. From transmission repair and rebuild to brake service, air conditioning repair, tune ups, check engine light and car maintenance, AAMCO Fridley, MN is your one-stop auto mechanic. Trust AAMCO’s expert auto technicians to use the latest tools and technology to diagnose and repair your vehicle, and back it with the best nationwide warranty. At AAMCO of Fridley, Minnesota we know all vehicle makes and models and have the latest in diagnostic tools and technology. We are your total car care specialists.

Convenient payment plans available.

Write a Review

AAMCO Hopkins

10921 Excelsior Blvd #117 | 10921 Excelsior Blvd #117, MN, 55343

Details Directions

Call Now Set Appointment

At AAMCO Hopkins, MN we believe in the value of good, honest work and giving you and your family the peace of mind a safe, reliable car provides on a daily basis. From transmission repair and rebuild to brake service, air conditioning repair, auto tune ups, check engine light and car maintenance, AAMCO of Hopkins is your one-stop shop for car repairs and maintenance. Trust the transmission experts at AAMCO of Hopkins transmission repair to diagnose and repair your vehicle right the first time and back it with the best nationwide warranty. At AAMCO Hopkins transmission and car repair we know all vehicle makes and models and have the latest in diagnostic tools and technology. We are your total car care and repair specialists.

Convenient payment plans available.

Write a Review

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