Rule out the starter
If you are hearing a stuttering when your car is trying to crank over, you may have an issue with your starter. Usually, when your starter is the issue, your car will crank but not start up. However, if you are dealing with a dead alternator or battery, you will only hear a click when you turn your key.
Will any of your interior lights turn on
If none of your lights on your dashboard, radio, or interior are turning on, chances are that your battery is drained. Jumping your car can usually help get enough of a charge back into your battery to get your car started. Leaving your headlights on or your radio playing while your car is off can drain your battery causing it to not start back up again. However, if your car’s interior lights are all working you may have a problem with your alternator charging your battery enough while you are driving.
Are your lights flickering while you drive
A sign that your car’s alternator might be going bad is flickering lights when you press on the gas or go up a hill. A bad alternator can also cause your car to lose power while you are trying to accelerate or drive up steep hills. If you see your lights or dashboard dim while you use your power windows, turn on your AC, or press on the gas, your alternator might not be giving enough electrical current to your car’s systems.
Take your car to an auto parts store
Once you have jumped your car, head to an auto parts store. Make sure that you don’t turn off your car in the parking lot. You don’t want to get stranded if your car will not start again. Ask one of the sales associates to bring out a battery tester. This tester will be able to tell you if your battery is not holding a charge or if your alternator is the issue. Most of the time, these tests are highly accurate. However, there is another test that can help you once and for all determine whether it is your battery or alternator that is causing the starting problem.
The negative terminal test
Once you have returned home, you can run one final test that will reaffirm your test results that you received at the auto parts store. Pop your hood while your car is running and find the negative terminal on your battery. Safely remove the connection from the negative terminal. If your car stalls, you have an issue with your alternator. If your car continues to run with only the positive terminal connected, your battery is bad and won’t hold a charge.
How much will it cost to fix a battery or alternator
Changing out your battery is a fix that you can usually do on your own. Refurbished batteries run anywhere from $30 to $60. However, new batteries can cost anywhere from $100 to $150. If you need to replace your alternator, this is going to be a bit more expensive. Most auto repair shops will charge around $300 to $700 depending on the price of your new alternator and the difficulty of the repair.
Don’t forget to check the easy fix
Many times, a car battery issue could be as easy to fix as tightening your connections or cleaning corroded terminals. Sometimes your connecting cables on your alternator may have come loose as well. It is always important to make sure you look at the easy fixes before deciding to bring your car into the shop.