Car Battery Died While Driving - Can a Car Battery Die While Driving?!
Many people wonder if the car battery can die while driving, especially after their car battery died while driving. Obviously, the answer is "Yes, a car battery can die while driving."
A good car starting or dual-purpose battery should not die while driving, but although it is a rare event, it happens. There are many reasons why a car battery dies while driving, here are the few most common ones...
Updated: November 22, 2022.
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The Car Battery Died While the Engine Was Off
Much more commonly car battery dies while the engine is turned off, or at least most people notice a dead battery when they try to start the car - the key is in and turned, but except perhaps some relays and few lights going On/Off, nothing happens.
And if the car has a built-in voltmeter, it shows low battery voltage, or at least below normal.
If the engine is Off and the battery is Low, there are several possible reasons:
- One of the battery cells has a short circuit, and most probably, the battery is as dead as it can be - perhaps some smart battery charger may attempt to save the battery, but in such situations, one never knows when the battery will die again. IMHO, when that happens, get another car battery and recycle the old one.
- Battery voltage is low because it was drained over time by onboard electronics (the car was parked for a long time) or some device was left on. Or, somebody simply listened to the radio/multimedia for too long. If that happens, that means that the battery is discharged, and it must be recharged - jump start the car using jump start cables or some lithium car jump starter and let the alternator charge the battery for at least 30-60 minutes. Also, it is possible to remove the car battery from the car and recharge it using a battery charger or even to charge it while the battery is still connected to the car.
Note: don't just remove the battery from the car - some models don't feature an auxiliary car battery, which holds the charge for the car's computer and the rest of the electronics. And if the battery is removed from such models, the car can't be started as easily as one may expect ... Hint: check the car's manual for exact charging procedures - thus, if possible, jump start the car and drive it for at least 30 minutes ...
- The engine is off, the battery is low, and it can't start the engine, but the electronics scream about issues with the alternator/battery charging. If this happens, don't even try to start the engine - it may be started, and as long as the battery voltage is above a certain threshold, the engine will work. But not only that the battery is not being charged, but it is also being drained even further, and it is only a matter of a moment before the engine will be turned off automatically. So, if you can't start the engine, the battery is low, and there are alternator/battery charger warnings/errors, tow the car to the authorized repair shop.
For short, if the engine is Off and the battery is low, and it can't crank the engine, jump start cables or a car jump starter may be used to start the engine, but it is very important to find the reason why the battery was low since if it happened ones, it would sooner or later happen again...
Car Battery Died While Driving
A car battery can die while driving, and the car will eventually also come to a halt - it all depends if the alternator/charging system is working properly or not.
If the engine is On and the car is driving, there are several potential situations:
- Battery died (short circuit cell), alternator/charging system is working properly: In this situation, the alternator is generally able to keep the voltage high enough for the car to operate properly (servos, lights, radio, fans, etc.), but as soon as the engine is turned off, the car can't start again. In this situation, if the electronics report a dead battery or any similar battery issue, and the engine is still ON, drive to the authorized car workshop to check the car.
- Battery died, and the alternator/charging system is not working properly either: in this situation, it is only a matter of minutes (seconds?) when the onboard electronics will turn the engine off, or the engine will simply stop working.
Note: older engines, especially diesel with mechanical high-pressure injection systems, may even continue to work for longer period of time, but it is anything but safe and/or recommended to continue the drive in such condition ...
- Battery is fully charged, and the engine is on, but the alternator/charging system died: in this situation, onboard electronics will probably signalize an issue with the charging system and display either warning or error and tell the driver to either go to the workshop or to stop the vehicle right away. Older vehicles will, at least in the beginning, act normally - but after some time, the lights will become dimmer, fans will spin slower, radio/multimedia speakers will not be as loud as usual, etc.
Anyway, the car will, sooner or later - stop. In the worst-case scenario, the car engine stops while the car is still driving, and at the moment of notice, one loses the steering servo and the brakes servo.
If that happens, don't panic, turn On the car emergency lights (some battery charge is still available), and pull over. Note that the steering is harder and the that you will have to press breaks harder in order to stop the vehicle (use emergency break if required).
After stopping, try to restart the engine once or twice - keep an eye on the dashboard as well and check the warning lights and warning/error messages. Cars rarely have transient errors (some dirt in the fuel, for example), but if you manage to restart the car, perhaps you are lucky to have such a "transient" error - nonetheless, as soon as possible, drive the car to the repair shop to check what happened.
If the car cannot be started again, secure the vehicle while keeping yourself and your passengers as safe as possible - call the tow services to tow the car into the car repair shop - in most situations, there is absolutely nothing one can do on the open road to fix the car.
Why an authorized car workshop? There are many reasons why, but for short, they know what they are doing.
Also, a dead battery can damage other electrical systems as well, and thoroughly checking the car's diagnostics doesn't mean just plugging the laptop into the car diagnostic port ...
Note: after January 1, 1996, all cars built and sold in the US are required to be "OBD II" compliant (On-Board Diagnostics System II) - if you have an older than that vehicle, personally, either drive it to the museum or the scrapyard ;)
Of course, this doesn't apply to oldtimers and classic cars ...
For short: if your car stopped, whatever happened, it can either be repaired or replaced - stay calm, and don't panic.
But, when something happens to somebody, there is no 'Undo' - so stay safe ...