If you have a bad battery and you notice your car engine stalling, you may suspect that one is causing the other. So, can a bad battery cause stalling?
From my personal experience, I can tell you that the simple answer is yes. A weak battery can make the car stall. That’s because there will be more pressure on the alternator. And eventually, the car will stall. Keep on reading to find out how it all works out in detail.
Besides, I’ll also guide you about the other issues that cause stalling and some common signs of a bad battery. So, let’s dive in!
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Can A Bad Battery Cause Stalling [Fully Explained]
Car batteries are crucial as they play a key role in starting your vehicles. A lot of people think that the battery will go bad all of a sudden and the car won’t start then. But that’s now how it plays out in real life.
The truth is that the battery will go bad slowly in most cases. And when the battery starts to deteriorate, the alternator will have to work extra hard to keep charging the battery.
So, the car will run at that stage. However, due to the extra pressure on the engine and the alternator, the engine can stall. Because of this additional load, the car engine can stall while driving.
You can think of this whole thing as a domino fact. One thing being bad affects the rest. And that’s how it works for a car engine too. The battery makes the alternator work harder, which in turn makes the engine work harder. That causes the car to run rough and make it stall.
But you should make sure that you really have a weak battery before jumping to a conclusion. Thankfully, testing a car battery is really easy. All you’ll need is a multimeter to do the test.
If the battery reads 12.6 volts or more, there’s nothing wrong with the battery. It’s getting charged properly. But if the reading is below 12.4 volts, you’ll have to recharge the battery.
There’s also the possibility that the battery terminals have been corroded. If that’s the case, the battery won’t be charged properly. That would explain why the battery is low on charge.
So, inspect the battery terminals and see if they’re corroded. If they turn out to be dirty, clean them. Make sure the terminals are making a tight connection with the battery posts and the cables are okay.
If that also fails, there’s a strong chance that your battery has gone bad. If it has been more than 4-5 years since you replaced your battery, it’s time to replace the battery again. It has outlived its utility and it’s time to change it.
It’s not just my experience but so many other car enthusiasts can back it up. According to Drago V from CarPhrases always says “YES, a dead battery can cause your engine to stop running while you are driving”. And that’s all due to the extra pressure on the alternator.
Besides making the alternator weak, a bad battery can also make the ignition system fail. If the battery fails to supply enough voltage to the starter motor and spark plugs, there won’t be enough power to generate a strong park. So, the engine will stall in this scenario.
Similarly, a weak battery can also make the fuel injection system fail. Modern cars rely on many sensors to inject the correct amount of fuel at all times. However, these sensors can fail when the battery produces a low voltage.
So, the car will end up stalling when the fuel-to-air ratio gets messed up. The bottom line is that there are many ways in which a bad battery can make the engine stall. It can be direct or indirect like I’ve shown you now. Replacing the battery as soon as you can is the ideal way to solve this issue.
What To Do When A Car Stalls?
If you know that you have a bad battery, then you’ll have to replace it to fix this issue in the long run. But it’s not like you’re roaming around with a spare battery and the tools to replace it.
So, you need to stay calm and follow the right steps if your car keeps stalling. Especially, if you’re on a highway or a busy road where there’s the possibility of getting into an accident. Here’s what you should do when your car stalls when you’re on the go:
Step 01 – Ensure Your Safety
You’ll have a few seconds before the engine completely turns off when your car stalls. So, don’t panic and get to the side of the road as much as you can.
Turn on the hazard lights of your vehicle to warn the other drivers that you’re going through a problem.
It’ll go a long way in ensuring the safety of yourself and others. Activate the parking brake to make sure that the car doesn’t go anywhere. Doing so will come in handy if you’re on an incline.
Step 02 – Ask For Help
You’d have to get out of the vehicle to get help from others. Get out through the passenger side and make sure you don’t run into any oncoming traffic. Ask for others to help you and see if you can get someone to jumpstart your car.
If you carry jumper cables with you, they’ll be of great use at this point. Otherwise, you’d have to rely on a helper carrying them. If you find a way to jumpstart the vehicle, let the battery get charged and drive to the closest repair shop to fix the issue.
If you don’t find anyone to help you, then you need to contact a towing service. Look up a towing service near the area where you’re stranded and get someone to come to you. They can take the car to the nearest automotive repair shop to diagnose and solve the problem.
Step 03 – Fix The Faulty Part
It’s likely that you have a bad battery if your car is stalling. But there are many other potential issues that can make your car stall. I’ve talked about them in detail later on in this guide.
When you get to the repair shop, get the mechanic to diagnose the issue. Testing the battery is free in Autozones. So, if the battery turns out to be faulty, you can replace it. If the battery is okay, the next common culprit is the alternator. Get it inspected and replace it if it turns out to be bad.
What Are Some Signs Of A Weak Battery?
Even though I’ve already talked about how you can test your battery, there are some warning signs that also point to a bad battery. These signs are not a replacement for doing the test.
You should always inspect the component you’re about to replace and make sure that it’s bad. But these warning signs are only to point you in the right direction. If you notice some of these symptoms in your car, then I bet you have a bad battery.
1. Reduced Electrical Performance
There are so many electrical components in your vehicle that are powered by the battery. You’ll notice that they’ll start going bad when you have a bad battery. For instance, the headlights will get dimmer with time.
The interior lights will also dim and the horn sounds won’t be as loud as before. The sound from the radio will also decrease. Even the electronic windows may not work. All these things are signs of a bad battery. At the very least, something is definitely wrong with your vehicle’s electrical system.
2. Warped Battery Case
One of the strongest visual cues that you have a bad battery is if the case is swollen. So, pop your head and get a good look at the battery. If you see that it’s swollen or there are cracks in it, you should immediately replace it.
3. Clicking Noise When You Start The Engine
When you turn on the ignition to start the engine, the battery sends a current to the starter solenoid. That’s what sets things off and the engine actually starts. But a weak battery that’s low on charge won’t be able to do this function smoothly. So, you’d hear a clicking sound.
A temporary solution to get out of this issue if you’re ever stranded is to jumpstart your car. But for a more long-term solution, you’d have to recharge or replace the battery.
4. Low Battery Fluid
There are some batteries on which you can take the top off and make sure the electrolyte levels are good. It’s okay to refill the electrolyte in such batteries once in a while.
But if the battery light keeps popping up in your dashboard and you need to refill the battery more often, you have a failing battery. It’s most likely due to the accumulation of sulfur in the battery plates. The sulfur turns the electrolyte into hydrogen or oxygen and causes this issue.
5. Engine Cranking Slowly
It’s one of the easiest signs for spotting a bad battery. As you’ve driven your vehicle for a while, it’s likely that you’d get used to the sound it makes.
If you’re starting to hear that the engine is cranking slowly, it’s a sign that your battery is going weak. The good news is that you can solve this issue by recharging the battery in most cases rather than replacing it entirely.
6. Frequent Jumps
Requiring more jumpstarts is a fairly obvious sign of a weak battery. It’s a dead giveaway that the battery isn’t successfully holding charging anymore. However, there’s another possibility here.
The only thing you need to consider here is that the alternator could be bad and it’s not charging the battery. That’s why you should always test and make sure it’s bad before you replace it.
7. Pressing The Gas Pedal To Start The Car
Normally, you won’t have to press the gas pedal to start the car. It should start smoothly on its own. But if you have to press the gas pedal every time to start the car, it’s a sign of a bad battery. Especially, if this symptom is accompanied by the other ones I’ve mentioned so far.
8. Sulfur Smell
If you notice a rotten eggs type of smell when you pop the hood in your car, you can be sure that you have a bad battery. It’s certain that you have a failed battery and that it’s leaking internal acid.
You should replace such a battery immediately. That’s because the acid leaking out can also damage the other components in the engine. And I’m sure you don’t want that. So, replace such a battery as soon as you can.
A failing battery won’t always cause an engine to backfire. But when it does happen, this issue is almost impossible to miss. That’s why I’ve added it to this list of bad battery symptoms.
The main reason why the car backfires is that a bad battery causes intermittent sparks. The fuel remains in the cylinders. And when that leftover fuel is ignited with pressure, the car backfires.
What Else Causes A Car To Stall
While a bad battery is a common reason that would make a car stall, there are plenty of other potential causes. I’ll walk you through the most common ones in this section.
i). Low Fuel Pressure
The most common cause of engine stalling is fuel-related issues. And low fuel pressure is one of them. You’ll be able to drive your vehicle without any issues on level ground. But the good news is that low fuel pressure is easy to detect.
One of the major signs that there’s low fuel pressure on your car is that the engine will stall whenever you go uphill or downhill. It indicates that the fuel isn’t being pumped into the engine at the right time. That’s what caused the issue and made the car stall.
A common culprit behind low fuel pressure is when the fuel injectors are clogged. You can add some fuel injector cleaner to the fuel tank so that they get cleaned. Hopefully, doing so will minimize this issue.
ii). Excessive Moisture In Gas
Water and gas don’t mix well together. And if you have gas with moisture, it won’t burn properly. There are many ways in which moisture can get into your gas tank. One common scenario is when it rains or snows and the driver hasn’t tightened the gas tank properly.
The water could have seeped into the gas tank in that situation. If you park your car in sunny areas, moisture can also get into the gas tank. One question you can ask yourself is if the car has been stalling since your last gas refill.
If you can trace the engine stalling issue back to a recent fuel change, there’s a high chance that it’s the issue. There are two ways in which you can solve this problem. The first one is to drain the gas from your car and refill it with a fresh batch of gas.
Secondly, you can just keep on driving the vehicle and use the gas. You may face the stalling issue as you keep driving but that’s something you’ll have to accept. Then, you can fill your gas tank with good gas.
Double-check and make sure that the gas cap isn’t broken. If it’s damaged, maybe the water get into the gas tank through that. Replace the gas tank if it’s defective to keep moisture from building up in the future.
iii). Malfunctioning Fuel Pump
The fuel pump transfers the gasoline from the tank to the engine when it’s needed. It’s a crucial component as there’ll be several issues with your car if the fuel doesn’t get to the engine in time. One such issue is that the car will stall when the fuel pump is bad.
The fuel pump in older cars used to be completely mechanical. But in modern cars, there are electronically controlled fuel pumps. The bad news is that there are no early symptoms of a failing fuel pump. You’ll only start to notice that you have a bad fuel pump after the engine stalls.
Normally, the fuel pumps make a buzzing noise when they’re operational. If you don’t hear any sound coming from the fuel pump at all, that means it’s bad. You also won’t be able to start your car if the fuel pump goes bad.
There are many reasons why a fuel pump could fail. The main ones are constantly letting the gas tank dry and when the engine gets overheated. Your only solution is to replace the fuel pump when it goes bad.
iv). Defective Alternator
Apart from the battery, the alternator is another electric component that can make the engine stall. The warning signs of a bad battery and a bad alternator are pretty much the same. That’s why you’d have to do a thorough job testing both of them to know which one is the real culprit.
The alternator only powers the electrical component once you start the engine. Before that, it’s all up to the battery to run the electric parts. But if your car has difficulty starting, it could also be due to a bad alternator. That’s because the alternator fails to charge the battery. Similarly, your car stalling can also be due to a bad alternator.
If the alternator is defective, the engine will stall and could also eventually make it stop. Besides, a bad battery can create a lot of extra work for the alternator, and that could also make the alternator go bad. You’d have to replace the alternator if it’s faulty.
v). Distributor Cap Issues
The distributor cap is an essential component in your car that protects the distributor and sends voltage to the spark plugs. It needs to be working properly to make sure that the spark plugs fire at the right time.
But if the rotor gets clogged or the wiring gets damaged, the spark plugs can misfire. The distributor cap can also get corroded and cause this issue. Whenever that happens, your car would stall.
Inspect the distributor cap in your car. If it’s corroded, you’ll have to clean it. If the issues are being caused by faulty wiring or a clogged rotor, you’d have to fix those issues as well.
vi). Clogged Air Filter
The air filter makes sure that only clean air enters the engine. But it traps many contaminants in that process. As the air filter gets clogged, it has to work much harder to draw in the air.
So, a lot of performance issues occur in the car. One of them is that the engine can stall. Luckily, this is an easy problem to fix. You can replace the air filter and that’ll solve the issue.
vii). Electrical Issues
The good thing about modern cars is that there are many safety features due to advancements in technology. Because of these features, you have a much easier time driving your car. But there’s a flip side to that. They can also cause several electrical issues and prevent the engine from running.
When the communication between the ECU and other components fails, it can make the engine stall at times. Start by checking the electrical wiring and see if any of them are damaged. If any of the wirings are loose or corroded, you’d have to tighten and replace them. Otherwise, keep on looking for other issues.
What makes matters worse is that electrical issues can be extremely hard to pinpoint. So, you’d most likely have to get professional help if you suspect this issue. You should look into the possibility of this problem if you’ve already tried the other causes and they’re not it.
Hopefully, once you get the help of a qualified mechanic, you’ll know exactly why your car is stalling. Then, all you have to do is take the corrective action to fix it.
What Are Some Other Problems Caused By A Weak Battery
Making a car engine stall isn’t the only negative consequence of having a bad battery. A bad battery takes a toll on the electrical system of your car and has many other bad effects. Let’s take a quick look at them.
Making The Alternator Go Bad
When you have a weak battery, the alternator will have to work harder to charge the battery. But the alternator isn’t designed to do that for long periods. So, they’ll inevitably go bad if you keep using a poor car battery for a while.
Making The Electrical Components Go Bad
The electric components in your car seem to have a mind of their own when you have a bad battery. The ignition, locks, doors, and other accessories seem to work on their accord when you have a bad battery. Here are some examples of what commonly happens when you have a bad battery:
- The push button ignition will only respond sometimes.
- The touchscreen interface of the car crashes randomly.
- The stereo operates inconsistently.
- Power door locks reverse their position when you lock or unlock them.
- The power windows don’t always operate according to the input instructions.
Activating The Car Alarm Spontaneously
A rather annoying issue caused by a bad battery is activating the alarm out of nowhere. Imagine waking up the entire neighborhood in the middle of the night due to a false alarm.
The good news is that this issue is rare. But it does happen at times. So, you should replace the battery if you’ve made sure that nobody tried to break into your car. It means the alarm went off due to a bad battery.
Making The Auto Start/Stop System Fail
A great feature of modern cars is that they have an automatic start/stop feature. This system automatically turns off the engine when the car comes to rest. The car gets restarted when the driver hits the brakes. The goal of this feature is to improve fuel efficiency by cutting down costs.
But when you have a weak battery, the auto start/stop feature won’t work properly. It will work intermittently at times. At times, the car won’t restart due to a bad battery and you could be stranded in the middle of an intersection.
Car Not Shifting Out Of Park
There are cars with an electronic gear shifter where an electronic signal is sent to the module to engage the gear of choice. But when you have a weak battery, it’ll create inconsistencies in this operation.
At times, the battery power can start the car but may not be able to shift it out of the park. That’s why it’s important to check your battery health at periodic intervals and clean it from time to time. Otherwise, you could be facing such issues with your car battery.
Can the remote start system make my car battery go bad?
If the remote start system is faulty, it can make the battery go bad. A faulty system will cause a parasitic drain and make the battery lose its charge. So, it’ll make a battery go bad quicker.
Can you run a car with a dead battery?
Yes, you can start the car by jumpstarting the car when you have a dead battery. But the problem is that your car will require a jumpstart again when you shut off the engine. It’ll damage the electric components in the meantime.
Why do car batteries and alternators go bad together frequently?
The battery and alternator in a car rely on each other for support. When an alternator goes bad, it can damage the battery by not charging it. A faulty battery also makes the alternator overload and makes it go bad.
Will a bad battery cause a vehicle to stall immediately when it dies?
It’s not likely that a dead battery will make the car stall right away. But if you ignore the problem for a while and keep driving your car in that condition, the car engine will eventually start stalling.
Can a bad battery cause a car to shut off while driving?
When you have a bad battery, the electrical components depend on the alternator for their power. If the alternator goes bad, the car will eventually slow down and come to a stop.
Can a bad battery cause stalling? By now, you know the answer to that question. Of course, a weak battery can cause stalling. But there are plenty of other issues that can make the engine stall.
Fuel pump and fuel pressure are also pretty common causes behind this issue. So, make sure you inspect them and take corrective actions if needed. If your car shuts off when the battery gets disconnected, I also have a guide on solving that. Check it out if you’re interested.