How to Charge a Car Battery

Published on

March 4, 2024

charging a car battery

We all know how important a car battery is for our cars to work. Unfortunately, we've all been in a situation where our battery fails at the worst possible time. On average, car batteries last three to five years before causing issues. However, if you’ve recently tried starting your vehicle to no avail, we’re here to help with these essential battery charging tips to get you back in the driver’s seat in no time. 

When Should You Charge Your Car’s Battery? 

If your car does not start immediately, it’s time to begin charging. It’s really that simple.

We should mention that charging your car battery and jump-starting your car are two very different things. Jump-starting requires special jumper cables and a secondary vehicle or a jump starter battery pack. It’s typically a quick fix when your car won't start and you're in a rush. Charging your car battery, on the other hand, involves recharging a low battery so that it can function again. Whether that's up to 20 percent, 50 percent, or 100 percent depends on how long the battery is charged.

Steps to Charging a Car Battery

Ensure safe charging of your car’s battery by following these step-by-step instructions. Since charging a car battery isn't like a phone battery where you just plug in a wire, there's a process you’ll need to follow to stay safe and prevent injury.

Prepare the Battery

Before you attempt to charge the battery, give it a once-over to ensure it looks ok. For instance, if there's an odd smell coming from under the hood, the battery could be leaking fluid. You don't want to mess with it if that's the case. Also, be sure to let the battery fully cool before charging it.

Ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work? Safety first—make sure to put on gloves and safety glasses before moving on to the next steps.

Turn Off All Electronics

Double-check that all electronics and electric-powered devices are either unplugged or turned off. For example, your battery might be drained because you left that overhead light on accidentally. Make sure that's turned off before you start charging so you don't create a bigger issue with your vehicle's electrical system. Failure to do so could lead to an electrical arc during charging, which may cause burns and other injuries as well as damage to the vehicle's electrical system.

Remove the Negative Cable First, then the Positive

Once you've prepped the battery and ensured all electronics are off, it's time to start removing the battery cables. Always remove the negative (-) cable first, then the positive (+). These cables are typically clearly marked. Use a socket wrench to loosen the cables. Be sure that the negative and positive cables do not touch during removal.

Connect the Battery to the Charger

After removing the cables, inspect your battery terminals for corrosion. If they are, clean them with a brush. Then, it's time to connect the battery charger. With the charger turned off, connect the positive cable to the positive battery terminal and the negative cable to the negative terminal. Remember, you’ll need to connect the positive cable first!

Once both cables are connected, power on the charger. Set it at the lowest charging rate to start, and reference your owner's manual for how long to charge the battery.

Disconnect the Battery

When charging is complete, follow the above steps in reverse.

  • Power off the charger.
  • Remove the positive cable first, then the negative cable.
  • Replace the cables on your car battery. Re-connect the positive cable first and then the negative cable.
  • Fully tighten any bolts.
  • Start your vehicle.

How Long Should You Charge Your Car Battery?

How long you charge your battery really depends on how much of a charge you want or need. We suggest referring to your owner's manual or contacting our expert team for information on how long to charge your vehicle based on its make and model year. For some vehicle models, charging a fully depleted battery can take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours. However, you don't want to overcharge a battery, which could lead to battery melting or leakage.

What to Do If you Still Have Issues

If your battery is still draining and requires regular charging, then it's best to have the issue looked over by a professional. At our GreatWater-affiliated shops, our technicians will get to the bottom of any battery issues and make the necessary repairs or replacements so you can put the charger back in storage and get back on the road as soon as possible.

Always remember that it doesn't matter how long you charge a bad battery. If you don't have a good battery, it's not going to hold a charge for very long (if at all).

Contact GreatWater 360 Auto Care Today

While battery issues are never any fun to deal with, letting them linger will only lead to more significant problems and frustration. That's why we suggest servicing your vehicle at the first sign of battery problems—and that's where your local GreatWater 360 Auto Care shop can help. As experienced professionals, no issue is too big or too small for us to handle—and with our commitment to exceptional customer service, we'll do more than just get your vehicle running well, but give you peace of mind with our industry-leading 3 Year/36,000 Mile Nationwide Warranty.

Contact us today for more information and to schedule your next service appointment. We're standing by and ready to go to work for you.