Checking Car Battery With Multimeter

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How To Test Amps On A 12v Battery

Testing A Car Battery With A Multimeter-Super Easy Tutorial

If you want to Test AMPS on a 12v Battery, you will need:

  • A multimeter
  • A 12v battery

To test the amps on your 12v battery, first set your multimeter to the amps setting. Then, touch the black multimeter lead to the negative terminal of your battery, and touch the red lead to the positive terminal. You should see a reading in amps on the multimeter display.

Now, interpreting the results can be a bit tricky. A healthy battery should have a reading of around 12 amps.

If your battery is showing a lower number, it may be starting to fail. And if the reading is zero, or very close to zero, your battery is most likely dead.

How To Test A Car Battery With Carly

How to test a car battery is simple with Carly. Simply plug in the Carly Universal OBD Scanner to your cars OBD2 port, fire up the Carly app on your smartphone, wait for the two to establish a connection and youre up and running. If youve got a BMW, theres an additional benefit as you can register your battery with Carly and obtain a deep analysis of its health condition. If your vehicle is of another make, you can still view standard battery errors under the Health Diagnostic section of the Carly app.

What Are The Signs Of A Bad Battery

When your car battery is failing, it cant give enough power to your car. This means that things like the headlights will be less bright. It also means that youll have problems starting the engine, and it will make a clicking sound when you turn the key. And sometimes, itll backfire while driving or when you try to start the engine.

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How To Test Your Car Battery Using A Hydrometer

This test is also called an electrolyte gravity test. It will tell you whether your battery is fully charged, undercharged, or even faulty.

For best results, use a hydrometer with a built-in thermometer. Some hydrometers are self-adjusting other hydrometers come with a conversion table to adjust your reading when performing the test at different ambient temperatures.

When doing this test, wear acid-resistant gloves and goggles.


When measuring electrolyte temperature, never use a metal thermometer. The thermometer could react with the sulfuric acid and even cause an explosion.

How To Test A Battery Voltage With Multimeters

How To Test a Car Battery with a Multimeter

Its a simplest test which anyone can do at home or anywhere to check battery health. First of all, bring a quality multimeter with fully charged batteries. After turning on meter set it to lowest range of dc voltage which is 20vdc in general multimeters. Now insert black lead probe to neutral socket and red one into a socket having dc voltage test illustration. Please keep in mind that the multimeter should be accurate as there is no room for inaccuracy in voltage testing.

Before checking the batterys voltage please do confirm that the battery is fully charged and at no load. No load means at the time of test there should be no load running on battery, a running load will give lower voltage readings. We suppose a 12v battery in this case, now connect black lead to negative terminal of battery and red to the positive one. You can identify negative and positive terminals of a battery by and + signs on its terminals.

Results on the multimeter should be somewhat between 11.8 to 13 volts. If it,s 12.5 or more that means the battery is in good health, 12 or more is satisfactory and voltage under 11.8 is suspicious and requires more tests like gravity and cell checking.

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Frequently Asked Questions :

What should a 12 volt battery read on a multimeter?

A 12 volt battery should read approximately from 12.6 volts to 12.8 volts.

How do you test if a battery is good?

If a battery is not putting up with the desired performance it is supposed to deliver, it can be tested with a multimeter. If the multimeter reads less than the potential the battery initially had then the battery can be termed as damaged.

How do you test an AA battery with a multimeter?

Touch the wires of the Black probe to the negative terminal and that of the Red probe with the positive terminal. The reading should be displayed on the multimeter display.

How do I test a 12 volt with a multimeter?

Set the range of the multimeter should at 20V on the DC side. The black probe of the multimeter connects to the negative terminal and the red probe to the positive terminal of the battery.

How to test a car battery with a multimeter?

First, discharge the surface charge of the car battery by turning headlights on. Bring the battery outside if necessary. If connected to the car, keep all functions of the car switched off, even the clocks. Then connect the respective ends .

Other Things To Keep In Mind When Replacing A Car Battery

Any time that you are replacing a car battery, there are some things that you should keep in mind. Your first priority should be safety, as changing a car battery is dangerous if you do it improperly.

Batteries are HEAVY. Use caution when lifting it out, transporting it or setting it to the side. Dont try and balance it on your bumper. Youre on your way to a smashed toe or worse.

Another thing to is that you should always disconnect the negative battery cable whenever you are working on electrical components in the vehicle. By disconnecting the negative battery cable before working on any electrical components in your vehicle, you will dramatically reduce the risk of grounding or arcing if you pierce a wire.

Grounding out electrical components can do MAJOR damage to newer cars as theyre mostly computers. This can be a costly repair, as I found out when I shorted the battery in my Volvo, to the tune of $6000 or more! That was an expensive dead battery.

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Battery Light On Your Dash

You may notice a battery indicator light on your dashboard when your battery starts acting up. Some cars will throw up a general check engine light, whereas others may show an image of a battery.

If that light is on in your dash and youre noticing a few other symptoms, its a safe bet youre dealing with battery failure and youll probably need a battery replacement.

Now lets look at some FAQs to give you a better understanding of your car battery.

Signs That Your Battery May Be Going Bad

How to Test a Car Battery with a Multimeter

There are a few early warning signs that your battery may be dying. Here are a few:

  • The car starts more slowly over time. The starter may sound sluggish or like its struggling to turn the engine over.
  • Your accessories reset. If your battery isnt holding enough charge, your radio or other programmed features may reset.
  • You find your battery dead on a cold morning. After getting a jump, everything seems fine. But the next cold morning it does it again.
  • Your battery is more than 4 years old. This time can be shortened if you live in a climate that has big swings between hot & cold or extreme temperatures either really hot or cold weather.
  • Your Check Engine Light is on or you have a low battery code. This one is usually a dead giveaway!
  • There is a visible leak or crack on the battery. If its cracked or leaking you will probably experience failure soon or wont have enough power to start when it gets cold.
  • Your headlights get brighter as you rev your engine. This means that youre pulling power primarily from the alternator instead of the battery. Your headlights should remain that same brightness at all times even when stopped or powered off.

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How To Carry Out The Static Battery Voltage Test

The first test we would talk about is the static battery voltage test you should do this to know the state of charge of your battery. This test will help you decide if a little boost is all you need to get your batteries to full function.

Before this test is carried out, you should ensure that the battery has not been charged recently. For accuracy, there should be at least an hour interval between the last time your battery has been charged and the time you are conducting this test.

The next thing to do is to adjust the multimeter to a direct current of 20 volts. Then place the multimeter leads on the battery terminals in the order of positive to positive and negative to negative.

After you have done these, you wont still know if your battery state if you dont understand the outcome of the test, so

  • When the multimeter reads 12.8 volts, then your battery should not be charged any further, because it is fully charged.
  • If it reads 12.6 volts, the battery is just attaining a fully charged state.
  • But when it reads 12.4 volts, the battery has attained a 75% charge level, and it could still be charged further, there would be no danger.
  • A reading of 12.10 volts means that it is halfway
  • With 11.90 your battery is low and in desperate need of a boost.
  • 80 or lower means your battery is empty.

So that ends the static test!

How To Check Car Battery Drain With A Multimeter

These are simple steps that you will need to follow correctly to avoid any mistakes that could prove costly to you.

To begin this process, you will need to first shut down your engine and remove the key from the ignition. Open the hood of your car. Turn off all electrical equipment that might be on. These include radio, heat/ air conditioning. The parasitic draw could be caused by some of these systems and that is why you need to turn them off first. Then follow these steps which include:

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How To Find Out If Your Car Battery Is Charged

Here are two methods you can use to learn the state of your battery using simple diagnostic tools.

The first method is to use a digital multimeter to quickly check if your battery has enough charge to start your car. This is the best way on so-called maintenance-free batteries, which don’t have removable caps. Some maintenance-free batteries come with a charge indicator, a display on the battery top that tells you if the battery is fully charged , in need of a charge , or faulty .

The second method uses a hydrometer. Unlike the digital multimeter, the hydrometer can reveal not only the state of charge of your battery but also its overall health. You’ll know if your battery has failed. But you can only use this tool on batteries with removable caps. You can buy an inexpensive hydrometer at most auto parts stores or online.

How To Test A Car Battery: 4 Testing Cold Cranking Amps

Checking car battery stock photo. Image of service, dirty

For this next step, ideally, you need someone else to start the car. When the car starts, the reading on the multimeter will drop as the battery cranks the car. Have someone else start the car, and pay attention to the reading on the multimeter. If it drops to below 10 volts, then your battery isnt in great shape. In this case, it might be a good idea to start saving for a new battery. If it drops to below 5 volts, then really its time for a new battery immediately. If it drops to about 10 to 11 volts, then this is perfectly normal and your battery is healthy.

This video from ChrisFix will give you a great visual guide on how to test a car battery:

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Set Up Your Multimeter

Now that youve prepared the battery, you can start setting up your digital multimeter to test your batterys voltage.

To do this, adjust it to about 20V of DC voltage. Setting it to 20V isnt a must the important thing is that its above 15V, so you get the correct reading. You can go ahead and turn your headlights off.

A Very Simple Way To Check Your Cars Battery Is To Use The Headlights

To do this, turn off the car and turn on the headlights. Leave them on for about fifteen minutes. Once this period of time has gone by, start the car and watch the headlights brightness.

If the headlights dim dramatically, then the battery is weak. Slow starting or failure to start means the same thing.

This simple test can be performed anywhere and should reveal the state of your battery.

A weak battery is almost always headed towards total failure. You should replace it before you get caught out somewhere you dont want to be.

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How Can You Tell If A Battery Is Good Or Bad

If you think your battery is bad, you can see for yourself. Take a look at the terminal, if its broken or loose. If there is a bulge or bump in the case, it might be bad. You can also check if there is a crack or rupture in the case and whether theres too much leaking from an old battery. If your battery has discolored patches on it, this could be a sign that it needs to be replaced.

When Is It Time To Replace A Car Battery

How to check a Car Battery with a Multimeter

Age alone is a good sign that you need to replace your battery. Most batteries today are designed to last between three or four years. That is when the warranty on most modern batteries expires, and if your warranty is expired, then it is a good idea to replace the battery as soon as possible. If you recently purchased a used vehicle, and you do not know how old the battery is, starting with a new battery means that you know that will not be a problem for several years to come. Most people do not replace the battery if they intend on selling the car. Of course, you now know how to test it to see if this is the case.

How often you need to replace a car battery depends on the type of battery, the technology it uses, and how well you treat it. Things like leaving your lights on accidentally overnight and letting it drain to low levels often determine battery life. Another question you might have is how long should a car battery last on average? Most batteries can be expected to last 3-4 years, but if you treat them well, some can last as long as 8-10 years, so this brings you to the question of when to replace your car battery.

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How To Carry Out The Charging System Test

This last test we would discuss is necessary to test your batterys charging system. Just as you have done for the load test, adjust the volt range on the direct current to 20 volts, place the terminals positive to positive negative to negative, start your motorcycle.

Now bring your engine to about 3,000 RPM, then check the voltage reading on your multimeter and compare it to the specification on the owners manual. For a good charging system, the voltage should read between 13.8 and 14.5 volts.

Using The Hydrometer To Test The Battery Fluid

  • Remove the caps from the top of the battery.
  • Submerge the tip of the hydrometer into the first cell of the battery and squeeze the hydrometer bulb.
  • Release the bulb to allow electrolyte to enter the hydrometer needle.
  • Read the electrolyte-specific gravity as indicated in the instructions on the tool’s package.
  • Make a note of your reading and perform the same test on the rest of the cells.
  • Compare your results to those of your tool manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Basically, if your readings fall between 1.265 and 1.299, your battery is charged. When your readings fall below 1.265, your battery is undercharged. In most cases, a slow or trickle charge will help restore the charge and improve the chemical reaction in the battery. However, a difference of 25 to 50 points or more , between any of your readings indicates that the battery is sulfated and you need to replace it.

    More Battery Tests and Maintenance Tasks You Can Do

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    Where Is The Battery In The Car

    Your first challenge is to find the battery. Although the majority of vehicles have batteries located under the hood near one of the fenders, there are some models that put the battery under the back seat, the trunk or in the wheel well.

    When in doubt, check your owners manual for directions, as it will tell you exactly where the battery is located. Once you find the battery, youll need to turn off the lights and ignition, if they arent already off.

    The next thing is connecting the black lead on your digital multimeter to the negative battery terminal, and then connect the red lead to the positive battery terminal. Try to test on the terminal itself, not the cables in order to rule out the battery and not a poor connection or bad cable.

    If youre having trouble, just remember that red goes with red and black goes with black.

    Pro Tip

    Cable colors arent always correct.

    As someone who has worked on enough cars that have been repaired over the years, you cant always trust the cable colors on older cars. To confirm your cable colors match, as they should, you can confirm that the red cable is connected to the + on the battery and the black is connected to the – .

    All batteries will have some sort of label to identify the positive and negative terminals.

    Its best to double-check measure twice and cut once as they say.

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