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When your vehicle starts to go wrong, it is of course natural enough that you will want to fix it quickly and, if possible, cheaply. The automatic reaction is to assume that it is a serious component that has failed, and to start poking at the battery or gasket valves to find the problem with our cars.

Sometimes though it is worth remembering that a vehicle is actually a collection of thousands of individual parts, pieces and components. When things start going wrong, the culprit can often be a very simple little part or component rather than a major piece.

In this article we’re going to take a quick look at one of these lesser-known components that when they start to fail, can really make your life difficult!

Related Post: Best Car Battery

car battery

What Are Battery Cables?

Battery cables, as their name implies, are little more than cables that connect your battery to the vehicle’s electrical system. Whilst their description is pretty simple though, that should not detract from how important these little cables actually are.

The electrical system in your car powers, amongst many other things, the ignition system. So if there is no electricity in the electrical system, then guess what?

Right – you can’t even start your car!

Apart from that the electrical system powers everything from the headlamps to the AC system and the onboard computers and monitoring systems. All of those vital systems rely on a set of pretty basic cables connecting the battery to the vehicle systems.

If you think about it, that’s a lot of pressure placed on a set of cables. That’s why when the battery cables start to fail, it can be really bad news for you and your car.

Symptoms of a Failing Battery Cable

The symptoms of a failing battery cable will present in what we like to call a cascading fashion. That’s just a fancy way of saying that they will generally happen in a specific order.

It will usually start with:

Ignition Problems

As we mentioned above, the vehicle electrical system is a key component of the vehicle ignition system. Put simply, no juice equals no sparks equals no engine. Which, it probably goes without saying, is bad news.

That is why the first symptom that you will likely notice when it comes to a failing battery cable will be problems getting the car started. Specifically what you may notice is that the car is cranking – in other words, the engine is turning over, trying to get started – but it takes much longer than it used to.

All this means is that less juice (that is the technical term for electricity) is flowing from the battery to the spark plugs. That lower power then translates into a slow crank and a harder time than before getting the engine to start.

Corroded Battery Terminals

The next symptom is one that you are only going to see when you stick your head under the hood. That being said, if you are already noticing the symptom above, you will probably already have plans to take a look at the engine to see why it is having such a hard time starting up.

When you do, take a good look at the battery. Specifically, check out the battery terminals where the battery is actually hooked up to the battery cables. Corrosion on those terminals is a big indicator of damaged cables.

The battery, as we’re sure you know, is full of acid. When the engine temperature heats these acids during driving, they can release acidic gas – kind of like your Uncle Bill after Thanksgiving dinner.

These gases damage the battery cables, so if you see corrosion on the terminals it almost certainly means the cables themselves are also damaged and need replacing.

A Full System Shut Down

The final symptom of failing battery cables is also the most serious. A full system shut down refers to the electrical system we’ve talked about throughout this article receiving no electrical power at all.

This is going to manifest itself as a failure of all the elements of the vehicle that rely on electricity to function. So if you turn the key or hit the ignition key and nothing happens, that means the electrical system is dead. Likewise if you try to turn on the headlamps or the radio and get nothing.

Naturally we would suggest you replace your cables when they show symptom one and/or two instead of letting your car get to this stage!

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Sources:

  1. Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Battery Cable – Auto Blog
  2. Your Battery Cables Are Bad – It Still Runs

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