Automobile Tips & Tricks

Should You Use Roadside Assistance For Dead Batteries?

by Dwight Harris

What should you do when you turn your car's key and hear nothing but the telltale click of a dead battery? For most people, there are two immediate options: call roadside assistance for help or beg a friend for a jump. The latter option can be tempting, but sometimes even simple problems are best left for professionals.

While it can still pay to keep a set of jumper cables in your trunk, you'll usually want to call for assistance when you find yourself with a dead battery. These three reasons will explain why you should only perform a jump if you have no other choice.

1. Overvoltage Can Be a Concern

Your car's battery produces around 14 volts (give or take half a volt) when the engine is in operation. Since your alternator supplies your power while it's running, the battery effectively acts as a capacitor to smooth power delivery to various electrical accessories. Many of these accessories, such as your headlights, can be damaged by out-of-range voltage spikes.

Although connecting two batteries in parallel should not usually produce an overvoltage situation, it can happen under certain circumstances. This spike in power can damage expensive equipment in one or both cars, even damaging the donor vehicle. The chargers used by roadside assistance technicians sidestep this problem and restore your battery safely.

2. Jump-Starts Can Be Dangerous

Although the vast majority of jump-start procedures will proceed without a hitch, there are potential dangers. Leaking or frozen batteries can explode when jumped, for example. A professional can identify these hazards before charging the battery, saving you and those around you from creating a hazardous situation.

The hydrogen gas produced by batteries is also flammable, and improperly attaching jumper cables can produce sparks. Explosions of this kind are rare enough that you should not be afraid to jump your car when no other option is available, but the risk is worth avoiding when you can.

3. It Might Not Be Your Battery

No-start conditions can be the result of any number of underlying problems. Even if your charging system is at fault, your battery may be dead entirely or your alternator may have failed, as well. In either case, a jump-start won't solve the situation. Even worse, a jump may get you going only to leave you stranded again a few miles down the road.

In addition to charging your battery, a technician sent by your roadside assistance program can test the state of your charging system. By checking that your alternator is functioning and your battery can hold a charge, they can save you the trouble of making a second call ten minutes later.

Roadside assistance programs offer a safe, reliable way to deal with a potentially dead battery. Next time your car won't start, consider calling a professional before asking a friend for help.

To learn more, contact a roadside assistance company like Parkway Wrecker Service.