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One of the most frustrating things in life is when your car won't start. It's one thing if you have a used car, but another thing if you have a relatively new car that you are still making payments on with the warranty expired! With automobile labor costs rising, the thought of repair bills can be daunting and can literally be a major financial set back. I learned a few weeks ago that not all repairs are major.
 
Hopefully my experience a few weeks ago will help others know when their car battery is dead.  The other day as I was on my way to work, I turned the ignition on my 2006 Kia Sorento and it made a clicking noise.  There was no churning sound from the engine at all.  Luckily I was in the parking lot of my own home, but since it was a fairly new car, I did wonder why a starter or alternator would break down so soon.  
 
I called my father who is an expert and he guessed it may be a dead battery.  All I know is that I did not have Triple A and my warranty for starter/alternator just ran out after 60 thousand miles.  It was a relief to eventually find out that my 3 and a half year old car battery did need to be replaced and that the whole replacement was done for around 0 at PepBoys.
 
The frustrating thing was that my battery charger for cars was out of commission!  I had misplaced the adapter that recharges the car jump starter.  So my father and brother ended up helping me jumpstart my car the old fashion way, with two cars and jumper cables!  
 
When I went online that day I found out that a car battery typically lasts for about 3-5 years.  According to the PepBoys technician, in a relatively new model, the battery will generally die out first, before the alternator or motor starter.  So that is good news for all those who have new cars, as a battery replacement is relatively inexpensive. 
 
 So if your 3 to 4 year old car does not start, don’t panic.  Odds are you may need a new battery.  Keep a car battery booster in your trunk for convenience so you can jumpstart it and drive it to a local shop.  Pepboys has a full package where they check the whole starting system and replace the car battery for around 0, which is not too bad considering an alternator repair can total over 0!
 
If you are unsure which one needs replacing, you can do a simple test if you have a voltage meter.  The alternator is attached to one of the drive belts and should have an engine idle voltage of  13.6 to 14.3 volts.  The battery should be 12.5 to 12.8 volts after sitting overnight.  
 
If the alternator is low it may not charge the battery even when you jumpstart your vehicle and the car may stall while driving to the shop.  I remember my car stalling a few years ago due to a bad alternator right in the middle of rush hour traffic on the Belt Parkway, NY!  As you probably figured, it cost me a fortune to tow and repair.
 
However, as in my case a few weeks ago, if the battery is a dead one a good alternator may still charge it enough after a jumpstart to drive it to a local car shop to get it replaced by a technician or by yourself you know how to.
 
I recommend getting Triple A after your warranty is expired as it is not a question of if you need a tow it is when.  Everyone will experience that at least once in their lifetime. 
 
But keeping a 12v battery charger  handy can save you the hours waiting for a tow or depending on your friends if it is just a matter of needing a new battery and jump starting your car first to get to a shop.
 
The video below shows a practical way to test the battery and alternator.