How To Charge a Car Battery

A dead car battery is not necessarily junk. You might be able to recharge it and bring it back to life.

byKevin Williams| PUBLISHED May 24, 2022 3:30 PM
How To Charge a Car Battery
Tony Markovich

To the uninformed, a car battery might seem like a mystery box full of magic spells that can only be serviced by the wizard at the car dealership, but that’s hogwash. These little cubes are pretty simple devices that only require a few components to operate.

Car batteries aren’t that much different from the battery in a cell phone or any other electronic device. Typically, the vehicle’s charging system will keep the battery topped up, but sometimes, there will be situations where it’ll need to be recharged outside of the vehicle. Never fret, recharging a battery isn’t much harder than plugging in a cell phone. Don’t bother paying somebody else to do easy jobs, just follow the step-by-step information below and do it at home.

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Estimated Time Needed: Up to 24 hours

Skill Level: Beginner

Vehicle System: Electrical

Battery Safety

Car batteries are boxes filled with acid and electricity, both things that can maim you, so let’s take some caution before trying to charge one. We recommend removing the battery from the vehicle, as overcharging or other charging issues could cause catastrophic battery damage. When removing the battery to recharge, take care to avoid bodily injury. Lift with your legs, not your back. Furthermore, you’ll want to protect yourself with the following items:

Everything You’ll Need To Recharge Your Battery

Everyone’s garage is different, but recharging a battery is simple. These are the basic tools you’ll need.

Set up your tools before you begin the job and take your time. Buying a battery charger now is a lot easier than calling a taxi cab to buy an expensive version of the same thing at a local parts store. 

Here’s How To Charge a Car’s Battery

Follow this step-by-step guide and you should have a fresh battery soon.

  1. Pop the hood (or trunk) and follow the steps to remove the battery from the vehicle. 
  2. Place the battery in a secure, dry location.
  3. Plug in your battery charger and tuck the cords out of the way if possible.
  4. Connect the battery charger’s leads to the battery. Remember, positive (+) first, then negative (-).
  5. Turn the battery charger on, and select the battery type. Typically, most vehicles will use the standard or STD setting.
  6. Select the charging mode. Most battery chargers have a charge and maintain or quick charge features. Select the desired mode and walk away. 
  7. Most battery chargers have a volt meter or a charging percentage meter. When the battery reaches 100 percent, charging is complete. Remove the charging leads and then unplug the battery charger. 
  8. Reinstall the battery in the vehicle and close the hood.
  9. After recharging a battery, it’s always a good idea to run the car outside or drive it around for a while to further establish the charge.

FAQs About Battery Charging

We want to try to answer any questions you have. We’ve selected common points of confusion from our experience, as well as commonly asked questions from popular search results. We answered those questions below.

Q. Can’t I just leave the battery in the vehicle and use some jumper cables to recharge the vehicle from another car?

You could, that’s called jump-starting. But sometimes there are situations when jump-starting isn’t feasible. For example, the vehicle could be blocked in or located in an area where driving a jump vehicle just isn’t practical or possible. 

Q. Why won’t my battery charge to 100 percent?

Most battery chargers are designed to prevent overcharging to avoid harm to you, the battery, and the charger. If the battery can’t charge to full, there is likely an internal fault in the battery, and it needs to be replaced. 

Q. What’s the difference between trickle charging and quick charging? Why should I use one or the other?

Trickle charging is a slower form of charging that replenishes voltage at a very, very slow rate. It takes a long time, but it’s far easier on the vehicle’s electrolyte solution and there’s lower risk of overcharging or damaging the battery. Quick charging is, well, faster. If you have an old battery, quick charging could very well spell its demise. Instead, use a trickle charger and charge it overnight.

Q. How long do I need to charge a car battery?

That depends on the type of charger, the type of battery, and the condition of the battery. A simple rule is to trickle charge the battery overnight, then reassess. If the battery doesn’t seem to charge or hold a charge, test it to see if it needs replacing.

Tony Markovich


If you don’t feel like reading, check out this easy video to learn more about charging a car battery.

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