Are Car Battery Indicators Reliable? Answered!
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Not all of your car’s instruments are perfectly accurate. Are car battery indicators reliable? Are some battery indicators better than others?
Are car battery indicators reliable?
Some types of battery indicators are more reliable than others. The “magic eye” battery indicators work most of the time but can be wrong. A multimeter is better than a magic eye that only gives rough and sometimes very inaccurate information. A dedicated battery checker is the best option.
I used to rely on the magic eye. However, after a couple of bad experiences with the battery running out unexpectedly, I tried using a more accurate multimeter. Since then I have switched to a dedicated battery checker.
Is the Magic Eye Accurate?
The magic eye isn’t great. It roughly shows you how much power your battery has left, but it isn’t the best way to measure your car’s battery power.
At worst, the magic eye can completely fail to give an accurate reading. Your battery might be about to die, and the magic eye might tell you the battery is charged.
If you don’t want to take the risk of a completely inaccurate reading, you should know about other ways to check your battery.
What is the Magic Eye?
The magic eye is a common type of battery indicator. To use the magic eye, look into a glass piece on your battery and see if you can see a colored ball.
If the colored ball is near the glass piece, the battery is charged. If the ball is away from the glass piece and not easy to see, the battery lacks power.
The colored ball is in a tube of liquid. It will float to the top and become visible when the battery is charged, and sink to the bottom out of view if the battery is low on power.
About the Magic Eye
The magic eye has four parts: the head, the ball, the pole, and the cage. The cage is at the bottom, and the ball rests there when the battery has no power.
The pole is full of liquid and the ball is inside the pole. When the battery is charged, the ball moves up the pole to the head and becomes visible. The glass piece that you see the ball through is called the eye.
When the battery is charged, the eye will be green, as the ball is right beside the glass. When the battery is below 65% of a full charge, the ball will sink and the eye will become dark. If the battery is very low, the ball will sink further and the eye will become clear.
Car Batteries Have Multiple Compartments
A car battery has five or six different compartments, each of which might have a different electric charge. The magic eye only measures the charge in one compartment, so it is not reliably accurate.
Most of the time, the magic eye is right. However, it is not a precise measurement, and even the rough information the eye gives you can be wrong.
How Does the Magic Eye Work?
Why does the ball float to the top if the battery is charged and sink if it isn’t? The density of the battery acid changes when the battery is charging. A ball of the right density will float when it is charged and sink when it is not charged.
Is a Multimeter Better?
Yes, you can get a more accurate reading if you use a multimeter. It’s not quite as easy as a magic eye, but it isn’t complicated. Multimeters have many other uses, so you might get one instead of a dedicated battery tester.
Using a Multimeter
First off, make sure the car is off – none of the ignition, lights, or radio should be on. Then, set the multimeter to the DC volts position. Most likely, the DC volts position is a V with a dotted line below it, though some multimeters use a different symbol.
Next, plug the red lead into the main terminal of the multimeter and the black lead into the common terminal.
Now you are ready to hook the multimeter up to the car battery, which is easy. Attach the red lead on the multimeter to the positive terminal of the battery, which is usually red. Then, attach the black lead to the negative and usually black battery terminal.
Reading the Multimeter
After the multimeter is hooked up to the battery properly, it will give you a reading right away. Multimeters usually have a range of 0 volts to 20 volts.
If the battery is at 12.6 volts, then you have a fully charged battery. It is at 75% at 12.4V, 50% at 12.2V, and 25% at 12V. If it is any lower than 12V, your battery has little or no power.
What About a Battery Tester?
A dedicated battery tester is even better than a multimeter. It is the best way to test your battery if you want an accurate and precise reading.
Multimeters are good tools for measuring car batteries. They are accurate, and they can do many things besides testing a car battery. However, they are not quite as accurate or as easy to use as a car battery tester.
- Newer batteries come with a magic eye battery indicator. The magic eye indicator is usually right, but it is not precise or accurate. It only tells you roughly how charged the battery is and there’s a chance it is completely wrong.
- The magic eye works because a colored ball will float up a tube when the battery is charged and sink when it is not charged. When you charge the battery, the density of the acid increases and makes the ball float. When the car battery drains, the density decreases and the ball sinks.
- A multimeter is a better way to check your battery level than the magic eye. An even better way is a dedicated battery checker.