Warning Signs Your Battery Cable Is Failing

by Phil Borges // in Car

Did you know that your battery cable is the only thing standing between you and a dead car? It's true! And it can happen without any warning signs.

Have you had experienced problems with starting your car in cold weather or if your headlights are dimming when you turn on the heater? If this happens, then there might be an issue with one of your cables.

Come read this post to learn more about warning signs your battery cable is failing and what causes a failing battery cable.

Use of battery cables

Battery cables are used to connect the battery's positive and negative terminals with a car's electrical system.

The main function of these cables is to provide power for your vehicle when it starts, as well as providing electricity during the operation of engine components such as lights, heating systems, wipers, etc.

It is important to maintain a good battery cable connection as it is the only path to power your vehicle and not having one can lead to a dead battery.

Look Out For Corroded Battery Cable Symptoms

We all know that the life of a battery cable is finite, and it will eventually need to be replaced.

The warning signs of a bad or failing battery cable are: 

1) The starter will not crank the engine. The battery cables attached to your car need a strong connection with the starter and frame of the vehicle in order for it to start up. Over time, these wires can become frayed or corroded due to use which will cause problems when trying to get things running again.

2) The headlights, taillights, and dashboard lights dim when accelerating due to low voltage.  This can be caused by loose connections in the battery cable or a wire that has been broken.

3) Battery cables may be cracked, frayed, or broken from corrosion and wear over time. The main cause of a failing battery cable is corrosion.  

Corroded wire - is it safe?

Corrosion can happen for many reasons - it may be due to old age, voltage spikes that occur when starting the car, or during bad weather conditions like rain and snow mixed with salt (road deicer).

Even if the battery cable looks intact and in good condition, corrosion can still form on the inside of a wire.

This will eventually lead to an exposed metal that has no protection from rusting or even cause electricity flow problems within your car's electrical system.   

Staying safe by replacing battery cables as they start showing signs of wear is the best way to avoid an electrical problem with your car.

The safest way to approach a corrosion

If corrosion is the cause of your battery cable's failure, then you're going to want to clean all the build-up off.

Corrosion can be cleaned with baking soda and water or a household cleaner like vinegar.  You could also use a wire brush or toothbrush to get the corrosion off.

Make sure that you do this in a well-ventilated area and take care not to scratch any parts of your car's frame as it could lead to other problems with the vehicle.

How to spot a corroded cable?

There are some signs to look for when trying to spot a corroded cable.

  • If the insulation is cracked or broken, then you might have corrosion underneath it and need to clean off any buildup that has formed on your battery cables.
  • You should also check if there's discoloration around the area where the cable meets with the car's frame.

If you see any of these signs, then it is time to replace your cables as corrosion can cause electricity flow problems within the vehicle's electrical system.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens when the negative battery cable gets hot?

It can cause an electrical short in your car. This means that your lights may not work and other components of the vehicle's engine will stop working properly.

Corrosion can be difficult to spot on battery cables, especially if they are shielded. This is because the corrosion may not have been visible in its early stages and has already caused extensive damage deep within the cable casing before being noticed.

You must take a look at your car’s electrical system for any signs of corrosion or warning lights so it doesn't get worse.

If replacing a negative battery cable, will it cost me a fortune?

No, it won't. Replacing a negative battery cable will only cost you about $20-30 for the part, so not too bad.

Replacing a negative battery cable can be done by most people because they often attach to the frame of your car right around where you'll find it. You just need to remove the old one and replace it with a new one then put everything back together (pretty straightforward).

Can I start a car using a failing battery cable?

Your car battery cables are the equivalent of a lifeline when it comes to starting your vehicle.

If you have bad or corroded car battery wires, then this can mean trouble for getting around.

Or, you might not be able to start your car at all. If the corrosion is a little worse than normal then it will still allow for some charge and so the car should turn on somewhat normally.

But when they're frayed or spliced together without proper insulation, these may need replacing to have another chance of getting started again.

What is the cause of a battery drain?

The cause of a car battery drain is when the power doesn't get to where it needs to be.

This could mean that your battery cables are failing and need replacing as well as some wiring work, but there are other causes for a car's battery draining too like an alternator failure or a bad starter motor.

Battery terminals, are they prone to heat?

Car battery terminals do not heat up when the car is in use, but they can get hot if there are more problems arises. When this happens, it's time to troubleshoot and fix any problems that may have arisen with your vehicle.

How often should I clean my battery terminals?

You should clean your battery terminals every time you have a car wash.


If you’ve noticed any of the warning signs mentioned in this article, there is a good chance your battery cable has already begun to corrode and fail.

Don’t wait another day or week before taking action. It is always a better idea to check your car’s electrical system for signs of corrosion or warning lights, rather than waiting around to see if your battery cable will fail.

About the author, Phil Borges

Phil Borges is a battery aficionado. He's written extensively about batteries, and he loves nothing more than discussing the latest innovations in the industry. He has a deep understanding of how batteries work, and he's always on the lookout for new ways to improve their performance.