how can i tell if my car needs a new battery or a new starter?

when i tried 2 start my car up last night it reved up a little bit but then it stopped and the radio statred to die out and everthing shut of lights and dash included. that was last night then this mourning my neighbor tried to give me ah jump but still nuthing would come on not even the lights so i'm wondering what do you guys suggest for me to do the car is a 86 caprice.

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  • alk
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    First thing to do is charge the battery. Sometimes when its completely dead, the donor car won't be able to start it. When its charged take a voltage reading from it. It should be just over 12 volts. If the car starts, take another reading, it should be just over 14 volts with it running. If its not 14 volts, the alternator is bad. If the voltage is 12 volts, not running and your car won't start, check the battery cables. If they're OK, remove the starter and take it to your favorite auto supply and have it tested.

  • 1 decade ago

    First, I think you need a new battery. What you can do before you go out to buy a battery is check to see if the terminals are corroded, if the terminal connectors are tight, and if it is a battery that needs maintenance, you can tell that if there is no caps on the top to fill the battery (most batteries are "maintenace free" meaning no caps). After that try and jump it again but leave the jumper wires connected for a while, if the engine cranks its not the starter you'll know if the starter is bad you will hear it either spin freely with a high winding sound or you'll hear a metal on metal grinding sound. But if it cranks and starts with the jumpers connected the starter is good. If you disconnect the jumpers and the car dies then it's the battery. If you buy a new battery and it still dies then it the alternator, but I would advise you to get that checked out when you get a battery. Autozone and such places test it for you. I am not sure if it is free or not. I hope this helps you out

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    It's the battery!

    If it started up and the engine turned over then it's not the starter. Go get a new battery and drive down to your local auto parts store and have them check the alternator to make sure that is also not the problem. It could be both but pretty sure it's your battery.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Most likely it's a bad battery

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    could be your alternator because its job is suppose to keep the electricity running after the car is started. if you cant start your car then check your starter and or battery.

  • 1 decade ago

    Start with the cheapest option to fix it and work your way up until you find it!

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