How to Tell If a 12 Volt Battery Is Good or Not?

Written by david sandoval
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How to Tell If a 12 Volt Battery Is Good or Not?
Use a multimeter to check the battery's voltage. (multimeter image by Aleksey Bakaleev from

Lead-acid automotive batteries convert chemical reactions into electrical energy using an electrochemical process. Over time, the lead plates in a battery will combine with the sulphuric acid electrolyte to create lead sulphate crystals. As these crystals cover the lead plates, the electrochemical process slows to a point that the battery is no longer a useful source of electrical energy.

Unfortunately, a fully charged battery looks much like a discharged battery. To tell whether a battery can be used or not, the battery must be tested with a device called a digital multimeter.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • One 12V battery
  • Digital multimeter

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  1. 1

    Turn on the multimeter. Set the multimeter scale to "Volts DC."

  2. 2

    Attach the positive (red) probe to the positive battery terminal. Attach the black (negative) multimeter probe to the negative battery terminal.

  3. 3

    Read the multimeter display; the voltage reading should be between 12.2 and 12.6 volts DC.

Tips and warnings

  • A battery with a voltage reading above 12.2 volts but below 12.6 volts may require charging before use.

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