What's the difference between a flat battery and a dead battery?


Car batteries are one of the most critical components of any vehicle, as without them, we’re not going anywhere. They provide the power needed to start our engines and run different electrical systems in your car. That being said, batteries can fail from time to time for various reasons, leaving you stranded with a car that won't start (usually when you’re running late for a meeting or birthday party!).

When it comes to car batteries, there are two common terms we use to describe a battery failure: flat battery and dead battery. Whilst the two terms may seem interchangeable, they refer to two different situations, and understanding the distinction between them can help you diagnose and resolve any car battery issues you may face in the future.

Flat Car Battery

A flat car battery is a term we use to describe a battery that’s lost its charge but still has some residual power left. In other words, a flat battery still has some energy left, but it's not enough to start your car.

Signs your battery might be flat

You may experience symptoms such as:-

  • Your car ‘turns over’ slowly: If the engine cranks slowly or takes longer than usual to start, it could mean your battery is flat.
  • Your headlights are dimming: If your headlights look dimmer than usual or flicker when you start the engine, that could be because of a flat battery.
  • Your electrical systems aren’t working as expected: If your car's radio, power windows, or air-conditioning aren’t working properly, you guessed it – it could be a flat battery.
  • There’s a weird clicking sound: When you turn the key, if you hear a clicking sound or a rapid clicking sound, that could mean the battery is flat or close to flat.
  • You see warning lights: In many modern cars, there is a battery warning light on the dashboard that can warn us your battery is starting to run low on juice.

If you think your battery is flat, you can try jump-starting your car or using a battery charger to recharge the battery. If you don’t have another car close by for a jump start, take a look at our article How to start a car with a dead battery without another car.

If you manage to jump-start your car, it should start and operate normally. However, it's probably a good idea to determine the root cause of the battery drain and make sure you take steps to stop it from happening again in the future.

Things to check to ensure your battery isn’t being unnecessarily drained
  • Lights: Make sure all your lights, including the headlights, taillights, and interior lights, are turned off when the engine is not running.
  • Electronics: Turn off all your electronic devices, like the radio, air conditioning, and power windows, when you’re not running the engine.
  • Parasitic draw: Parasitic draw is a small amount of power that’s continually drawn from the battery, even when you’re not running the engine. Check for any devices, (such as aftermarket alarms or GPS systems), that could be causing a parasitic draw.
  • Old battery: The age of your battery can also affect its performance. Check the manufacturer's recommended lifespan of the battery and get a new one if it's past the recommended age.

Dead Car Battery

A dead battery, on the other hand, is a term we use to describe a battery that has no residual power left and can’t be jump-started or recharged. When a battery dies, it usually happens suddenly, without little to no warning signs. You could experience symptoms such as no electrical power, no cranking, and no lights prior to it dying, but this isn’t always the case.

A dead battery is usually caused by a faulty charging system, leaving your car sitting idle for an extended period, or extreme weather conditions.

If your battery is dead, jump-starting or recharging it simply will not work. The only solution is to replace the battery with a new one. It’s always good to make sure the replacement battery is compatible with your vehicle and has the required capacity to power all your electrical systems.

If you require assistance with choosing a car battery, please contact us today.

To sum up, a flat car battery will still have a bit of residual power left, but not enough to start the car, whilst a dead battery has absolutely no power left and cannot be recharged. Proper maintenance and regular inspection from a professional can help prevent any future battery issues and ensure your vehicle runs smoothly for many years.

We have the northside of Brisbane covered when it comes to your battery requirements so drop into one of our main stores at Brendale, Caboolture or North Lakes.


12 Garret Street
Brendale Qld 4500
Ph: 0413 692 236


6/106 Lear Jet Drive
Caboolture Qld 4510
Ph: (07) 5309 4905


12/88 Flinders Pde
North Lakes Qld 4509
Ph: (07) 3048 2293


Allstar Batteries - 'Positively the Best'