We take so many things for granted in life, don’t we? We assume that when we turn on the kitchen faucet, hot water will magically flow from it. We practically lose our minds when the Wi-Fi is slow, heaven forbid that it should ever stop working altogether.

Most of all, we accept the truth that when we turn the key in the ignition, the car will immediately spring to life and we can drive to our destination without interruption.

Sometimes, however, it just doesn’t work out that way. There is no worse feeling in the world than realizing you have a dead car battery when you’re in a rush. How can such a situation be avoided? We’re here to help. Here are the signs to look for when your car battery is on its last leg.

1. Turn on your headlights

It seems almost too easy, but the best way to test the strength of your car battery may be to simply flick on the headlights. If the lights seem dimmer than usual, then it probably means it’s time to replace the battery. If they don’t turn on at all, well, that would be a good time to call roadside assistance or find someone with a good set of jumper cables.

2. Slow means no go

Everyone moves a little slower early in the day, but for the most part, your car shouldn’t endure the same kind of morning grogginess that we have to deal with. If you turn the ignition key and notice that the engine is cranking a bit slower than usual, the battery very well could be the culprit. And no, a good night’s sleep won’t do it any good. If the battery is slow, don’t hesitate to test it. Many auto parts stores offer battery tests at no cost.

3. Age matters

Do you know the age of your car battery? You should. Most cars with 12-volt batteries have a life span of three to five years. Granted, it may cost a little extra to replace a car battery before it has run its course. But if you think that the battery may be getting up there in age, it might be wise to replace it before you’re stuck with a lifeless car.

4. Is it the battery or the alternator?

Picture this nightmare scenario: You’re about to leave for work when you discover that your car won’t start. Fortunately, you’re able to charge the battery at least to the point where you can drive to the office. Unfortunately, you arrive back at your car at the end of the day only to find that the battery is dead yet again! In this case, it may not be the battery at all, but perhaps a problem with the alternator. Often, the smell of burning rubber may come from the alternator overheating or the lights and gauges may flicker.

5. High maintenance

As you might expect, there are ways to extend the life of your car battery without breaking the bank. Often, a chalky white substance will form around the battery terminals over time, which can shorten its life span and damage the electrical conduction. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to clean such corrosion with a wire brush while applying a dielectric grease to the connectors. Of course, it’s important to be careful while maintaining your car battery. Proper gloves and protective eyewear are always key, especially when the threat of spilled battery acid is a possibility. Even so, battery acid on skin can be quickly neutralized with baking soda and water.

A dead car battery certainly isn’t the end of the world, but it’s also no fun to deal with when it happens. Still, if you follow these guidelines, it’s sure to make your life a lot easier when it happens to you. And let’s face it, it’s still not as bad as the Wi-Fi going out.