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Thread: How to tell when your car battery is getting low?

  1. #1
    Senior Member CathyA's Avatar
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    How to tell when your car battery is getting low?

    I was told several months ago by my Honda service department that my battery wasn't in great shape. I told them to not replace it, as its always more expensive there.
    I haven't had any hesitation when starting it........although it hasn't been cold. I tested the battery with my multimeter and it was good, but learned that that doesn't really tell me how well it would function when driving, or how long it would last.

    Are there any signs/symptoms of a battery going bad, other than the car having trouble starting? Or does it go from working fine to not working at all?
    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    My rule of thumb is to replace a car battery after 5-6 years. If your car is turning over too long when you try to start it and the voltage meter is low, replace the battery. When the car doesn't start but will start with a jump then replace the battery. That's my experience.

  3. #3
    Senior Member bae's Avatar
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    Take the battery to a NAPA store, and have them take a look at it on their battery analyzer. If it fails, buy a new battery from them. If it passes, no worries.

  4. #4
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    A good rule of thumb test is how well it works (or doesn't) on the first really cold day of winter.

    It's just not a very convenient test if it fails :-(

  5. #5
    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    Car batteries actually suffer more from extreme heat than the extreme cold. Phoenix is at least as hard on car batteries as Frostbite Falls, Minnesota.

    Oh, and don't assume that the dealer battery is a ripoff. There is any number of batteries I could put in my VW diesel, but the most cost-effective from the standpoint of battery power and cost, usually is from the dealer (!). As bae said, NAPA batteries are good, and there are a few other brands -- Interstate is good, Sears Diehard Gold is good (Diehard itself is not what it once was). I don't know which manufacturer(s) Honda uses for their batteries, but figure out how many years you've had yours; it might be worth buying the same brand because you know Honda doesn't want to put their name on junk.

    Most batteries in the US are made by three or four major companies and all kinds of rebranding goes on. Batteries also are made to spec, which is why sometimes Wallyworld's battery can seem a lot cheaper than, say, an Interstate or a Deka. That well may be because it is a cheaper battery. Do not assume all batteries are the same and differentiated only by warranty.
    If Americans expended even a fraction of the energy on civic engagement that we spend on consumer ideology, our democracy would be much healthier. Can you imagine people camping out to vote? -- Charles Roberts, Amherst, Mass., Nov. 25, 2006

  6. #6
    bunnys
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    My experience has been (and I've had a bunch of experience as I've only had 2 cars and kept each well over a decade) is there has been no warning. You just wake up, go out to start it one cold morning, turn the key and nuthin'. It's flat out dead. I never had any kind of warning.

    But, it always went right around the time it said on the battery it was going to go. If it was a 48 month battery, it went @ month 50. And always, always on a really cold morning.

    I don't know if you live in a cold clime but if it gets really cold you're likely to wake up one morning and have it be dead.

  7. #7
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    A typical battery analyzer for cars, you have to enter the cold cranking amps the battery is rated at. It will perform a load test to show you if it is good or bad. (you can have the proper voltage and not be able to carry a load) If you can have a parts store test it (and it is getting close to age, I would), then you might be better off then trying to buy one yourself for the amount of use it would get.
    Load testers for other (think home, AA, D, C, etc) batteries or even load tester multimeter leads are rated different, and are more apt to be used (cost effective for home use).

  8. #8
    Senior Member freein05's Avatar
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    You can check the electrolyte level in each cell. This will tell you if you have a bad cell. If you have a bad cell you will need to replace the battery.

    Bae advise above is the best. You also won't spell battery acid on your clothes.

  9. #9
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    I Have a HOnda and Nissan which are "serviced" from the same dealership. I think they are a bit aggressive in changing things and looking for every small things to change & charge. Both cars just went for an oil change and I got a call from my wife that somebody would like to talk with me and then said that the batteries were low. At that point I just have to say yes , The cars are both about 4 years old with very low miles.

    Looking back, I would bring the cars to NAPA, have it tested independently and decide to change batteries if needed.

    However I also have a brand new Ford F150 truck that I sparingly use and one day the battery died on me and the engine would not even turn.
    I also live in a cold climate and the truck was kept mainly outside. I thought that since it is new, the battery should work well. The battery was changed under warrantee- with an advice from the dealer, that I should drive the truck regularly, and at least once a month drive it fast in the HW to charge the battery.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Rosemary's Avatar
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    On batteries and climate: agree with SteveinMN. Lived in AZ for 10 years, and without fail, every 2 years my car battery died, sometimes with a BANG!
    Here in MN, batteries seem to last about as long as their warranties - 5 to 7 years.
    We always take our car to an auto parts store to have the batteries tested.

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