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When bad things happen to good car batteries...
Old 01-31-2010, 11:59 AM   #1
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When bad things happen to good car batteries...

9/06 I purchased a Duralast Gold car battery from AutoZone. Yes, it's been really cold here (like down to 1 degree last week at night), but I had to have jumps twice to start the car this week; so, I went back to AutoZone and turned in the battery as the warranty was for 8 years (they prorate it). Seems like this battery lasted just over 3 years.
Since the Store Manager seemed baffled as to how this 8 year warrantied battery died so fast, I was wondering if anyone else has had this problem?
Duralast Gold is top of the line supposedly for a car battery, so did I get that rare lemon or what?
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Old 01-31-2010, 12:20 PM   #2
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Autozone can do a diagnostic test on your car right in the parking lot to check for charging system problems. Maybe ask the store manager to do that.
Duralast is considered to be a pretty good battery.

Here's a discussion from another forum concerning battery life.
Average car battery life? - Bob Is The Oil Guy
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Old 01-31-2010, 12:23 PM   #3
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I got a battery from Autozone for my Solara in 2002. I don't know what type, but I told the salesman I wanted the best one they had. So, it was probably the same type you had.

I got one of Autozone's free battery checks in 2007, because I just couldn't believe it was still OK in our hot weather after all those years even though I wasn't noticing any problems. They said it was just fine.

It was going strong when I sold it last week, after 8 years. So, I suspect yours just had a manufacturing defect.
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Old 01-31-2010, 12:26 PM   #4
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Cold affects batteries and if they are not regularly started, they can discharge and then freeze "like an ice cube".
Can cold weather kill a car battery? - Yahoo! Answers

OTOH, it seems to be less of a problem here in Canuckistan:
Car Battery in Cold Weather - ehMac.ca

"Cold weather batteries" (don't ask me for brand names) are the default in this neck of the woods. My car is in a garage at night but is plugged in only when outside in temperatures lower than -20 degrees Centigrade (-4 degrees Fahrenheit). I never had any problems starting my car until the battery finally kicked the bucket (in the summer) after 12 years.
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Old 01-31-2010, 03:03 PM   #5
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Don't know you auto use habits. Short trips never allow the battery to fully charge. Modern cars suck battery power even when off. Typically if a car is not driven/started for 2 weeks, the battery will be dead. Unlike in the good old days when you turned the car off, it did not use any energy.

Typical power draws are alarms, the engine control unit, in some cases the OnStar stuff, the remote start feature.
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Old 01-31-2010, 04:57 PM   #6
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Modern cars suck battery power even when off. Typically if a car is not driven/started for 2 weeks, the battery will be dead.
Had my 04 Subaru sit in the JFK long term parking lot for the entire month of February in 2006 and it started right up when I got home from vacation.

Just arrived home from my USA vacation for 3 weeks and my 04 Ford sat in Tallinn Airport long term parking covered in snow and temps dropping to -25C and it started up when we got back. Same battery that's been in it since I bought it 3 years ago, whatever it is.

Both modern cars with alarms and stuff. No block heaters or anything. Just sayin'.
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Old 01-31-2010, 05:19 PM   #7
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In addition to the above points, starting batteries are extremely sensitive to full depth of discharge cycles.

IRRC that most of them will only last about a half dozen cycles or so when fully discharged as opposed to many low discharge cycles. (Starting you car discharges 3% or less of the capacity of the battery.)

So if you discharge the battery completely because a light was left on or something like that it could have weakened the battery.
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Old 01-31-2010, 05:44 PM   #8
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Good information here. Stuff I had no idea about, so that helps to put it together as to exactly what might have happened to it....but, still, seems some are able to start their cars after weeks not being touched.
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Old 01-31-2010, 06:08 PM   #9
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I second mb's post about lead-acid batteries being completely drained really shortens their life. In fact, if the battery is not recharged soon after one leaves the headlights on overnight, it is a goner and cannot be resuscitated. Look up the term "sulfation" on the Web to see more about this.

I have bought car batteries from Costco for 30 years now. No matter the warranty on them being 5 or 6 years, they only last 3 to 4 years. There is no problem with the car at all. So, I am impressed with people in colder climates having their batteries lasting 8 and 12 years. By the way, I usually check the acid level in the battery to be sure that it does not need some topping off with distilled water, before returning it to Costco for credit.
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Old 01-31-2010, 07:07 PM   #10
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I still have the factory battery in my '04 Subaru. I've had it tested the last 2 octobers to see if it's likely to survive the upcoming winter and to my surprise it's still like new. My car is outside 100% of the time often not being started for 2 or 3 days in 0 degree weather. Never had a single problem with the battery.
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Old 01-31-2010, 08:05 PM   #11
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Same issue, same battery (or maybe 7 yr warranty battery) from Autozone in DW's car. 2 years later, a routine oil change that included a battery check/inspection revealed the battery was dead. Returned to autozone, and they replaced it for free (still under the 2 year free replacement period). Must have been a defective battery.
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Old 01-31-2010, 08:55 PM   #12
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Some cars just go through batteries... I had an old Cougar who would eat batteries.. some only a few weeks, some a few months...

Nobody could figure it out... so I kept getting free replacements for many years... had to change from one company to another because the one just got tired and said they did not want to warranty it anymore...
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Old 01-31-2010, 09:09 PM   #13
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Our experience with battery problems:

1) "Sealed" batteries need water, too. Especially in hot weather after long trips. Pop open the top and put in good water. If you dry them out on a long trip (the lights get dimmer and dimmer), they will die.

2) Keep the connectors clean and tight. If it won't start, take off the little rubber covers from the connectors. If there is a lot of corrosion product (white or green salts), pour hot water over the connector until it is gone, then tighten same.

3) Alternator diodes die. Battery doesn't charge.

4) Regulator dies.

You should have your electrical system checked once in a while (I do it just before winter).

Never had any battery trouble up here in Iceworld, even in the winter in Fort MacMurray.

When buying a new battery, we buy the biggest amp-hour capacity battery that will fit in the car. From a reputable supplier. We like Les Schwab (for those of you in Oregon and Washington).
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Old 01-31-2010, 09:36 PM   #14
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What Ed said...

It is fairly easy to check the car alternator yourself. Get a cheap digital voltmeter, such as the one I have seen on sales at Harbor Freight for as low as $5. Run your car at idle with headlights on, A/C on, fan full blast. If voltage at battery terminal = 13.8V, you are good to go.

I have seen German foreign cars with flimsy cables used between the alternator and the battery. The voltage regulator is built-in at the alternator. So, it may be 13.8V at the alternator, but at high current drains, the battery does not get fully charged due to the voltage drop from the alternator to the battery, from which all the electrical loads are taken.

Note that the 12V is only a nominal voltage. The battery needs 13.8V to be fully charged.
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Old 01-31-2010, 11:55 PM   #15
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I've forgotten which battery manufacturer makes the AZ Duralast Gold series. But we have had pretty good luck with them, in fact we went to standardizing on them because we found them to last the longest, and generally to be the most trouble-free. But that doesn't mean that a specific battery unit couldn't have a problem.
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Old 02-01-2010, 08:23 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trek View Post
Had my 04 Subaru sit in the JFK long term parking lot for the entire month of February in 2006 and it started right up when I got home from vacation.

Just arrived home from my USA vacation for 3 weeks and my 04 Ford sat in Tallinn Airport long term parking covered in snow and temps dropping to -25C and it started up when we got back. Same battery that's been in it since I bought it 3 years ago, whatever it is.

Both modern cars with alarms and stuff. No block heaters or anything. Just sayin'.
Right, the design criteria generally is a four week sit in a long term parking lot.

Assuming all is still within the OEM design limits, that will hold.
Now some deep discharge cycles, cruddy battery, loose or corroded connections etc. will drop that time.

Other issues are unclosed makeup mirror lids or bad switch leaving light on, bad trunk light switches, bad dome light switches and on and on ad nauseum... some are are obvious to a techie type some not.

I recently fixed a problem where the windows UP relay's contacts welded, supplying power to the motor. The motor's thermal cutout was cycling on and off, draining battery. Took more than casual observation to figure it out. No the fuse for did not blow, they are purposely way oversized.

Only way to isolate bettery vs. drain issues is to test, measure. Some testing and gizmos needed are not within some owners skill set or equipment set.

Oh, block heaters do not run on battery power.
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Old 02-01-2010, 09:32 AM   #17
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There was alot of white salt around the bolts on the old battery when I took it in. When the AutoZone guy replaced it and put in a new battery, I noticed he put some clear gel over these bolts when he replaced the battery. I don't remember the previous guy doing that, but maybe I just wasn't watching when he did it.

Seemed to be an excess of that white salt on the bolts of the old battery almost overnight. Does that mean something? Is that a good warning sign to watch in the future
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Old 02-01-2010, 10:29 AM   #18
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Either moisture (lots) or acid. Not good. Creates corrosion, poor contact. Gel goo is good. Keep battery clean.

For a while GM had problems with positive battery terminal screw crushing the fat lead washer, puncturing battery case, letting acid get to terminal and wick down the battery cable. Ungood.

Cheers.
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Old 02-01-2010, 10:45 AM   #19
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Interesting...I just wondered how it happened to that particular battery now. Battery problem or problem with my Camry? I'm guessing the battery as the old battery didn't have this problem. Manufacturing problem maybe? Sound about right?
I saw Is99 is a mechanical pro, so I can't think of anyone better to know this stuff.
Well, now I know to watch for excess salt around the battery connections as a warning sign...thanks. Just don't put my head under the hood all that much normally. Never seem to have problems...it's a Camry after all.

**Is it a possibility when the battery was taken out (and it had to have been moved as the guy forgot one of the bolts to hold the battery in place itself) that the battery could have been hurt then? Maybe could have been put down too hard and caused a dent or somesuch? (I know I am grasping at straws, but i have no mechanical engineering in my background) Anyway, it's the only possibility I can think of....
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Old 02-01-2010, 12:42 PM   #20
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Had a battery go out on my a few years ago. I ended up calling AAA and should of had them replace the battery right there but I was in a rush. I ended up driving about 100 miles but the battery would die again when I parked my car a few hours. Finally after having AAA jump the car to get to my hotel I had them replace the battery (only took them about 10 minutes to change the battery -- not counting the wait time for them to arrive). Now I expect any day, the battery may go out again as that has been a few years ago. At least now I got a portable battery jumper so if I'm in the middle of nowhere and the battery dies, I should be able to jump it to get to my destination.
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