Automotive Death of a car battery and related issues (1 Viewer)

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Wrichik Basu

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We have a Toyota Etios Liva, four years old, petrol variant. Today, my father took it for annual servicing at the authorised service centre, where the service personnel declared that the battery was "dead".

Our car is not used much. Usually on an average, it is driven for around 14km per month. But last month, the car was not driven at all.

I switched on the engine, the AC, lights, and defogger a few days back, and everything was working fine. Today also, the car was properly driven to the service centre without any problem.

Temperature here in Kolkata didn't drop below 12°C this winter.

I suspect that the battery voltage might have dropped a bit as the car was not driven for a month. The service personnel said that readings were "bad". How bad I don't know. My father didn't check the readings of the multimeter, as he is not quite interested. If I were there, I would have checked. If the battery was dead as described, would the engine have started at all?

My questions are:

1. I believe it is not correct to conclude on the battery's health in this condition. I read somewhere on the net that a car battery may need more than 12 hours charging for a full charge. I think if the battery was tested for charge retention after a full charge, it would have been appropriate. Am I right?

2. The service personnel said that I have to switch on the engine of the car at least once every week, while we were told that charging the battery once a month would be good. Isn't it too much that a battery would die if not charged every week? Are car batteries so weak?

3. For what minimum time should the battery be switched on so that it can be kept alive?

N.B.: I don't have the old battery, because the company offered to recycle it in exchange of some money and my father agreed. Also, the battery had a warranty period of four years, and it was declared dead just when the warranty ended. This seems a bit suspicious to me, though I cannot confirm my suspicions as I was not there when the check was done.
 

FactChecker

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An unused, uncharged car battery will slowly discharge at about 1% per day at room temperature. The discharge rate is significantly slower when it is cold. (see bottom of page https://www.powerstream.com/car-battery-faq.htm). They are not "deep discharge" batteries which can tolerate getting deeply discharged. It still takes a long time for it to get dangerously low. A real danger is if the car charging system does not work.
The way you are using your car, I recommend that you purchase a smart trickle-charge battery tender and leave it on during the long unused periods.
 

jrmichler

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A proper battery test has two steps. The first checks the state of charge. If the battery is not fully charged, then it needs to be charged. The second step, which needs to be done with a fully charged battery, measures the battery voltage under a load that simulates the starter power draw.

@FactChecker is correct about using a trickle charger.
 
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Adding to what @FactChecker said: When a lead-acid battery is stored at a low state-of-charge, the plates become sulfated. The performance of sulfated batteries is very bad and it might fail the tests.

That is why the trickle charger is a good idea. The battery should be close to full charge while it is stored.

There are methods to recover a sulfated battery, but most auto dealers won't do that any more. A smaller repair shop, or shops specializing in batteries might help.

It is also possible that one of the lead plates in the battery has a crack. That can not be repaired. Sometimes, cracks happen with no good reason. A battery repair shop can also tell the difference between a crack and sulfation.
 

Wrichik Basu

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@FactChecker, @jrmichler and @anorlunda I cannot use a trickle charger. The reason is this: The garage where we keep the car is not owned by us. It has been taken on rent (don't know about the USA, but this is something quite common here). As per the legal agreements, we have access to a light connection only, and not a plug point.

Although it doesn't take much to draw a socket from the bulb connection, the owner periodically checks, and alterations, whatsoever, are banned by the agreement.
 
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@Wrichik Basu , It is sometimes hard for us to imagine conditions in other countries.

If that is the case, then you may need more drastic measures. You could remove the battery from the car, bring it into your house and use a trickle charger there. You could also start the car every week and let it run for an hour or so. Also new to the market, are lithium batteries in car size; but they are very expensive about double the cost of lead-acid.

Years ago, I lived in a very cold place where temperatures would go below -40 for days at a time. Many of my neighbors would bring the car battery into the house to keep it warm overnight. There were rumors of people sleeping with the battery under their blanket, but I don't believe it.

The point is, more-aggressive, less-convenient measures are sometimes needed.
 

Ranger Mike

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I would say 4 years from a battery that came with the automobile is excellent. Typically 3 years is about the max you should expect. You need a proper battery tester that puts a load o n the battery. Volt Ohm meter will not tell condition of the battery. So get a new battery. Also make sure the antifreeze is changed.
Avoid short stop and go trips as this is very harmful to the life of the vehicle.
 

jim hardy

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As per the legal agreements, we have access to a light connection only, and not a plug point.
Where's that light? Is it a reflector type?

a one foot square photocell right under the bulb would provide some trickle current when the light is on.
one can buy solar trickle chargers.
71pD7v3Vz1L._SX466_.jpg


They won't give full output in artificial light, but just asking might help 'break the ice" with landlord.


alterations, whatsoever, are banned by the agreement.
have you asked him about plugging in a small trickle charger ?
They take so little power as to be negligible, ten or twenty watts = just pennies per day
unlike an engine block heater that draws perhaps four hundred watts = pennies per hour.
offer him an extra dollar a month ?


My guess on your battery is it failed their load test. One day soon it would have stranded you.
I pay attention to the sound of my starter and can tell from that when the battery is near end of life because the starter runs slower. .
That's when i replace it and it's usually a very few months after end of warranty. (though i did have one go two years past) .

You can also measure voltage during cranking. Should stay above nine volts.

old jim
 

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russ_watters

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Where's that light? Is it a reflector type?

a one foot square photocell right under the bulb would provide some trickle current when the light is on.
one can buy solar trickle chargers.
View attachment 237190

They won't give full output in artificial light, but just asking might help 'break the ice" with landlord.
Or if located next to a window...
 

Wrichik Basu

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Where's that light? Is it a reflector type?
It's an old filament bulb. Something of this sort:

Gluehlampe_01_KMJ.png

a one foot square photocell right under the bulb would provide some trickle current when the light is on.
one can buy solar trickle chargers.

They won't give full output in artificial light, but just asking might help 'break the ice" with landlord.
Not a bad idea, but the landlord has a switch inside his house through which he switches off the power supply to the garage.
have you asked him about plugging in a small trickle charger ?
They take so little power as to be negligible, ten or twenty watts = just pennies per day
unlike an engine block heater that draws perhaps four hundred watts = pennies per hour.
offer him an extra dollar a month ?
There's no problem from our side, but trying to make him understand maths is like talking to a stone. Nevertheless, I will try.
My guess on your battery is it failed their load test.
What is this?
I pay attention to the sound of my starter and can tell from that when the battery is near end of life because the starter runs slower. .
That's when i replace it and it's usually a very few months after end of warranty. (though i did have one go two years past) .
When I started the car, it switched on beautifully like any other day. It was working quite well. That's why I was thinking that there might be a fraud here.
 

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FactChecker

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When I started the car, it switched on beautifully like any other day. It was working quite well. That's why I was thinking that there might be a fraud here.
From what you have said, there is no way to rule that out. And the way it is working sounds like it also. But the battery is getting old and probably has not been treated very well (short drives which do not charge it up completely), so it could go bad at any time. I think you should start with a new one and treat it well. I like that solar trickle charger that @jim hardy mentioned.

PS. Maybe they were cheating a little, but I would prefer them to be conservative rather than them saying that it is ok and then it failing the next week.
 

jim hardy

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What is this?
They should load the battery to a couple hundred amps and measure how much its voltage drops.

When I started the car, it switched on beautifully like any other day. It was working quite well. That's why I was thinking that there might be a fraud here.
That is possible.
Next time you can say to them
"When you load test my battery, write down for me what are the test current and voltage readings."

..................................................................................................................................................

The slowdown in starter speed is subtle and you have to train your ear.
It is more pronounced in a diesel where it's important the starter not slow down on compression strokes.
On my '83 Ford Ranger diesel i can hear it a couple months before the batteries(it has two) get too weak to start in cold weather.

old jim
 

Wrichik Basu

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That is possible.
Next time you can say to them
"When you load test my battery, write down for me what are the test current and voltage readings."
That's exactly what I would have done if I was in my father's place. It would have made things clear.

Since the battery has been changed, I believe that now I have to take better care of it. One option, the one that I find suitable, is:
You could remove the battery from the car, bring it into your house and use a trickle charger there.
I am going to learn to drive in March. I hope that the car will be used to some extent during that time. When I will not be using it, I'll be detaching the battery from the car and bringing it home, and keep it connected to the trickle charger. I think that's the only way left for me.

Just two more questions:

1. If maintained properly, how long can the battery last?

2. Should there be any precautions that I should keep in mind when I am detaching the battery?
 

Wrichik Basu

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The battery that came with my new car lasted 9 years.
You are rather lucky. Online sources are telling that the battery coming with the car doesn't last more than five or six years.
 

CWatters

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If you remove the battery you may have to re-enter the anti theft code if it has one.

I killed a lot of car batteries by deep discharging them for a hobby. Typically they only lasted a year. Once I started to use a float charger/trickle charger they typically lasted more like 4 years even though they were getting heavily used.
 

Wrichik Basu

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If you remove the battery you may have to re-enter the anti theft code if it has one.
Re-enter the code where? And by the way, who will know that I am removing the battery, except you guys? :wink:
 

jim hardy

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1. If maintained properly, how long can the battery last?
my experience is four to seven years.

2. Should there be any precautions that I should keep in mind when I am detaching the battery?
Disconnect the 'ground'(negative) terminal first.
That way , should your wrench accidentally touch metal there'll be no sparks.
When putting it back in, reconnect 'ground' terminal last for same reason.

The battery that came with my new car lasted 9 years.
Beats my record of seven !
 

OmCheeto

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Beats my record of seven !
I don't think I've ever owned a car for more than 7 years, until now.
I bought my previous vehicles with at least 100k miles on them.

Btw, this morning I did an analysis on a pair of solar panels I bought for my friend's boat.
Her batteries seldom lasted more than a year. (4 months of boating, and 8 months of sitting)
I think a 5 watt solar panel is the perfect solution to extend a seldom used battery's life.

The only problem I can imagine is remembering to unplug it before you drive away.
 

cjl

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It's worth noting for optimal battery life that a trickle charger is not the same thing as a battery tender/maintenance charger. Make sure you buy a charger designed to remain connected to the battery even after it reaches full charge (I use one of these, but I'm sure there are other options out there too). A simple trickle charger can still overcharge the battery and shorten its life.
 

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