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Bad Battery or not? What should I do?

I had to fly to my parents when my mother went into the hospital. My parents said their car wouldn’t start. My dad thought it was the starter and tapped on it with a hammer. I didn’t realize that he had tried it so when I was at their house I tried it, it started right away but I thought it sounded kind of rough so I took it to a mechanic and asked them to check it out. After several hours they called and said the battery was bad and wanted $150 for a new battery(1999 Ford Taurus). They told me they couldn’t do any further diagnostics until the battery was changed. My dad wanted to take the car to the dealer where he had purchased the battery. They quickly tested it and said it was fine and would hold a charge. Over the weekend it started without any problems after sitting 8-10 hours. On Monday I called the mechanic back. Now he’s telling me to come back and look at a printout which will show the cold charging amps are half what they should be. He’s now also telling me they checked the fuel pressure and that was fine. Are they scamming me? Should I take it somewhere and have the battery tested? If so, do I need to ask for a specific test? My time’s kind of limited because of my mother’s illness which by the way she’s doing great recovering from.

Did tapping the starter make it work for your father? I’m not clear on that.

The cold cranking amps down to half the spec is good reason to replace the battery.
So the dealer didn’t check the cranking amps?
How old is the battery?

It seemed at the time that the tapping worked.

The dealer did not check the cranking amps. The battery is four years old and has a 37-100 month pro-rated warranty. My parents don’t do a lot of driving as they’re in their late eighties.
The 1st mechanic had no comments on the bill indicating any tests that they did. It was completely blank.

Perhaps this battery needs a battery minder hooked up, to keep it at an optimum charge. it almost sounds like the battery itself isn’t getting fully charged when the vehicle is being used. While I understand circuitsmith’s comments concening the CCA at about half, that fact may not be enough to get replacement out of the battery supplier/warrantor. They write their own rule set, generally.

When faced with these “maybe it is, maybe it isn’t” situations, I generally do nothing and wait until the next failure and then return the battery as-is. Then the warrantor can do his own charging, testing, whatever, and most of the time it will fail a load test by then.

However, I always have alternate transportation available to cover me when the failure occurs. I assume your parents don’t.

You can take the battery out of the car and take it to a chain auto parts store. They can check the battery for you and give you the printout. You don’t have to buy the replacement battery there, but you might check out replacement prices while you are there. You should only need socket wrenches with an extension to remove the battery cables and loosen it from the base. Remember to take the old battery to the place you buy the new one (if you need it) to get the core charge refund.

You can go to a chain auto parts store and get a battery for about half of what the dealer or the mechanic wants.

The question is, do you need it. Anytime after 4 years, a battery can go out. As batteries age, they do lose some of the capacity they had when new, but a new battery has way more capacity than most cars will ever need. Thats so they will have enough as they age.

You may have only needed a good recharge and a cleaning of the posts to get by for now, and that may be good for another year or even two. After that the battery could fail at anytime without warning. How important is it to you to avoid this. I’m not trying to scare you into buying a battery right now. If your dad can handle the situation of a dead battery two years from now, or if there is someone in the area to help him, then go for it. If not, then you might consider a new battery as money well spent.

Since the car isn’t driven much, that will be hard on the battery. If you can get someone to wire in a battery minder, which is a small trickle charger to keep the battery in good condition when not in use, that would help in the long run. He will just have to remember to plug it in when he isn’t planning to use the car for awhile.