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Has the quality of car batteries gone down

I have been having a problem finding good car batteries. It seems like the quality have gone down over the last few Years.

I was told a while ago that really only two or three companies make batteries and they just put different stickers on them depending who sells them.

I purchased a top if the line battery for my mother in law at Walmart 2 years ago and it went bad a few months ago. I purchased a top of the line battery for my wife’s van and it lasted a year and went bad. Now I got the top if the kine battery from auto zone in my car and its been three months and I think it going bad. Three cars three battery all very short lives. I liveI’m SC so there is no cold weather

Am I the only one having these issues??

All of these batteries have been covered under warranty which is why I only buy the top of the line batteries now.

@gsragtop have you hooked up a multimeter and checked that you don’t have a parasitic draw?

I have a 2004 Ford E-150 van in the shop right now with a slow crank. The battery was bad, sure enough. But the cause of the failed battery was a parasitic draw. The instrument cluster is causing a 650 milliamp draw. Mind you, the cluster behaves normally. There are no fault codes stored.
The cluster appears to be “off” when the key is removed. None of the warning lights stay on. The back lighting isn’t staying on. Nevertheless, it is causing a significant draw.

Johnson Controls and Exide are some of the big battery manufacturers you’re probably thinking of.
They actually supply batteries for some of the OEMs.

Now, as for quality, I have no opinion at this time.

Its not a draw, it slow cranked on me once this AM and then again this afternoon immediatly after a 150 mile drive. The car started fine most of the day after the AM. Think its got a loose connection at one if the battery cells. I did check the battery cables and they are very tight.

@gsragtop have you had the battery tested? Maybe the darn thing just won’t hold a charge.
Have you tested your charging system?

Consumer Reports issues a report on car batteries every once in a while. They say the best battery depends on what size (group) it is. The best brand quality brand/model for one group is not in general the best for another group. I follow their battery advice and have had good results with my own car batteries. Maybe visit yoru local libary and look through the back issues.

Another thing to look at is the date stamp on the battery. If the battery was manufactured seven months ago that’s enough time for it to begin to sulfate as it sits on the shelf. Which shortens a battery’s life.


There’s not any noticeable difference to me and I’m in agreement with Tester about checking date stamps before buying a battery.

A few years ago while getting some tires at a local farm and ranch store here I wandered over and looked over the batteries to kill a little time. I found a large number of them that were date coded 6 to 8 months earlier. This made me wonder how many people would buy those, have a battery die early, and assume it’s because the battery was defective.

I have been having weird intermittent start up trouble with my 2004 Honda Element. The car won’t start on cold mornings. Wait a short time, a couple hours, then the car starts fine. This has happened three times this winter in three months. My battery was good but I replaced it anyway. They say my alternator is good. All the electric checks check out fine. How will someone ever pin point the problem?

I believe the quality has gone up. I rarely replace batteries and I live where its 100 in summer and 10 in winter.
It is true there are only a few makers of batteries. I know Johnson Controls and Exide make them but forgot the other.

There’s actually four manufacturers of starting batteries for North America. These are Johnson Controls, Exide, Interstate, and Optima.


When I buy a battery (or help a friend) I bring along a multimeter.
Preferably at a self serve place like Walmart I have a few to choose from and pick the one with the highest voltage, hopefully above ~12.5V, so it’s recently charged.
I also check the date codes.

Optima is manufactured by Johnson Controls. They also make Varta (Europe), Heliar (Brazil), LTH (Mexico), and Power Frame. Power Frame manufactures Champion, Autocraft, and Synergy. It wouldn’t surprise me if they also manufacture house brands that they don’t advertise.

I do check date codes, and all three batteries I’m talking about had ate codes with in one month of my purchase.

I have found Walmart batteries last 2-3 years max regardless of the cost. The last battery I bought was a Delco and that’s lasted 3 years now with no problem. I don’t know who makes them and I know people swear by their favorite brands but original equipment Delcos seem to go 5-6 years. What I liked about Walmart was that you could get a replacement at 2 in the morning if you needed to but not anymore. They have to be checked out by their auto service first so what’s the advantage? If you’ve got a dead battery you want one right then, not the next day.

In my 89 mustang GT and have current WAL-MART brand and is 4.5 years old…Had a load test and came back at 95 % capacity…Will keep it in there as long as it shows no symptoms of hard starting… plus have a manual 5 speed so can push start it easily in case it fails.Also tested it with a hydrometer and all 4 balls float on all 6 cells.

I have been to K-mart and saw batteries on the shelves that were 9 months old…these probably are sulphated and would never start an engine.

You get what you pay for, I go for CCA and have not noticed any degradation of battery performance, over batteries I bought in the 70’s.

I have no idea why you’ve had so many battery failures seeing as how the date codes are fresh unless it’s just sheer luck of the draw. Don’t go to the casinos… :wink:

Wal Mart batteries have worked well for me over the last 20 years with very, very few problems.
One battery failed at well under a year old and I remember another getting iffy at around the 2 year mark but most easily last 5-6 years even in the brutal heat here in OK.

@Tester Optima batteries are actually made by Johnson Controls.
So the field is even narrower.

This is who Johnson Controls supplies batteries for

When I worked for the Benz dealer, many of the batteries were supplied by Johnson Controls and Exide.

@circuitsmith if you click on the link you’ll see that Johnson Controls supplies the batteries for Walmart, Autozone, Sears, Advance Auto Parts, Costco, even some OEMs.

Here is a list I found on a quick internet search:

The last battery I replaced in my old car lasted over 7 years and would still start the car in cold temps, despite having 2 bad cells! when tested. Its replacement is about 3 years old and shows no sign of flagging despite my accidentally having run it completely dead twice–I don’t drive the car that much and had inadvertently triggered the trunk release on the remote causing the trunk light to drain it. Both of these batteries were “Power-Pak”, apparently manufactured by “EnerSys” if you believe the list. Great batteries. The local company that sells them also has Deka batteries, which I’ve had good luck with too. There is also another local chain store that rebrands batteries with their company name and has notoriously bad batteries. I’ve had two bad ones, my gf has had two replacements that lasted under 2 years (wish she would have asked me first), and everyone I’ve talked to that has gotten one of their batteries has been disappointed. My dad got a bad battery from them decades ago. Even the lawn tractor battery I got from them years ago only lasted one season.

As has been mentioned many times in many discussions here, heat kills batteries worse than cold. If your battery is under the hood and gets cooked by engine heat and 100 degree days, it will die quicker than one in a cooler climate, though the first cold days may make it apparent that the battery is failing. Other factors that kill batteries are running them dead, and chronically leaving them undercharged, such as what can happen if you drive your car mostly on short trips while running a lot of accessories. (lights, fan, defog, etc.) And of course a parasitic draw can kill a battery, as mentioned.

We had 3 Bosch batteries in about one month in my old Buick. The 3rd one lasted for a few years until I sold the car.

“if you click on the link you’ll see that Johnson Controls supplies the batteries for Walmart, Autozone, Sears, Advance Auto Parts, Costco, even some OEMs.”

@db4690, the link only works if you have a subscription. And thanks for showing the house brands. I’ve been buying batteries from Advance Auto Parts for about 10 years. I get about 4 or years out of them. I use the Autocraft Gold.