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It's not free anymore

Because I had previously referred to the “free” battery load test available at Sears Auto Centers, I want to post a correction.

My battery is now 3 1/2 years old, so I decided that it would be a good idea to have a load test performed on it. And, since this is available free-of-charge at Sears, I figured…Why not?

Well, the first thing that I noticed was that the banner stating “Drive in for free battery test” was no longer posted above the bay doors. And, all of the bay doors were closed–unlike the previous practice.
So, I parked the car, and went into their auto center retail store to inquire.

I found out that…
…They no longer have “drive-in service”
…They now charge $20 for the load test
…There was “at least a one hour wait” if I wanted to have a load test performed.

So, I drove down the street to Pep Boys, and bought my own Schumacher Load Tester for ~twice the price of a load test at Sears.
I can well understand Sears’ decision to end their policy of free load tests, but I can’t see the sense of paying $20 for it when I can do it myself–whenever I want–by buying my own equipment for $42.

I think that Sears may actually wind up selling fewer batteries as a result of this change in policy, but if they think that this change is in their best interests…Who am I to say differently?

Sears started going downhill when they bought KMart or when KMart bought Sears. I rarely shop at either store anymore because of the price and the selection. I used to, in past years, but I don’t any longer. It’s my own opinion that neither Sears or Kmart will be around in the next 10 years.

Sears automotive service was worth avoiding long before they merged with K-Mart.

A one hour wait for a simple load test? That sounds unrealistically short according to my experience with Sears automotive service. I would expect to wait at least twice as long if I was taking my car to Sears for something that simple. My mother once waited almost three hours for a tire rotation and balance, and she had an appointment!

Autozone, Napa and Advance will still load test your battery for free.

I think I read someplace that Sears was going to lease its auto center to be run by another company. Perhaps that has already happened.

"Autozone, Napa and Advance will still load test your battery for free. "

That is good to know, but I made my decision to do it myself from now on, and the result of my load test is…excellent. I will retest the battery in a few months, and doing it myself just twice will equal the cost of having Sears do it twice…with any subsequent self-administered tests being gravy for me. And, I can do it in the comfort of my own garage, whenever I want.

“I think I read someplace that Sears was going to lease its auto center to be run by another company. Perhaps that has already happened.”

I think that you may be correct, Triedaq. I vaguely seem to recall the same thing, but I do know for a fact that their Lands’ End clothing division is currently on the auction block.

“It’s my own opinion that neither Sears or Kmart will be around in the next 10 years.”

You may well be correct, missileman.
Just yesterday, I was listening to one of the “talking heads” on Bloomberg Radio speak about the rapidly declining state of Best Buy, and one of his comments could apply to Sears, K-Mart, and many other retailers as well. He said that, “because the internet is open 24 hours a day, and you can always find what you want at a sale price from some internet retailer or other, brick & mortar stores are not going to fare well in the coming years”.

Just to be honest, however, argueing about charging $20 for a load test with a $40 load tester doesn’t take into consideration the time for a technician to run the test. Many other places do it for free to get you there on the hopes that you’ll purchase service or products. Sears obviously doesn’t care anymore.

“Sears obviously doesn’t care anymore.”

Couldn’t agree with you more

Walk into one of their stores, and it’ll be obvious within seconds

Good to know, @VDCdriver.

Besides the Schumacher, any other load testers folks might recommend? It’s been a while since I bought some tools…

+1 to db4690’s comment.

The same Sears store whose auto center I visited today, is the closest one to my home.
Over the past couple of years, I have had the following experiences:

On two occasions, I went there to buy hardware items that had been advertised in their sale flyer a few days previously. On both occasions, the merchandise was nowhere to be found on the sale floor. On both occasions, when I finally located an employee, after a VERY long delay, they located the desired merchandise in their basement storage area. Before it got to the sales floor, it took…at least 40 minutes. My interpretation at that time was that the local management was extremely bad, and/or that nobody cared about the running of the store.

On another occasion, I went to their parts counter to order a part for my snowblower. A few days later, after receiving a phone call that my part had come in, I drove to the store in order to pick it up. However, nobody could locate the part that I had ordered.

They (reluctantly) placed the order again.
After several more days, I returned to the store following a phone call.
Again, nobody could find my part.

The bottom line is that–eventually–they notified me that they had just received two orders of the same part for me. I actually bought both of them, as the part was cheap and I simply did not want to go through the same experience again. My reluctance to go through the same experience again was–in part–due to the LOUSY attitude of the women at their parts counter, who appeared to have been recently released from a maximum security penal institution.

I used to LOVE sears. I bought my lawnmowers, tools, clothes, some electronics, all kinds of stuff there. Now their tools are made in china and despite the cheaper quality tools, the prices haven t gone down. It just seems their prices are too high and quality is too low.

I get tired of being pestered about buying a warranty on anything from a box fan to a toaster to a tv. I don’t buy warranties, I pocket the money and self insure. Best buy is terrible about pushing warranties, I bought a laptop there in 2011, It had been “upgraded” with their software and browsers, and they pestered me about the warranty. I just bought a new desktop and I purchased it online from Dell, New in the box, never been tampered with by the Geek squad, and I declined the warranty with the click of the mouse.

“Best buy is terrible about pushing warranties”

Not only do they push extended warranties, but they will lie if necessary in order to make it difficult-to-impossible for customers to return defective merchandise.

A few years ago, a friend of mine bought an HP desktop computer from Best Buy.
From day one, the start-up screen displayed the message, “Cooling fan failed”.

No amount of re-booting would eliminate that dire message.

We returned to Best Buy, and at first were told that he would have to pay a diagnostic fee in order to determine if the computer was, in fact, defective. After my verbiage finally convinced them that this demand was…inappropriate…and after they finally confirmed that this HP computer (like most of the stuff that HP sells), was…junk, they told my friend that he would have to pay a restocking fee in order to return the HP junk and receive a refund.

Because I know that Best Buy’s restocking fee only applies to laptops, and not to desktops, I demanded to see–in print–their policy about a restocking fee for returning a defective desktop computer. After much delay and much screwing around, they finally conceded that there was no restocking fee when returning a defective desktop computer.

Bottom line=after that experience, neither my friend nor I will even consider buying anything from Best Buy.

I know this is off topic, because it’s not about a car, but my favorite story about Best Buy was when I was buying a TV and the saleskid was pushing a warranty. He told me the set had a digital filter to assure clear pictures and that it had to be cleaned out every 2 years, which was covered by the Best Buy warranty.

I guess he was concerned that I might watch dirty movies and clog up the digital filter.

Not long ago there was a post here by someone wondering if they needed a new battery. Someone else replied that they should go to Sears for a free battery test, and that if the test showed that a new battery was needed the driver should go to Costco and buy a battery for less.

That alone is more than enough explanation as to why they would stop doing it for free.

If Autozone does a free battery test and everyone goes to Napa to buy a battery Autozone would stop doing it too.

Everything is cheaper if you can do it yourself.

25 years ago I had the pleasure of being the assistant manager for a very understanding owner. Being young and ambitious I got the idea in my head that if we advertised free battery tests battery sales would jump. My boss said it wouldn’t work but humored me, even gave me some money to have a couple of banners made. After 6 months, the results:

Fewer than half the batteries we tested needed replacement.
Fewer than half of those turned into a sale for us.
After 6 months battery sales increased by 14 units compared to the same 6 month period the previous year. Not very scientific but I had results to show my boss.

Back then we made about $20 per battery and did not charge for installation. So my boss asked me “How many manhours did we spend testing and waiting and how much equipment use did we incur to make $280 gross in 6 months? What kind of people did this bring in? Should we continue this program?”

“Umm, well…”

Maybe Sears figured out what Bob taught me 25 years ago.

I’m told that word in financial circles is that Sears will be closing their automotive repair centers.

Sorry to hear you Sears doesn’t do load tests for free any longer. I wonder if that applies to all Sears auto shops, or just yours? Seems more likely it would apply to all of them. I used to use Sears for load tests, but I wouldn’t take the whole car there, just the battery. It would usually take a couple of hours for them to do it even then, but it’s free, no complaints, can’t look a gift horse in the mouth … lol … anyway the Sears auto is in a shopping mall so can get some shopping done or have lunch while waiting for the battery.

I’m sort of puzzled why Sears would stop doing this. It seems like a sure-fire way to sell batteries. While some may test the battery at Sears then buy the battery at Costco, most people don’t have the time or energy for all that. And most people don’t really have the inclination, the skills, or the tools necessary to replace the battery themselves, esp in newer cars. So for the majority of customers, if Sears says the battery is bad, they’ll just buy a new one. At Sears.

I wonder if Sears refunds the $20 if you buy a new battery there? That might make more sense.

Edit: Should add, I have my own battery load tester I purchased at Harbor Freight and it does the job and not very expensive. The load is a heating element. I later discovered an even easier way to do it is just use the headlights, on bright. That makes a good load test. When you get a new battery, do the test as a benchmark, then compare later tests to the first one.

Actually load testers aren’t used in the business anymore.

A load tester requires that the battery be fully charged before it can be load tested. So you can’t do a quick charge on the battery because this is just a surface charge. And the battery will fail a load test with a surface charge. The battery has to be slowly charged or deep charged before a load test is valid. And depending how deeply discharged the battery is this can take hours.

So to save time to determine if the battery is bad this is now used.


Yes @Tester , when I used to have Sears do it, they’d say they had to charge it first, that is why it took several hours for them to do a load test. The load tester Sears used was about the size of a flashlight operated by one of those big square-like 3 X 2 X 2 inch batteries, forget what the call that type. It didn’t use a huge heating element in other words, some kind of electronic gizmo. But it did require the battery be fully charged. Good to know there’s a better way’s been found not requiring the battery to be charged first.

I remember when road maps were free at any gas station. Also free air for your tires.

I remember when your battery starts cranking the engine slower it is time for a new one.

A lot of on line stores don’t have he Schumacher SEC-100 battery tester, including @Testers URL. I found one here for $83.