Mazda Tribute - what's with the battery?

I have a '93 Tribute with 42K miles. Four times since this summer the battery (new in Mar '09) has died. First time I did it - lights were on while I cleaned out the car and then got distracted. Summer day so didn’t notice. Second time for reason unremembered but probably shouldn’t have happened. Third time the car was sitting unused for a few weeks. AAA jumped it, tested the battery and said it had a bad cell. Had it tested at my usual garage (Firestone and I’ve no complaints at all) and they said it tested great, fully charged, tested under load, etc. Charging system working well. Today I took it a half mile to the drugstore, was inside 30 to 45 min and the battery was dead (or sure acted that way) when I came out. Door locks didn’t work, gauges gave one small wimpy jump when key turned, starter didn’t turn over at all. Got a jump start and it turned over and started right away. Drove 3 miles to garage where battery and charging system tested good again. How could this be? Any thoughts on this? It’s sure getting cold in St. Louis and I am not very mobile right now due to broken bones (not caused by kicking the heck out of the battery). I was advised to ask the manager for a replacement next time, no matter how the test comes out. But what if it’s not the battery? Any ideas? Starter turns over fine with a jump. Don’t think it’s the ignition because the door locks had no juice and they don’t have anything to do with the ignition. Phantom drain? Where? I had a flashlight recharging when I was in the store but when I plugged it in it didn’t start charging until the ignition was turned on. Help! I am not getting any closer to an answer by going back to have the battery tested. Thanks to any and all for help provided.

The best way to test a battery is to charge it up as best as you can then use a hydrometer to check the specific gravity in each cell. A dead cell will prevent the battery from holding its charge.

Since you deep cycled it twice (ran it down to dead) you’ve weakened it, even if it didn’t have problems before. You don’t mention the brand of battery, if it’s maintenance free, if you’ve serviced it etc. Cheap batteries are just that, cheap. Don’t expect a lot.

How about the cables? Are they clean or are they corroded? Do they have a light coat of grease on the posts and connectors?

I think I’d get a new, quality battery, have them charge it and then see how it behaves. You might have a phantom leak but you’re going to need a good battery to find out.


It can’t be a 1993. They didn’t start making Tributes until 2001.

You’re not driving the vehicle enough to keep the battery charged.

You said yourself, “sitting unused for a few weeks . . . Took it a half mile to the drugstore . . . drove 3 miles to garage.”

None of these short trips is sufficient to replace the charge lost to starting the engine, especially in cold weather.

Rather than waste gas driving around, get a Battery Tender and hook it up now and then to keep the battery fully charged.