Mechanic shop replacing LOTS of batteries

Battery posts are getting almost like oil posts…Lots of anecdotal evidence, lots of outdated thinking and “old crotchety-ism” (get off my lawn!!) because cars just aren’t what they used to be!

Back in the day, a $40 battery (about $260 in today’s dollars) with 350 CCA, powered by a 45 amp alternator lasted 3 years and anybody could replace one. You didn’t even need to reset the clock… it was broken, anyway, they always were. The biggest electrical draw was the blower motor, headlights and maybe the wipers.

Fast forward 60 years. Batteries and electrical systems in modern cars have undergone significant changes to the detriment of the battery. Now the battery has 800 CCA, costs $90 (less in than back in the day!) to as much as $400 (yeah, a bit more) is charge-managed by a computer with a 180 amp alternator and is used as an energy reservoir for electric power steering, heated seats, ABS/TCS/ESP pumps, big amplifiers, stop-start, electric AC compressors and hundreds of electrical gizmos spread through the car. As such, the cars computer needs to know a LOT more ABOUT the battery so it needs to be programmed to any new battery. And they still can last 6 years if taken care of.

My 2014 Audi battery looks original. The last battery in my truck lasted 6 years. Both 100% in Florida. The Optima battery in my Honda was 9 years (3 in Florida) and I let it go flat at least 4 times and still was fine when I sold the car.


I park on a city street so a plug in charger, trickle or otherwise, is not an option.
I don’t drive to work so even pre-COVID I drove only a couple times a week, many short trips.
I used to take the battery out and charge it in my basement overnight every 3 months.
Now I have a 10 watt solar panel I leave on the dashboard.
I wired in a connector just under the dashboard, but leave it connected pretty much all the time.
It has a blocking diode to prevent drain at night.
I added a zener diode voltage limiter (14.3V) just in case, but I’ve never seen it go over 13.7V.

A couple of neighbors have sought advice after killing batteries and I directed them to a solar panel and connector that charges through the OBD port.


I’ve been using a similar solar panel in my truck for a couple of months now. The truck is parked outside and doesn’t get driven all that much. The solar charger has worked just great with the panel laying on the dash on the passenger’s side. The suction cups don’t stick but they are a non-slip base. It doesn’t slide around, just rides there. My power port is direct connected to the battery so I just needed to plug it in.

@asemaster I still wind my clock, but I only do it once a week as it’s an eight day striking clock made before 1900. I still defrost the freezer. For long term food storage, I don’t want an automatic defrosting freezer.
Most of the time, I can detect when a car battery is about to tender its resignation. I can hear the starter turn a little more slowly. I get out the voltmeter and check the battery voltage. If it’s below 12.4, I start the engine and measure the alternator output. If the alternator is charging the battery, then I know it’s time to shop for a new battery.
I remember visiting the fire station on a 6th grade field trip. The fire chief’s car, a bright red 1947 Oldsmobile, was connected to a battery charger. There was a quick connect wire that came through the grill, so all the chief had to do was disconnect the plug to the charger and he was off to the fire. I think Sears and Montgomery Ward sold these quick connect and disconnect kits for battery chargers.
I do have a battery charger that I bought almost 50 years ago, but I bought it to recharge the car battery I used to power the electric fence charger. The “Hot Shot” dry batteries were expensive to have to replace, so I bought a new battery for the car and used the battery I took out of the car for the electric fence.
I liked the old days when we didn’t have to program the computer in the vehicle to match the battery. On occasion, I jumped the six volt battery in my 1950 Chevrolet pickup truck from the 12 volt battery in my riding mower. Neither the generator in the truck or the mower was damaged by doing this. Image the damage on a vehicle today if the 12 volt system was jump started from a 24 volt system.

My 66 Valiant only had a 25 amp alternator. When I bought it the alternator was dead but I replaced the 25 cent brushes with a Phillips screwdriver in under 2 minutes and that worked.

Sorry for the aspersion. They’re clearly more reputable than a good many companies. I tend to presume the worst sometimes.

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Given the experiences many people have at many car service places it is understandable having a wary view.

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Yeah I’ve been charging the battery quite a bit on the car that sits. I’ll get a new battery when it starts to get used more. Nothing against maintainers and have two of them going but I can put the charger on for a day or two and it’s fine again. If I had the maintainer, it would be plugged in all the time. So if the wife is going to use the car she would have to unplug it, disconnect the leads, put the cover back over the battery, and close the hood. I’m not saying she couldn’t do it, but has shown no interest at all in doing it. So I’ll just use the charger and then it is ready to go most of the time. It’s easier for me.

If that shop is replacing batteries at a much level than what is considered normal then the battery manufacturer will start looking closely at those warranty batteries to see if the claims are legit and whether the batteries are genuinely bad or it’s a matter of fraud or multiple mistaken diagnoses. That could lead to revoking their right to sell them.

If a car dealer suddenly starts to submit twice the amount of warranty claims than other dealers the car manufacturer will start looking closely at them also.

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From what was said, the higher rate than normal of replacing batteries is due to people having totally dead or failing batteries because the car owners are driving far less than normal and failing to take a long enough drive once in awhile to keep the battery deep charged.

Perhaps my subject title is misleading. When I said “LOTS” of batteries I meant that the shop is seeing a much higher than normal number of dead and failing batteries than usual. I have no clue if that includes batteries still under warranty.

I would hope the shop is testing the batteries rather than simply replacing them by default. @Marnet assures us the shop is reputable.

Yes, they do test the batteries first.

People have been driving a lot less around here also and I’ve (personal anecdote only) have heard nothing about abnormally high battery failures.

One would hope the tester being used is infallible. I can say that in the past half dozen years or so Wal Mart has tested and passed 3 batteries of mine according to their tester and all 3 were as 100% dead as a starved burro carcass being picked on by vultures in the desert.
I’ll give the shop the benefit of the doubt but I’m just saying that I could write a pretty lengthy book on the misdiagnosis of various automotive failings which have cost people time, money, or both. Sometimes thousands of dollars over a 50 cent item.
One of them being bad gas on a 4k miles Subaru which got an engine overhaul…and which was butchered by the clowns who did it. One of the more extreme examples.

In this case the battery in my car tested as still good. However I’ve averaged only about five years on batteries in 46 years of driving. The few I waited longer to replace usually stranded me at no longer than six years.

This battery was four and a half pushing five years, headed into hot, humid summer, and my maybe taking a long out of town trip soon. So I decided to err on the side of caution and replace the battery now. Were I not likely to travel 400+ miles out of town I’d have waited and just kept the old battery awhile longer.

Basically I’d rather be safe than sorry judgment call by me. The shop didn’t push selling me the battery. They simply reminded me of the age on the old one.

During the last year I have been replacing fewer batteries. The shop I work at usually replaces 25 to 30 batteries each week but with customers driving less, there are fewer battery failures. Batteries age faster from engine heat and the heat generated while charging.

I am seeing almost as many battery complaints as in the past, the difference is that discharged batteries don’t need to be replaced, they need to be recharged.

That is a misconception that many of my co-workers share. They believe every dead battery should be replaced. I have witnessed lube techs, senior techs and managers test a scrap battery instead of the customers battery to obtain a “failed” print-out in order to process the warranty claim. The service writers and mechanics feel the test equipment is somehow defective or inferior because the charge and test procedure can take up to 2 hours. Customers expect to be able to have the battery replaced in 30 minutes so some encourage fraudulent testing.

I have no problem with a customer replacing the battery every 5 years as a precaution but lately batteries less than 18 months old are being replaced.

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@Nevada_545 Thank you for your explanation. You have added to my education.

Yep, no ‘young’ battery should be replaced unless it’s first charged up, then tested.

Yeah that’s me. I think I’ve got a rolling 84 month battery warranty but I’ll be replacing mine as soon as things pick up and not under warranty. It’s not that it’s bad, just not as good. The last one I replaced I told the counter guy they could use it in their truck if they wanted because it was still ok, just not up to sitting at the airport for two weeks in below zero weather. I guess the same reason I fill up at half a tank or put new tires on before they are bald.

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I have had WM on 2 occasions tell me that my “battery just needs to be charged” even after just telling them repeatedly that the test they just did was on a battery that just came off the charger after being on there all night long. A charged to 12.4 battery that drops to 7 volts on the bench within a few hours of disconnecting the charger is a bad battery.

I have 3 vehicles that are not driven as much lately (not due to Covid at all) and none of the batteries have suffered except one and that was apparently due to plate breakage from a massive pothole. That one went from fine one day to total junk the next.

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I found out that where you park can also have a negative effect on battery life. We moved from a house with a carport to one with a narrow asphalt driveway and very little distance separating the neighbour’s house. You could fry an egg on the driveway by about 4 o’clock on a sunny summer day. This doesn’t help much in cooling things down under the hood after even short trips. Sometimes if I think about it I leave the hood up for a few hours when I get home. I’ve also been using a solar panel battery tender because I’ve been driving so little. Last year it was 2,700 kms. A record low. I still have a thousand kilometers left on my oil change sticker from November 2019.