Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Should I buy a new battery or a jump starter?

I have a 1987 Toyota Pickup. I drive it a couple of hundred miles annually (287 miles between the emissions tests in Feb 2011 and Feb 2013). If I don’t drive it for a few days (and I drive it only a few days per year) it won’t start unless I push it (which I can do alone). On a trip during which I start it every few days it starts up fine. I added a 1.5 watt solar charger, which seems to keep the charge up (according to the volt meter) but doesn’t help it to start. The battery is 11 years old. I’m wondering whether I should buy a new battery or one of those jump starters. If I do buy a battery will it be better if I buy the largest-capacity battery that will fit, as opposed to the battery the purchasing guides suggest? Any recommendations on the jump starters?

Time for a new battery. 11 years is time for a new battery.

If the battery is 11 years old it’s time for a new battery.


I’ll echo the other comments…It’s time for a new battery. This battery has had almost 2 full lives.

I agree with the others. Just get the regular battery.

New battery. I have battery arguements with my dad and it has gotten to the point where I was carrying 3 batteries in my trunk at one point. In my experience it isn’t worth it.

300 miles in 2 years is not enough to keep a battery charged. At this point I think your battery is shot. The solar charger should work, if there is any decent amount of sun. In fact, the battery might have been overcharged by the solar charger. Once the battery is dead it won’t hold a charge anymore so replace the battery and then work out the best plan to keep it charged without overcharging it.

A plug in battery tender charger might be your best option. Or, disconnect the battery during the long periods between using the truck.

New battery. If your old battery develops an internal short, which it is likely to do at this age, it can damage your alternator.

I can personally state that some of those solar charges put out 16 volts. I consider that more harmful than letting a battery go dead due to non-use.

How did you measure that, no load with a digital voltmeter? If so, it won’t hurt the battery.

That’s right.
Engine off
With a DMM

Even though it might not hurt the battery, I won’t install one on any vehicle owned by me.

Measuring a charger like that with no load is not at all the same as when it is charging a battery. This is not a regulated supply–I suspect the voltage drops greatly when under any kind of load. But that said, you probably don’t need to leave it hooked up all the time.

Also, as others have said, you’re well due for a new battery. Just get the standard battery for your truck. The extra capacity battery would be useful if you use a lot of accessories or live in a cold climate, but it won’t make the battery last any longer.

I would. Those solar cells have a high internal resistance, as soon as any current starts to flow, the voltage drops down. If the cell is rated for 12V 5W, then it may read 16V at no load, but at rated current (0.417 amps), the voltage will read 12V unless specified otherwise. I.e., the rated current might be at 12.6V as that is a car batteries rest voltage.

You see this in action when you engage the starter motor. The battery reads 12.6V at rest (open circuit or no load), but when you hit the starter button, current flows through the starter circuit, which the battery is part of that loop. All the current that goes through the starter also goes through the battery, so the internal resistance of the battery becomes part of the circuit and it drops some of the voltage. The result is that you only see about 9V across the terminals while the starter is spinning.

how about a “Battery Tender”

First I want to know how you got 11 yrs out of a battery 5 maybe 6 yrs is like 80 yrs in battery life. 2nd get it started and take to any good parts store or battery store most will check out battery and chargeing system free. but i would take at least $70 with you because you WILL NEED A NEW BATTERY!! They will also size the battery to the truck options. like do you have a winch on it or a 5,000,000 watt sound system

I say you need to buy both.
A battery 11 years old needs to be replaced.
And since you only start it rarely, you also need a jump starter.

@mountainbike Agree, you need both. Batteries are relatively cheap, but a battery tender (also cheap) will make sure it stays charged.

Only thing worse than a dead battery is a flat tire with no spare.

I wouldn’t think of a new battery, I’d buy one.

Thanks for your input. The battery is the AutoZone brand ‘Consumer Reports’ recommended 11 years ago. It came with an 8-year warranty. I’ve driven 22,000 miles on it. It push-starts easily and starts after that without pushing. I go hiking and leave it parked at the trailhead for days; it starts when I get back. The gravimeter measures a specific gravity just barely in the acceptable zone. So it’s not dead.

Solar chargers larger than 1.5 watt come with regulators; the 1.5 watt charger puts out so little that they don’t need them. I kept the battery disconnected before that. The voltage on the battery is higher, but still not fully-charged, with the solar charger but it doesn’t seem to start more readily.

Will a new battery start after sitting for 6 months? I don’t have a garage, I won’t keep the battery inside, so I won’t use a battery tender.

Any battery sitting 6 months will surely lose its charge. Disconnecting the battery would help, but probably not enough. It will have to be charged before you use it. Long extension cord?
Do you also have issues with stale gasoline?