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

Should I replace my battery as a maintenance measure?

I have 85,000 miles on my 2004 Ford Freestar, and it still has the original battery. It does not, however, show any signs that it needs replacing - it hasn’t failed. Since I plan on keeping this van another 85,000 miles and I am guessing that the battery will be failing in the near future, is it wise to replace it before it fails? If so, when would you recommend I change it?


I suggest having the battery “load tested.” If the battery fails the load test it’s time for a new battery. If it passes you can continue driving a while longer.

Most parts stores and independent battery sellers will test the battery, and the car’s charging system, free.

No sense replacing the battery if there’s nothing wrong with it.

If it were me, I would replace the battery. A battery can test fine one day, and leave you stranded the next. I learned my lesson after it happened to me.

Batteries start losing their reliablity after they become three years old. After that, anything can happen with the battery. Look at it like this, would you rather have the battery fail at the most inopertune moment, and pay for a tow AND a battery? Or replace the battery now and avoid that inconvenience? Replacing the battery now is pretty cheap insurance against that happening in my opinion.


I would get it tested for free at the local auto parts store as a maintenance measure, but I wouldn’t replace it until it shows signs of needing to be replaced.

Unlike Testers Experience I’ve yet to have a battery fail on me that was less then 7 years old. I’ve had several last 10+ years. Any battery I’ve owned always started to fail in the winter months on cold mornings. When I start having problems…that’s when I replace it.

How much of an inconvenience would a dead battery be to you? Do you live where your car gets very cold in winter? Do you have and know how to use jumper cables?

Replace the battery … or you could be replacing the alternator AND the battery.

Nobody else pointed this out, so let me be the first to state that maintenance-free batteries are known to fail with no warning, unlike the older batteries that required periodic filling with distilled water. If you wait for it to give signs of failing, the first indication could well be failure to start one day, possibly not in the most convenient circumstances.

A load test is a good idea, but there is no way that I would go longer than 6 years with a battery, simply because of the very real probability of killing your alternator when it has to try to keep a failing battery alive.

In addition to agreeing with both Tester and Gary, I want you to consider something else. You plan on keeping the car for ~5 more years. Rather than replacing the battery in…let’s say…3 years, why not just replace it now so that YOU can enjoy 5 years of trouble-free service from the battery. Otherwise, you will be giving more of the benefit to the next owner, while depriving yourself of the security of a new battery sooner, rather than later.

Most batteries are on shaky ground at the 5 year mark so it’s a good idea to head a no-start condition off before it starts.

One issue I have with testing procedures by places like Wal Mart, parts houses, etc. is that many test the battery without attempting to charge it first.
How do they know if the battery is simply not run down by someone attempting to start a car that will not run for some reason or another, run down due to a voltage draw (trunk light on), not fully charged due to an alternator or vehicle electrical system fault, etc.? They don’t.

And I agree with Tester. Sitting in a dark parking lot 10 o’clock at night due to a battery that decided to give up the ghost is no fun.
I’ve had 6 month old batteries quickly die and in one case a Sears Die Hard went completely bad the day after I bought it. (and yes, the battery was tested and proven to be junk)

There’s a decent chance it’ll fail soon. It’s certainly reasonable to replace it now if getting stranded would be a major inconvenience to you and if replacing it now isn’t a financial hardship.

In whichever car is our traveling car, I replace the battery preventatively at around five years.

Thanks for all of the advice. I will replace it this Fall along with my other Fall maintenance routine.

It makes sense to replace it now and have the benefit of a reliable battery for the next five years. There didn’t seem to be any benefit to waiting until it failed, and of course it would have failed at the most inconvenient time.

Thanks again!

It depends on your tolerance for potential failure. In over 45 years of driving, I have never bought a battery before it was failing. Only twice have I had to get a jump and one of those times a brand new battery would have also needed a jump, I left the head lights on all night.

When I was younger I had a high tolerance for such things. Today I am more likely to replace it at the very first sign of a problem.

Have the battery tested at a auto parts place or place like walmart for free. They tend to be cheapest to replace battery’s and do not charge for this service(confirm).