Starter? Alternator? Crummy Wal-Mart Battery?

Hello Everyone, I’m trying to keep a great old car running and need a little help (2000 Chevy Prizm, 246K miles).

This time last year, I had to change the battery and went with a cheapy from Wal-Mart
-Drove it as my daily driver from Christmas through Easter
-Parked from April till now since it doesn’t have good AC, family member took it out here and there but recently…
-He forgot to drive it for 7 weeks, parked outside whole time , few nights in the 30’s.
-When he finally got back in it last week, he couldn’t get it to turn over (clicking but not turning) and had to jump it off.
-He left it running in driveway for 20 minutes, drove it for 5, then cut off
-A few minutes later it started back up fine

-He waited 6 days to drive it again, now it’s dead. Not even clicking when you turn the key. Should he have driven it longer? Gotten back to it sooner? Is it just a crummy battery? Or do we have bigger problems?

Thanks So Much in Advance. You’ve helped my family out before!

Put a charger on the battery for 24 hours and test it to see if it is up to capacity and will hold a charge. I had a Walmart battery go bad in a year though on the car that just sat most of the time. Would not take a charge and would not turn the starter over. They argued that it was a good battery but I won.


Thanks. When you say you won, you mean they replaced it for you?

Yeah they did reluctantly. Getting late and the car was sold and needed to deliver it that night. They wanted to wait and test it further but I said I already the the charger on it for 24 hours. It was a surprise for me since I had no trouble some years before. Even got one replaced for the kid at about 1:00 am, but they changed their policy. So the only good thing about Walmart batteries went away. If you can’t get a replacement 24 hours a day when it’s ten below out, forget it.

I bought a battery at Wal-mart 2014 January 30. It still works well. I’ve driven 1,555 miles since.


Walmart has some very good batteries that test at the top of their class. The last time I was in there and looked for batteries, they had one line that was available in popular group sizes for $49. You cannot get a good battery for $49.

As they say “your results will vary”. The one I turned in was $70. I hadn’t seen a $49 battery there in maybe 20 years. I had some last 3-4 years too but on the less active car it was a year. of course the one Acura battery was shot in 3 years and my current Acura battery is just showing its age at 5 years. Never know.

That will not charge a battery, only charge it enough to be able to restart it.
Not the battery’s fault, but misuse of the battery, now the life of the battery has been shortened. This also put a strain on the alternator.
If you and your family member choose to continue to drive it this way, long periods of non-use, get the battery fully charged, then attach a battery maintainer.


Thanks, hopefully the alternator still has some life on it. I guess I got spoiled because the previous battery (a $70 or 80 Autozone purchase) didn’t have the issue. Never had to even jump it off, even though the car was only a daily driver half the year and sat a lot the rest of the time.

Allowing an automotive battery to sit idle without being charged by a charger or the alternator is the worst thing that can happen to a battery.

The battery sulfates every minute it sits and the longer it goes on the more difficult is to resurrect it and get it to hold a charge.

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In my area Walmart offers two batteries, one is about $100, and one is about $50. I bought one of the $50 versions 2-3 years ago for my Corolla, still working fine. It went dead when the Corolla was sitting unused for 9 months (pandemic related), and at that point the battery acted like it wouldn’t take a charge from the battery charger. But I kept trying at the (slow setting) 2 amp rate, and eventually it starting working again.

With a fully dead battery often the only way to revive it is using a battery charger. Best to use the low current setting, 2 amps or so. Be aware it can take a long time to fully charge it. Car batteries tend to hold about 40 amp-hours of charge. So at a 2 amp rate, that means it will take 20 hours to fully charge it. I charged mine for 12 hours one day, let it rest 12 hours, then 12 more hours the next day. Be sure to check the battery fluid levels before and after. I always disconnect the battery before hooking up the battery charger to reduce the chance of damaging the car’s electrical system.

Once the battery is charged & you know how to work a digital volt meter, you can do the standard alternator/battery test: Before first start of the day the battery should measure about 12.6 volts. Then immediately after starting the engine, 13.5-15.5 volts. Let us know what you or your shop measures.

Thanks, forgive my ignorance, but does a battery ever get so dead it cannot hold a charge? Even when using the battery charger?

Yes, it can. Once sulfated over, it becomes a recycleable doorstop.

It an also short internally and refuse to take a charge.