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Thread: Battery Health

  1. #1

    Battery Health

    Background: I got advice here to drive my car 20 minutes a week to keep the battery charged. This was working fine, but for 2 weeks in a row I only drove it 10 minutes, then I was unable to drive it at all for 2 weeks. When I got down there I could not start it. I mention all this to give you an idea of how the battery is treated.

    Now: The auto club guy jump started my car, it sat and idled for about 10 minutes. Then he told me to turn it off, and we waited a few minutes. Then he ran a test on it. According to his test my battery needs replacement. His print out said it is rated cranking power of 675 CCA but it's only showing 299 CCA. And he said that 299CCA is not enough to crank my engine.

    I was under the impression that you don't test a battery until it is fully charged. Before he gave me the jump start, the battery was so weak it could not budge the engine. So it seems unreasonable to test it after 10 minutes of idling. Am I wrong?

    BTW, I declined to have him sell me a new battery. I have an Interstate battery, and I hoped it could come back. So I started the car and drove it for 40 minutes. I guess I should try to drive it tomorrow, but I never know how my health will be.

  2. #2
    Ridin Dirty dom's Avatar
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    First of all Interstate batteries are top of the line!

    Second, they last around 5-7 years. I have a 8 year old one in my hot rod right now (works great).

    Third, you don't need to start your car to keep the battery topped off, get a cheap charger and use it once every 3-4 weeks.

    Fourth, take your car for a decent ride (20+ miles) park it and see if it starts a couple days later. If not, get a new Interstate and repeat step 3.

    "Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato "
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  3. #3
    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew B. View Post
    Background: I got advice here to drive my car 20 minutes a week to keep the battery charged. This was working fine, but for 2 weeks in a row I only drove it 10 minutes, then I was unable to drive it at all for 2 weeks. When I got down there I could not start it. I mention all this to give you an idea of how the battery is treated.

    Now: The auto club guy jump started my car, it sat and idled for about 10 minutes. Then he told me to turn it off, and we waited a few minutes. Then he ran a test on it. According to his test my battery needs replacement. His print out said it is rated cranking power of 675 CCA but it's only showing 299 CCA. And he said that 299CCA is not enough to crank my engine.

    I was under the impression that you don't test a battery until it is fully charged. Before he gave me the jump start, the battery was so weak it could not budge the engine. So it seems unreasonable to test it after 10 minutes of idling. Am I wrong?

    BTW, I declined to have him sell me a new battery. I have an Interstate battery, and I hoped it could come back. So I started the car and drove it for 40 minutes. I guess I should try to drive it tomorrow, but I never know how my health will be.

    How is the electrolyte level in your cells? If you have a cell that is low, it will have a weak charge and you'll get a low CCA rate. Just gently pry the caps off (I won't buy maintenance free bateries) and look inside. There is a plastic ring at the bottom of the opening. The level should be up to, but not above this level. You absolutely, positively DO NOT want to be smoking when you do this. When batteries start to fail, they out gas more than normal. Hydrogen gas is produced and it WILL blow up in your face.

    If it is low, you can top it off with distilled water. I make sure it says "steam distilled" on the label. This removes calcium and other minerals that build up on your battery internal plates. You can get it at the grocery store in the laundry section. It's used in steam irons too.


    You really need to saturate the battery charge. You can do a quick charge and get it up to 12.6 volts at rest. However, it needs to saturate with a good long charge. If you can, get a maintenance bettery charger like a "Battery Tender" and leave it on there. I've had numerous batteries in the past that had a good voltage charge but not much of an amperage saturation until the equipment had been run for extended periods. Motorcycles with full dress tend to have problems with this due to the lower amerage size to begin with.
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  4. #4
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    How old is the battery?

    If it's less than three or four years old it is probably still "good" - that is, it can be recharged and will hold a charge. If it's lightly used - as seems to be the case here - you ought to be getting at least 5 years out of it.

    My advice: Buy an automatic "slow charge" (low amp) trickle charger; you need one of these anyhow if you have a car (or bike or whatever) that sits a lot. Cost is $50 or less.

    Hook it up and let the battery sit overnight. If it is not fully charged up after that (most chargers have an indicator to tell you) then the battery is likely DOA and time for a new one.

  5. #5
    Thanks for the comments. I appreciate the responses I get every time I've been here.

    BTW, I'm not ignoring the charger suggestion. But I live in an apartment with a communal parking area and every day we get kids playing around the cars. Even if I was able to close the hood, I'd have to drop a power line from one of the light sockets, and I think that would be too temping to play with. I also considered a solar charger (suggested here) but my lighter is dead when the ignition is off. So I guess I'm stuck trying to make sure I can drive it once a week. Although I realized I could ask my helper to drive me to doctor appointments with my car, instead of using her car. That would help.

  6. #6
    Ridin Dirty dom's Avatar
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    The solar charger is not a bad idea at all. I am sure you can get a mechanic to wire it directly up to your battery for you very easily and just leave it on the dash. Or your own suggestion of taking your car on the trip from time to time would be even better.

    Side Note: can those chargers charge from inside the car? Does the UV protection on the glass affect them at all?

    Also, you can get a cut off switch installed on your car (right at the battery). I have one on my hot rod and it works great. I just completely turn off all power to the car when I am not driving it.

    "Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato "
    -Mussolini
    All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.

  7. #7
    Senior Member bikerlbf406's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew B. View Post
    Background: I got advice here to drive my car 20 minutes a week to keep the battery charged. This was working fine, but for 2 weeks in a row I only drove it 10 minutes, then I was unable to drive it at all for 2 weeks. When I got down there I could not start it. I mention all this to give you an idea of how the battery is treated.

    Now: The auto club guy jump started my car, it sat and idled for about 10 minutes. Then he told me to turn it off, and we waited a few minutes. Then he ran a test on it. According to his test my battery needs replacement. His print out said it is rated cranking power of 675 CCA but it's only showing 299 CCA. And he said that 299CCA is not enough to crank my engine.

    I was under the impression that you don't test a battery until it is fully charged. Before he gave me the jump start, the battery was so weak it could not budge the engine. So it seems unreasonable to test it after 10 minutes of idling. Am I wrong?

    BTW, I declined to have him sell me a new battery. I have an Interstate battery, and I hoped it could come back. So I started the car and drove it for 40 minutes. I guess I should try to drive it tomorrow, but I never know how my health will be.
    If you can, I would take the battery out of the vehicle, take it to any auto part store, such as Autozone, Advance, O'Reilly's or any of them and have them do a full charge on the battery, and then check the battery to see if it shows good. I have never seen a battery be dead after only 2 weeks of sitting, regardless of how much it was driven before that, unless the battery was weak to begin with. So my guess is that it probably is a weak battery and should be replaced. How old is the battery?
    Tim, proud owner of 2001 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 & 2007 Honda CMX250C Rebel


  8. #8
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    That is a tough situation...

    It seems your best bet is to start with a known good battery and then religiously make sure to drive the car for 15-30 minutes every two weeks, at least. If you can do that, you should be able to keep the battery charged and get a normal service life out of it.

    If you have no choice but to let the car sit idle for weeks at a time (especially during the winter) it might be worth removing the battery and keeping it hooked to a charger in your apartment or wherever's secure. It is a pain to have to remove/install the battery, but it comes down to what you can do in the context of how much effort/time is worth spending on making sure you get the most life out of your battery.

    Worst case - no charger and you only drive the car very occasionally - you still ought to be getting at least 2-3 years of reliable life out of the unit.







    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew B. View Post
    Thanks for the comments. I appreciate the responses I get every time I've been here.

    BTW, I'm not ignoring the charger suggestion. But I live in an apartment with a communal parking area and every day we get kids playing around the cars. Even if I was able to close the hood, I'd have to drop a power line from one of the light sockets, and I think that would be too temping to play with. I also considered a solar charger (suggested here) but my lighter is dead when the ignition is off. So I guess I'm stuck trying to make sure I can drive it once a week. Although I realized I could ask my helper to drive me to doctor appointments with my car, instead of using her car. That would help.

  9. #9
    I purchased this battery mid 2008.

    BTW, I was able to get down to my car and drive it today. It started right up. So that's a good sign. If didn't feel the need to have security in my car, it would be easy enough to disconnect the battery. But that's the kind of area I live in, unfortunately.

    Thanks for all the tips.

  10. #10
    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew B. View Post
    I purchased this battery mid 2008.

    BTW, I was able to get down to my car and drive it today. It started right up. So that's a good sign. If didn't feel the need to have security in my car, it would be easy enough to disconnect the battery. But that's the kind of area I live in, unfortunately.

    Thanks for all the tips.


    I have several members of a rather rough motorcycle club living near me. Nice people most of the time but they have no use for a machine thief. Not much trouble in my neighborhood.

    A solar cell charger sounds like it may be the thing for you. I'm thinking you're just not driving the car enough to recharge the energy potential you lost starting it. Have a mechanic wire you an extra lighter socket for a power supply only. Run a wire directly from the battery or solenoid with a fuse (10 or 15 amp would be best) and plug the solay charger into that. This will also give you a plug for a cell phone charger or other use that you don't want to shut off with the ignition.
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  11. #11
    Ridin Dirty dom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grouch View Post

    A solar cell charger sounds like it may be the thing for you. I'm thinking you're just not driving the car enough to recharge the energy potential you lost starting it. Have a mechanic wire you an extra lighter socket for a power supply only. Run a wire directly from the battery or solenoid with a fuse (10 or 15 amp would be best) and plug the solay charger into that. This will also give you a plug for a cell phone charger or other use that you don't want to shut off with the ignition.
    I think once you determine you have a good battery this is the best solution to prevent future issues.

    "Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato "
    -Mussolini
    All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.

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