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  • Electrical: Battery - acting strangely

    I have a Napa battery that is three years old. It has seen little use. I'd say equivalent to a few months of normal driving. That said, if I'm not driving the car then it is on a float (not a trickle) charger. The electrolyte is checked often and never has it gotten remotely low.

    A few months ago I noticed that after a few days of sitting (still on the float charger) the car would not crank over. I'd put my 6 amp charger on it for 30-60 minutes and it would crank fine. The voltage was in the 12.85 range. A Hydrometer test showed that five of the cells read exceptional and one cell read good. A test by Napa (I got to watch it) stated the battery was perfectly fine. They refused to prorate and exchange. Thinking there might be a drain somewhere I disconnected the battery, made sure it was charged then put it on the float charger. Same problem. After a few days there wasn't enough to crank the car even though the voltage was in the 12.85 range.

    The other day I put the 6 amp charger on intending to get the car started and move it. I should note too that the charger never goes below 1.5 amps even if it was on for 24 hours. Anyway, I got occupied and it sat on that charger for about 3 days. Today the solenoid wouldn't even click. The battery read 8.5 volts, was very warm and was pulling 4 amps. Still wanting to move the car I "jumper-ed" it with another car. It cranked for about 5 seconds then wound down. I disconnected the bad battery and tried again. Eventually I got the car started and reconnected the bad (now 8.5 volt) battery.

    I don't think I had the car running 3 minutes. I shut it off. Then, just our of curiosity I turned the key and it started right up. I shut it off immediately and checked the voltage. It was 12.85 volts. So, how does a 8.5 volt battery (that had been charging) somehow become a 12.85 volt battery simply by running in the car for 3 minutes??? And why, even with a second battery assisting it struggled to start 3 minutes prior?

    So, does this sound like an internal short in the battery? And if so, is there anything I might do? I'm thinking like shorting the battery out and "hopefully" burning out the short??? Even though I'm only 3 years into a 7 year prorate Napa wants $85 to exchange the battery. Pretty much what a new battery cost elsewhere.
    '64 Lark Type, powered by '85 Corvette L-98 (carburetor), 700R4, - CASO to the Max.

  • #2
    Just because a battery checks out voltage-wise doesn't mean it can stand a load. At least one cell has gone weak. Charge it and it shows normal...put a starting load on it and it breaks down. NAPA should try a load test on it.
    Poet...Mystic...Soldier of Fortune. As always...self-absorbed, adversarial, cocky and in general a malcontent.

    Comment


    • #3
      Unfortunately the load test IS what Napa did. And, the battery tested fine. They even gave me the test print-out. But the battery antics continued - even with the battery disconnected. I think this battery was an internal short small enough to pass a test, but persistent enough to drain the battery. So, I was hoping there was "something" to eliminate the short (like overloading the battery and possibly burning out the short). I realize I run the chance to maybe make is worse, but as it is it isn't feasible to use anyway. I was just hoping someone with significant battery experience could say yes or no.

      BTW, what is with a battery prorate? You go through 40% of the time period and have to pay 70% of the cost.
      '64 Lark Type, powered by '85 Corvette L-98 (carburetor), 700R4, - CASO to the Max.

      Comment


      • #4
        I have a suggestion...Write a letter, describing exactly what you have told us here, including your experience with your local NAPA store. Then, send it certified mail to NAPA's corporate customer service department. You could conclude the letter with a statement that, you are sending this letter "certified" to memorialize and establish that you suspect a defect in the battery. In the event that the battery fails, causes an accident, fire, and/or injury, you will have a record that responsible parties were informed. Ask for a written response.

        You may feel a little silly doing this...but you may be surprised how quick they'll respond.
        John Clary
        Greer, SC

        SDC member since 1975

        Comment


        • #5
          It acts to me like it has shorted, loose or disconnected Plates, there is definitely a problem with that Battery and it should be replaced. Maybe a different NAPA Store would be the solution.

          I was recently talking to the owner of our local Auto. Electrical Shop, he sells his own Alaska Gold Batteries with solid cast Plates and tells me that most OEM Batteries have them, but none of the aftermarket, sold in Parts Stores, K Mart, Walmart, Sears etc. do have, they use what he called pressed plates which do not last as long.
          It IS important to have a quality battery.
          StudeRich
          Second Generation Stude Driver,
          Proud '54 Starliner Owner

          Comment


          • #6
            I once encountered a battery in which one of the intercell connectors, which is essentially a spot weld between two lead tabs, made through a hole in the cell compartment wall, had broken. It would show 12.6 volts open circuit, hydrometer test was fine, and once in a while, it would crank the car, if the broken weld came good briefly. Put it on a load test with the vent caps off, and heard sizzling in the affected cells.

            Warning! A battery with this failure is a prime risk to explode from an internal spark setting off hydrogen gas.
            Gord Richmond, within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by gordr View Post
              I once encountered a battery in which one of the intercell connectors, which is essentially a spot weld between two lead tabs, made through a hole in the cell compartment wall, had broken. It would show 12.6 volts open circuit, hydrometer test was fine, and once in a while, it would crank the car, if the broken weld came good briefly. Put it on a load test with the vent caps off, and heard sizzling in the affected cells.

              Warning! A battery with this failure is a prime risk to explode from an internal spark setting off hydrogen gas.
              Excellent point! And...the reason I made the suggestion, in my prior post, to take the problem to NAPA corporate by a certified letter. As many of you know, "Certified" communication is a way of proving that the possible liable parties have been put on notice that a suspected problem exist. It is very often the first alert to those in the path of potential litigation, that they are exposed to future lawsuits. Often, this puts the "Fear of God" in businesses...equivalent to receiving that dreaded IRS letter.

              This action is what got my Buick repaired in the 1980's, and my Chrysler repaired in the 1990's. When I was in sales, a similar letter resulted in a national recall of a particular air-tool made by a major tool manufacturer. Also, it resulted in resolving issues with the Veterans Administration and most recently...a new roof for my home.

              Like I said...you might feel a little silly sitting down and penning a letter to a large imposing corporation or government agency...but doing nothing will guarantee no resolution.

              So...be sure to use a good spell checker...write it up...print it out...and mail it
              John Clary
              Greer, SC

              SDC member since 1975

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by wittsend View Post
                I have a Napa battery that is three years old. It has seen little use. I'd say equivalent to a few months of normal driving. That said, if I'm not driving the car then it is on a float (not a trickle) charger. The electrolyte is checked often and never has it gotten remotely low.

                A few months ago I noticed that after a few days of sitting (still on the float charger) the car would not crank over. I'd put my 6 amp charger on it for 30-60 minutes and it would crank fine. The voltage was in the 12.85 range. A Hydrometer test showed that five of the cells read exceptional and one cell read good. A test by Napa (I got to watch it) stated the battery was perfectly fine. They refused to prorate and exchange. Thinking there might be a drain somewhere I disconnected the battery, made sure it was charged then put it on the float charger. Same problem. After a few days there wasn't enough to crank the car even though the voltage was in the 12.85 range.

                The other day I put the 6 amp charger on intending to get the car started and move it. I should note too that the charger never goes below 1.5 amps even if it was on for 24 hours. Anyway, I got occupied and it sat on that charger for about 3 days. Today the solenoid wouldn't even click. The battery read 8.5 volts, was very warm and was pulling 4 amps. Still wanting to move the car I "jumper-ed" it with another car. It cranked for about 5 seconds then wound down. I disconnected the bad battery and tried again. Eventually I got the car started and reconnected the bad (now 8.5 volt) battery.

                I don't think I had the car running 3 minutes. I shut it off. Then, just our of curiosity I turned the key and it started right up. I shut it off immediately and checked the voltage. It was 12.85 volts. So, how does a 8.5 volt battery (that had been charging) somehow become a 12.85 volt battery simply by running in the car for 3 minutes??? And why, even with a second battery assisting it struggled to start 3 minutes prior?

                So, does this sound like an internal short in the battery? And if so, is there anything I might do? I'm thinking like shorting the battery out and "hopefully" burning out the short??? Even though I'm only 3 years into a 7 year prorate Napa wants $85 to exchange the battery. Pretty much what a new battery cost elsewhere.
                I once had a battery act the same way. It might crank fine ten times in a row, then act like it was dead. Leave it for a half hour, and it would act fine again. It turned out that one of the posts was loose (broken?) inside, and just getting in out out of the car and closing the door was enough to move it in/out of contact.


                You *could* try dead shorting it across the terminals in hopes of melting and "welding" the open connection back together. I, personally I wouldn't try it. You might get a big bang and a sulfuric acid bath.

                Take it back to NAPA and wiggle the posts while they test it.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Over my last almost 50 years of driving I have had about every kind of battery failure except for one turning into a bomb. I learned early on that pro rated warranties on TBA stuff are about as useless as t**s on a boar hog. You end up paying as much or in some cases even more than a new item would cost. It is and always was a big shell game for the suckers. Buy a new one and move on, life is too short as it is.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Consumer Reports top rates the Costco brand and Walmart Maxx batteries. Don't let the monkeys in Walmart's auto center touch your car...install the battery yourself. I learned the hard way on that.
                    Poet...Mystic...Soldier of Fortune. As always...self-absorbed, adversarial, cocky and in general a malcontent.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I doubt this is any where near the problem ,but I will tell you dirt on top a battery will short a battery out and run it down . I seen that on a lot of farm implement batteries , but doesn't take much on top a battery to let current travel across it! You can take a volt meter and read it !
                      Randy Wilkin
                      1946 M5 Streetrod
                      Hillsboro,Ohio 45133

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Thanks everyone for your input. The 8.5 volts that went to 12.85 shortly after the car started..., well it is now at 11.15 even after having a float charger on it for 24+ hours. It must be an internal short as the battery was disconnected.

                        Being CASO I still remember the days (not too long ago) of the $29.99 battery. So, it is kind of painful to pay $100 for a battery in a car that gets driven 3-4 times a month. I actually got this battery for not much. I was at a swapmeet and saw the date code was only 18 months old. For all of three dollars I had the joy of carrying the battery about 1/4 mile to my car. NAPA then gave me a new battery ($96) for all of $35 with the prorate.

                        I'm just bummed because at only 3 years it is of no use. That battery now costs $124 and my cost on the prorate is $85-$90. So, the original purchaser got 18 months, I got 36 months and that kind of tells me NAPA batteries are suspect. Especially considering the very minimal use and float charging to keep it in good condition. I guess I got "my money's worth," but when I knowing get a deal I was hoping to get the full money value.
                        '64 Lark Type, powered by '85 Corvette L-98 (carburetor), 700R4, - CASO to the Max.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by wittsend View Post
                          Thanks everyone for your input. The 8.5 volts that went to 12.85 shortly after the car started..., well it is now at 11.15 even after having a float charger on it for 24+ hours. It must be an internal short as the battery was disconnected.

                          Being CASO I still remember the days (not too long ago) of the $29.99 battery. So, it is kind of painful to pay $100 for a battery in a car that gets driven 3-4 times a month. I actually got this battery for not much. I was at a swapmeet and saw the date code was only 18 months old. For all of three dollars I had the joy of carrying the battery about 1/4 mile to my car. NAPA then gave me a new battery ($96) for all of $35 with the prorate.

                          I'm just bummed because at only 3 years it is of no use. That battery now costs $124 and my cost on the prorate is $85-$90. So, the original purchaser got 18 months, I got 36 months and that kind of tells me NAPA batteries are suspect. Especially considering the very minimal use and float charging to keep it in good condition. I guess I got "my money's worth," but when I knowing get a deal I was hoping to get the full money value.
                          That kind of backs up the story my Auto Electric Store owner was telling me in Post #5.
                          You know most of those NAPA etc. Batteries are made by either Exide or Johnson Controls, but are made to the Wholesale buyer's specs AND
                          PRICE!
                          StudeRich
                          Second Generation Stude Driver,
                          Proud '54 Starliner Owner

                          Comment

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