Fun With Dead Batteries

Had to call Bitter tonight to come jump my car at work.  Our parking lot is at a slight incline, so I tried to get the car moving and pop the clutch, but it didn’t work.  Pushed the car back up, and tried a stronger running start this time, and I couldn’t quite get the clutch back out fast enough to let the engine turn.  No good.  Got the car jumped and driven home, turned the car off, tried to start it, and it was still dead. Took the battery out, then went to Wal-Mart to buy a new battery and turn in the old one. The process of having to turn in the old battery in order to buy a new one was confusing to the Wal-Martians, who first thought I meant to return a battery I had bought. It was too late for the automotive department to handle it. Installed it, and everything is fine after I tracked down the code for my car radio. The battery has been on its last leg for a while, and I knew it, so I can’t complain. It’s the original battery, and I’m at 105,000 miles on my ’04 Honda Element. It’s more than served its purpose.

16 thoughts on “Fun With Dead Batteries”

  1. On an alternator equipped car, if the battery is truly dead, it is not possible to push start it. The old generators would have residual magnetism and would produce some voltage with a dead battery if you spun them as in pushing a popping the clutch. An alternator needs a battery to feed the field coils and “kick start” it. No battery, no voltage, no start.

  2. Yeah, that battery had a good run. I’m on 125000 miles in my car and my third battery, although the heat here in SoCal is really hard on them.

  3. How about thoughts on the Honda Element itself. Anything wisdom gleamed in 5 years of ownership??

    My wife, who has stolen my new Jeep Commander (and promptly made a disgrace – with the kids – of the interior) indicated she liked the looks of the Honda Element and as its smaller than the Jeep would probably be easier for her to drive and back up in.

    So, I’ve been thinking about it.

    What are the good and bad folks should know??

  4. I do whatever I can to have the battery there to return as I buy the new one. Always, I need to get 2 or 3 levels of salesdroids there to keep them from charging me a deposit. Then, they don’t seem to know what to do with the old thing. Last time I offered to push the cart near the customer service area at mall-wart and abandon it.

    It’s like I’m the only person who ever bought a battery there.

  5. RE deposit: I am in Michigan and even if you take in the return, they have to add in the core charge, charge sales tax on it, then take it off. You get back the core charge, but obviously not the tax on it.

  6. That’s true, Dan, however, unless the battery just completely shorted internally, there is usually still some voltage left in a “dead” battery. Eight or nine volts, generally enough to run things like alternator fields and ignition modules. The starter draws so much amperage though, it’s not enough to crank it over.

    Either way, closing in on 6 years is pretty darn good for a factory battery.

  7. For JamesLee: Agree that 6 years is doing well. One time, I left my lights on at school and ran down the battery. No one had cables, so we tried pushing, including with another car up to 30 mph or so. No dice. Finally got cables and started right up. Batteries will recover some voltage, but you usually have to remove the load and wait for awhile. Until that while is over, pushing is a waste of time.

    I am retired from an automotive OEM and worked in the radio design area. One of the things that we had to do was run batteries down and monitor how they recovered. This slow recovery can mess up electronic equipment that has a microprocessor in is as the recovery is too slow to generate a reset and get it going properly.

  8. It wasn’t completely dead, but possibly dead enough to not be able to push start. It was dead enough the radio was asking for the code once I jump started the car.

  9. They did charge me the core fee, and returned it. I should have just said “Yeah, that’s the ticket. I’m returning this battery that doesn’t work and want to exchange it for a new one.”

  10. Dan: Yes, I’ve seen batteries slowly come back up after being disconnected. I currently work in the repair field, and am sometimes still amazed at how a battery will give no sign of problems one day, and barely turn on the courtesy lights the next!

    And with more electronics being added to each new model every year, the need to keep a battery in good condition gets more and more important. I’m thinking of implementing a free battery test with my fancy-schmancy electronic load tester on each and every vehicle that comes in.

  11. countertop:

    I can’t complain, but keep in mind it’s not a real off road vehicle. It is not true 4wd. The four wheel drive only kicks in if the front wheels slip. You can’t lock the diff on it. It’s built on a car frame rather than a truck frame.

    That’s not to say you can’t take it offroad, but no serious stuff. It’s pretty good in snow. As far as problem, it’s a Honda. The only repairs I’ve had to make are replacing the throttle body, because the Throttle Position Sensor decided to randomly stop reporting to the computer, and it would cause the car to idle badly and stall. I kicked that can down the road for years because it was intermittent, and if you turned the car completely off, the computer would reset itself and would start reading the TPS again, until it acted up the next time.

    Other than that, it’s been fine. It’s really good for hauling shit back from Home Depot. You can fit a 10 foot board completely inside. I’ve let drywall hang out the back. It won’t do heavy hauling or towing, but for the kind of work I need it for, it works great.

  12. Countertop, have your wife test drive one first. I did test drive the Element before buying my SUV, and I hated driving it. In fact, I didn’t get out of the parking lot. I couldn’t see out the back very well, and it was just awkward for me. However, Sebastian does really like his, and it is useful for hauling stuff and people.

    Also, if you guys do go check one out, make sure you try getting in and out of the back seat just so you know what it’s like. My mom and grandmother have a little trouble with it. But little boys won’t have a problem getting in and out, that’s for sure.

    When I was shopping for an SUV, the salesman did try to point out stuff relevant to child seats and other family-friendly features. I was a little offended, wondering if he assumed I was pregnant. I guess he could have assumed I was already a mom, but as an unmarried 23-year-old, I was a little taken aback by that sales pitch. I didn’t buy the Element, and I definitely did not buy my CRV from that guy.

  13. FTR, battery chargers (or at least my Battery Tender) really do work. Depending on what kind of car you have, the alternator isn’t really up to restoring the battery if it’s been deeply discharged, but that doesn’t mean the battery is necessarily gone. And the tender costs about the same as a battery, so it pays for itself the second time you use it.

    Obviously, you ought to be suspicious of the free testing service at the stores that also sell new batteries…

  14. I had good luck with buying a new battery at Walmart. The tech knew what model battery I needed just by knowing the car – 2001 VW Jetta Wagon diesel, around 100k miles, original battery. Charged me the exchange fee upfront, swapped it at home and brought back the old.

    I couldn’t get mine to clutch start either, like I’d done with previous manuals. Rolled down a BIG hill, tried a couple times down same hill in both 2nd and 3rd gear, going around 30mph, no go. Thought at the time that it might have something to do with being a diesel…

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