Posted: Sep 24, 2013
Why doesn't my pickup truck start?
We spent last weekend at the Lucas Oil Off Road Race in Las Vegas, Nevada. In addition to checking out some great racing action, we also had the opportunity to talk with some folks who use our batteries in one of the harshest environments in the world- the Nevada desert. One gentleman who approached our rig started telling us about the problems he was having with his REDTOP battery, which he indicated was barely two years old.
To be totally honest, we made sure he understood that while our batteries can last up to twice as long as their flooded counterparts, batteries in extremely hot climates (like Las Vegas) tend not to last nearly as long as batteries in more moderate climates. At two years old, his REDTOP is likely well into it's useful lifespan and depending on how it was used and maintained, may be nearing the end.
As he continued his story, he indicated his battery would no longer hold voltage and he constantly had trouble starting it. When we asked if he measured the voltage at any point, he indicated it was reading less than 10 volts. We then asked him what kind of charger he was using to recover his battery when it wouldn't start his truck (definitely not the truck pictured). At that point, he indicated he didn't own a charger and never used one to recover his battery- he only used jumper cables.
We've said it a lot here in the Power Source blog, but it can never be said too often- jumper cables are the electrical equivalent of a one-gallon can of gas. They can get you out of a tight jam, but your vehicle's alternator is not designed to recover a deeply-discharged battery.
To further compound the problem, this guy's friend said he had been having issues with his battery ever since he stopped driving the truck on a regular basis. It's bad enough to deeply-discharge a battery to the point that it needs a jump-start. The problem is worsened by the fact that the battery was never properly-recharged and then compounded further when the battery was left sitting in a deeply-discharged state for an extended period of time.
Whenever any battery is discharged below 12.4 volts and is left sitting in that state, sulfation begins to form, which diminishes both capacity and lifespan. That makes a quality battery maintenance device an excellent investment for any vehicle that doesn't see regular use. Based on what we were told of this application, this battery had three strikes against it-
- It was deeply-discharged
- It was never properly-recharged
- It was left sitting in a deeply-discharged state
No matter how good a battery is, those are very tough factors to overcome in a normal climate. In the desert heat of Nevada, treating any battery in this fashion is a recipe for a very short battery lifespan!