What Damages Car Battery?

Tips & Support
OPTIMA Batteries
Caledonia, WI

My dad called me this morning to ask a few questions about a battery issue his friend was having. His friend had recently been hospitalized for six weeks and when he was released, he found the battery in his car was dead, even though his grandson had been driving the car while he was in the hospital. My dad had jump-started the car for his friend the other day, but that didn't seem to fix the situation (and often doesn't).

When I heard the story initially, I thought that perhaps there was a parasitic draw in the car, which had discharged the battery while the owner was in the hospital, but if the grandson was driving the car, maybe that wasn't the case? I then thought perhaps the grandson had parked the car and ran the stereo for long periods of time, deeply-discharging the battery in the process.

The battery was less than two years old and their plan was to take it to a battery store to have it tested. I told my dad that any battery test will not give accurate results, unless there is first an attempt to fully-charge the battery, prior to the test. When I asked him what the voltage of the battery was, he said he didn't know and didn't have a volt meter to measure it. At that point, I encouraged him to bring the battery over to my house, so we could take a closer look at things.

When my dad and his friend arrived, I saw what was a typical "black box" car battery, that my dad's friend had purchased last year for $50. As we began talking, the owner mentioned how he found his battery cables loosely holding the battery when he went to retrieve it this morning. The positive cable was barely touching the battery terminal and the negative cable was loose enough to slip off by hand as well. As soon as he mentioned that, I asked him if the battery itself was secure in his vehicle.

At that point, he indicated when he installed the battery last year, he had a hard time tightening the hold down at the base of the battery, so the battery itself was also somewhat loose in the vehicle. A much clearer picture of what happened was now beginning to take shape. When I measured the battery, it read 1.1 volts, which is extremely low and often indicative of an internal short of some kind.

After getting the reading, I presented the following scenario to the owner- When this battery was originally purchased and installed, it wasn't properly held in place, so the battery cables themselves were what was actually keeping the battery in position. Even if the battery cables were properly-tightened at the time of installation, if they were also the only means of keeping the battery in place, all that movement over the course of a year could've also loosened the cables. In addition, it is also likely that because the battery cables were essentially acting as the anchoring point for keeping the battery in place, the connection from the terminal to the cells was broken inside the battery, by the constant (or sudden) tugging of the cables on the battery terminals.

The end result is a battery that probably needs to be replaced. However, by talking about how the battery was installed and the condition of the cables when it was removed, we may have prevented the owner from repeating the same scenario in a year from now. Remember to check not only your battery cables, to ensure they are properly-tightened to your battery, but also check your battery, to make sure it is properly-secured in your vehicle! If your battery is going into storage for the winter, make sure the voltage level never drops below 12.4 volts. Fully-charged, our REDTOPs will measure about 12.6-12.8 volts and our YELLOWTOPs will measure about 13.0-13.2 volts. If you don't have a battery charger or maintainer, OPTIMA offers three options that do a great job on lead-acid and lithium batteries.