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How can you tell if a car battery can hold a charge?

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hyphenate Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-02-05 09:35 AM
Original message
How can you tell if a car battery can hold a charge?
Just got my lovely Windstar van repaired after a very long stint sitting in front of the house with a knocked out transmission. I drove it home yesterday, but while I was still at the transmission place, it wouldn't start so they gave me a jump. The drive home was not a long one, though, and I couldn't drive faster than speed limit, which was no greater than 40mph, so I don't think it got enough time to recharge the battery--if it's chargeable at all.

As it sat here for the whole winter, I'm sure that it was the cold that drained it (in winter 2003-2004, it died from the weather and had to be jump-started once then) but I can't be sure that it's not just dead, period. Am I better to: 1) Get it jump-started and go get a new battery, regardless of whether the old one just needs to be recharged (which is just slightly out of my price range (i.e., I'll be dead broke for another 2 weeks or so), 2) Get it jump-started and try to get the old one recharged and hope it works, 3) Get it jump-started and try leaving the engine running for about 45 minutes by driving it around the neighborhood time and time again, hoping that that will do the job of recharging it without having to pay a dime for it. If there's a fourth option, please let me know!

I don't have to pay for the jump-start, having AAA, which helps. But I just can't picture having to call them out multiple times to give me a jump if this is going to be a recurring event.
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hlthe2b Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-02-05 09:41 AM
Response to Original message
1. take it to a full service station and have them put an electronic tester
on it.....
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givemebackmycountry Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-02-05 09:43 AM
Response to Original message
2. I know it's going to hurt...BUT
Save the time, hassle, anxiety, and stress, and just go buy a new battery.

When they get ready to do the replacement, they can do a definitive check for you to see if the old one has any life left in it.

The first time you get stuck somewhere and need a jump, you will wish that you had just broke down and spent the extra money to get a new one.
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stellanoir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-02-05 09:45 AM
Response to Original message
3. If you want to buy some time,
find a garage or someone who has a battery charger. Jump start the van, leave it running for a while then go and hook the battery up to the charger for several hours.

Then you'll find out if the battery is irreparably depleted in short order.

They usually don't charge very much for use of the charger.
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ret5hd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-02-05 09:45 AM
Response to Original message
4. step one:
drive to a crowded mall (the more crowded the better)

2) park nose-first in a spot that abuts a retaining wall (the farther from the actual mall the better) and is between two previously parked cars that are encroaching on the spot you are trying to park in. If you can only barely open your car door after parking, it is perfect.

3) shut engine off

4) attempt to start engine

5) if engine starts, your battery is PERFECT! If not...
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Wcross Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-02-05 09:46 AM
Response to Original message
5. Its pretty common for a battery to lose a charge
If it has set for that long you are probably ok. If you are really wooried take it to autozone/advanced auto or some other parts store and have it tested. I don't think you will have to buy another one.
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BlueJazz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-02-05 09:49 AM
Response to Original message
6. If it sat there for all winter the Battery has probably Calcified
Batteries don't like to sit around in the cold without being charged.

Sorry....
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miss_kitty Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-02-05 09:53 AM
Response to Original message
7. The AAA guy (or gal) has a tester on them, sometimes.
test it. Next time you let a car sit-take the battery out. The clock ran it down. Cold will make a weakened battery weaker.

Using your alternator to charge up a battery from dead can age the alternator prematurely. That said-as for sitting and idling-I've always been told to drive around. I got a new alternator last November.

When you buy a new battery, get a battery with a warranty, so you pay a pro-rated price if you need to replace it.
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Tab Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-02-05 09:59 AM
Response to Original message
8. You don't say how old the current battery is
I have a car I keep in storage for the winter, so I go through this every year, even with a newer battery.

1) Many places will load-test a battery for free. I hate to recommend Wal-Mart, but they do offer free load-testing on batteries. Call a few places, ask what the charge, if any, is for load-testing a battery.

2) Let your car run for 40 minutes or so. Charge it up. That's probably all you need.

If your battery is 10 years old or so, you might need a new one, but if it's relatively fresh, you probably just need to charge it up.

It doesn't cost anything (except gas) to run it for an hour, so just do that. If you continue to have problems, look at getting a new battery. But sitting over the winter probably just drained it, not necessarily ruined it.
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hyphenate Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-02-05 11:59 AM
Response to Reply #8
9. Yeah, this is what I'm thinking
and I do need to put gas into it. I'm a cheapskate--er, Yankee(!)--so I like to try the less expensive method first, but I am heading down to the Autozone with the intention to replace the battery if I must, but will drive around a while to see if I can charge it back up, first. We'll see what happens!
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Seabiscuit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-02-05 12:23 PM
Response to Original message
10. Kick it.
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