Battery Maintenance

SWS

Joined
Apr 10, 2004
Messages
397
Location
Tennessee
Hi! I request your advice on maintaining my battery to try to get longer life. I have read everything regarding car batteries on this site for years, and I'm sure you will have some good tips for my situation / experience. Thanks in advance!

Vehicle: 2006 Honda Accord V6
Battery: Duracell - East Penn, Group 35, self-installed Oct-2019 (sticker Sep-2019)
Environment: Tennessee, Parked outside

Status:
-> Everything is working fine, and the car starts easily - I want to keep it that way.
-> Alternator charges at 14.1V.
-> This East-Penn battery has stayed very clean - the best I have ever had. No acid leaks since installed.

Driving Pattern:
-> Mostly stop & go city driving, less than 5 miles per trip.
-> I typically drive around-town in "D3" to rev the engine higher.
-> I drive it continuously for 20 miles at least once per month.

Experience / Motivation:
-> In 45 years of driving (Ohio, Texas, Tennessee), in a variety of vehicles & brands, I have had to replace my battery every 3 to 4 years. They have typically failed in Summer or Fall. I am motivated to get more life from my battery!
-> I research and try to find highly-rated, fresh batteries, and in the past 6 years have taken my DMM to the store to verify.
-> I keep the battery clean, and am fussy about clean terminals.
-> Nevertheless, after 3 to 4 years, when I experience slow-crank situations over several days, it is always immediately resolved with a new battery. I am always surprised how fast it cranks, and starts, by simply changing the battery. Again, battery terminals are pristine before & after. I drive for at least 30 minutes on the highway after replacing the battery.
-> I think my 2-year-old East Penn battery will do better-than-average, but as its 3rd winter approaches I am trying to be proactive in keeping it healthy.

Questions:
-> I have read here that even a so-called 'maintenance-free' battery should have the vents removed and cell levels checked. My battery does not have old-style caps, of course, but rather a thin, flush cover that goes edge-to-edge along a portion of the top. It looks like I can pry that off to get to the cells. Any tips on how to do that safely, or should I leave it alone since there is no evidence of leaking / spattering? I certainly do not want to break something, or cause it to start leaking!

-> I bought a NOCO Genius 5 charger last month (to help someone else's car), with the thought that I can also use it occasionally on my car battery to fully charge it, since the car's alternator 'under-charges' for safety margin from what I have read here. I have not connected the NOCO to my car yet, thinking I need to check the cell levels first.
Is that correct procedure?
If I add distilled water, do I need to let it sit awhile (mix) before attaching the charger?
What is the best temperature to charge the battery? Is 77 degrees F optimal?

Thanks for your help!
 
Joined
Sep 6, 2007
Messages
2,118
Location
TX, USA
I think it is by design that the batteries last 3-4 years considering the environment factors aka heat in the South.
 
Joined
Sep 27, 2015
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Location
USA
Adding water should not be necessary. Having the liquid level higher than intended makes it prone to splash out.

It sounds like this car is used infrequently. If car will be unused for more than 2 weeks, disconnect battery or charge it.
 
Joined
May 2, 2018
Messages
307
Location
California
The battery in my car is the one it had when I bought the car in 2012. I don't know if it is the original battery that came with the car (an '06). It might be. I think it helps that the car is garaged and also the battery is in the trunk. It never sees extreme temps.
 
Joined
Mar 30, 2014
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6,691
Location
NJ
I've resigned myself that batteries are worse than years ago and I'll just need to replace them every 3 to 4 years. And I rarely drive anywhere less than 30 minutes.
 
Joined
Dec 17, 2009
Messages
1,247
Location
Wash, DC
Last time I changed a battery it was 9 y.o. and working okay. I didn't trust it for a 10th winter.
I'm an infrequent driver; 1-2 drives per week plus road trips 1-2 times per year. ~5000 miles per year.
I used to charge the battery overnight every 3 months with an adjustable power supply,
but a decent "smart" charger of 5A or so would do.
It was inconvenient removing the battery for this, I park on a city street, no outlet available.

Now I have a 10 watt solar panel I put on the dashboard.
Gets as high as 13.6V on a sunny day.
I wired in a hidden (Anderson PowerPole) connector under the dash to constant 12V.
For the non-techie there is a cable to tap into the OBD socket.


 
Joined
Jun 14, 2011
Messages
676
Location
FL, USA
-> Alternator charges at 14.1V.
That seems a bit low. Here is a great read on Honda alternator and charging system...though it seems to apply to newer vehicles.

Heat is what will erode a battery. Cold weather will reduce voltage and make starting more difficult, but its summer heat that reduces state of health.

I too wonder if you really should mess with the water level on maintenance free batteries. I've never gotten definitive advice on that.

I would at minimum connect the battery to the charger on some regular basis, whether that is quarterly, every oil change, or something like that.
The Noco 5 charger will adjust for ambient temperatures, so the temperature you charge in isn't that critical.
 

gathermewool

Site Donor 2022
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Jan 9, 2009
Messages
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New England
Charge it once a month or more frequently. That's what I did when I lived in a condo. Now, I hook up a charger more frequently than that.

Only add water if there is a risk of the plates being exposed. Fill to just prior to where it will touch the plastic indicators.

77F is about as ideal as you can get for charging. Voltage will need to be increased slightly for colder weather, but for your intensions, the difference is negiligible.

So in order to prolong the life of a $60 battery, you're sacrificing the life of the engine and transmission?

Why would driving it in D3 sacrifice anything? Where are you getting EP batteries for $60 at???
 
Joined
Jun 11, 2003
Messages
1,027
Location
Hedgesville, WV
Since you park outside I would get a 5 or 10 watt solar charger. They wont really charge your battery much but they do a great job offsetting the vehicle drain and the battery internal leakage. I use one on my truck and one on the big tractor and I usually get 6 to 7 years on a battery. Also like has already been stated put a charger on it every once in a while.
 
Joined
Apr 27, 2010
Messages
12,152
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Suburban Washington DC
Why would driving it in D3 sacrifice anything? Where are you getting EP batteries for $60 at???
Engine reving higher causing more wear in engine and transmission. Batteries are $55 at Walmart. And I don't particularly subscribe to the notion that EP is any better than the others. You can find examples of each that died in 6 months and ones still going strong after 6 years.
 

gathermewool

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Engine reving higher causing more wear in engine and transmission. Batteries are $55 at Walmart. And I don't particularly subscribe to the notion that EP is any better than the others. You can find examples of each that died in 6 months and ones still going strong after 6 years.

You'll be hard-pressed to find any data that backs you up. We're not talking about red-lining the engine at all times, but higher RPM at lower speeds. If anything, the bushings will be what sees the most stress.

It's very rare for a name-brand battery to last less than four years, especially in the northeast. If it doesn't last that long, a more expensive battery a new one will be pro-rated.
 

gathermewool

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Just like finding the data OP is relying on to increase longevity of his battery by staying in 3rd gear.;)

True. I forgot to respond to that little tidbit. Every vehicle over ever owned with a good alternator provided a good charging voltage at idle.

Anyway, what were you saying about increased wear??? I’d argue a transmission that doesn’t change gears between 3 and 3+ will last longer if used mostly in stop-and-to traffic.
 
Joined
Apr 27, 2010
Messages
12,152
Location
Suburban Washington DC
Anyway, what were you saying about increased wear???
Increased piston travel per mile which directly results in increased ring and bore wear, not to mention increased wear on all internal moving parts. If the engine is at 1500 rpm at 50 mph in OD and at 2500 rpm in 3rd, that’s a 70% increase in rpm and piston travel for the same distance driven. Can’t say it’s a 70% increase in wear as I’m not an engineer, but it’s some increase. It’s as if the engine in a 100,000 mile car was actually run like one in a 170,000 mile car.
 
Joined
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Messages
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You’re forgetting about load. The wear you describe is arguably negligible.

70% more? Ridiculous!
Maybe you missed where I said,
Can’t say it’s a 70% increase in wear as I’m not an engineer, but it’s some increase.
If OP leaves it in 3rd in all off highway driving, I'd say increased engine wear can be more than negligible. At least gas mileage will suffer more that any possible savings from some perceived increase in battery life.
 
Joined
Jun 14, 2011
Messages
676
Location
FL, USA
Maybe you missed where I said,

If OP leaves it in 3rd in all off highway driving, I'd say increased engine wear can be more than negligible. At least gas mileage will suffer more that any possible savings from some perceived increase in battery life.
This has taken a turn off topic, but bottom line is its not 70% more wear. Maybe 2%.

Alternator curve looks like this, so yes it increases at higher RPMs, but above a certain threshold it is likely outputting more than the battery can absorb.
...so, bottom line is I wouldn't run in low gear for purposes of charging the battery.
Engine-RPM-Amperage-Output-Graph.png
 
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