Why are car batteries in 2023 so terrible?

My grandparents Duracell battery from Sam's Club went bad before it was even 3 years old. I didn't feel like playing Sam's Warranty games, so I got a new battery from Costco. The guy at the tire and battery center was saying they certainly have noticed how much shorter batteries last. He contends that it's because the lead smelters shut down in 2008 and the recycled lead after all these years is not as good. I'm not privy to this, but it made sense.
I definitely noticed the drop in life. I used to see min. 4 years from Costco batteries, last one I replaced barely made it to 3. I think I'm just going to swap them before the warranty is up because it's about done anyway.
 
I'm having much better life with AGMs, and any of my cars that are not daily driven, are on a Battery Minder or Granite Digital Save a Battery, battery maintainer. So far, so good. AC Delco AGM (made by Varta) is four years old, and still exceeds its CCA rating. (945, rated at 900) The two Varta (oem) AGMs in my M550iX BMW are five years old and pass a load test, they are also on a Battery Minder when parked in my garage.

I have had East Penn manufactured flooded batteries simply not last (one was private label Ray o Vac, the other a Duracell), both failed in less than three years, on a daily driven BMW, with occasional battery tender use for top ups.
 
I'm having much better life with AGMs, and any of my cars that are not daily driven, are on a Battery Minder or Granite Digital Save a Battery, battery maintainer. So far, so good. AC Delco AGM (made by Varta) is four years old, and still exceeds its CCA rating. (945, rated at 900) The two Varta (oem) AGMs in my M550iX BMW are five years old and pass a load test, they are also on a Battery Minder when parked in my garage.

I have had East Penn manufactured flooded batteries simply not last (one was private label Ray o Vac, the other a Duracell), both failed in less than three years, on a daily driven BMW, with occasional battery tender use for top ups.
BMW OE batteries can get 7-9yrs. If any car is loaded with modules etc. is BMW.
It is all about quality of battery.
 
BMW OE batteries can get 7-9yrs. If any car is loaded with modules etc. is BMW.
It is all about quality of battery.
I think the location of the battery matters for the overall longevity. If it's located under the hood its not going to last as long as if it's located in the cabin or in the trunk.
 
It's a combination of battery quality declining over the last 20 years or so, and the parasitic draw on the battery from the complicated electronics of today's vehicles. It used to be that batteries gave a warning when they were getting weak, but since the late1990's I have had several batteries fail without warning. Usually at around the 4 year mark but I even had one replacement battery that had a 60 month warranty fail at the 3 year mark. So now I just bite the bullet and buy a new battery every 4 years as a preventive measure.

My Jaguar is a fair weather only driver so I have it hooked up to a CTEK battery minder device. It constantly monitors the battery condition and applies a trickle charge as needed. It can also be used to do a full charge if needed. My Mazda CX 5 is my regular driver and will be 4 years old in June. So I plan on buying a new battery in the next couple of weeks just to be safe.
 
A number of things to be aware of with late model vehicles and batteries. Use AGM replacements whenever possible. Huge difference in longevity with the parasitic draw of late model vehicles. Extra cost is easily offset by their longevity and convenance (reduced failure). Don't skimp on the cheaper non-AGM, even if they fit you won't be rewarded.

Always be sure to commission the new battery correctly before installation. Read-up on "how to" before you purchase your replacement and be sure to comply. Procedure may vary for different brands. Don't expect this to be done correctly if someone else is installing the battery at a retailer/service center. The usual caveats apply!

Be sure the replacement meets or exceeds the spec of the OEM.

Trickle charge as suggested, if short trips are the primary usage. Suspect that Covid/work at home has contributed substantially to the higher level of failure.

Finally, and this one is a bit more challenging requiring specialist tool(s)..... more and more vehicles have computerized charging systems, particularly if they are of the Stop/Start variety. BMW have had this technology embedded for many years. Replacing the battery requires registering and possibly coding. To do this an appropriate scan tool or other device is required (not all scan tools can do this). Registering the battery tells the vehicle a new battery has been installed. As a result, the charging algorithm is adjusted. I think I am correct in saying aging batteries receive a higher charge rate. If the battery is NOT registered it will receive the higher rate charge. As a consequence, the life of the new battery will be shortened. Coding is needed in addition the registering if the battery spec. is different to the previous (OEM?) battery as the charging algorithm must also comply with the spec of the new battery.

Have talked with several of the chains and big box that sell car batteries. At the moment, sadly they are all behind the times and have NOT ventured into this territory. Once again, pays to educate oneself and DIY if you keep your vehicle for more than five or six years.

Hopefully this helps clarify things.
 
BMW OE batteries can get 7-9yrs. If any car is loaded with modules etc. is BMW.
It is all about quality of battery.
I'm wondering if the BMW OEM (Varta?) batteries are any different than the Varta AGM batteries they private label now for AC Delco, Interstate and WalMart other than the case colors? AC Delco, Interstate and Walmart AGMs are now seen with these curiously shaped white "made in Germany" stickers...assuming all three brands are made by Varta.
 

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I've never had a problem with cheap Walmart batteries in old cars. my dad got a bmw with problems, but no electrical issues, and every time you touch the car or walk past with the keys the headlights turn on and a bunch of relays and actuators start clicking and humming. after working on the car for a few hours with the keys on a cart near it the battery died. my car doesn't sense the key, and all the door lights are turned off, so you can leave the doors open overnight or the key in acc for hours and it starts right up.
 
I'm wondering if the BMW OEM (Varta?) batteries are any different than the Varta AGM batteries they private label now for AC Delco, Interstate and WalMart other than the case colors? AC Delco, Interstate and Walmart AGMs are now seen with these curiously shaped white "made in Germany" stickers...assuming all three brands are made by Varta.
I've wondered the same.

I've been unsuccessful at locating a manufacturer sku or some other identifier which I could cross-reference with my original or BMW dealer replacement battery
 
I wonder if there is truth to this. My summer car has a 12 year old battery in it that has not let me down. TWELVE years old. The only thing I do is disconnect the negative cable. I don’t even tender it. Been a great battery.
You should buy lottery tickets, Just sayin'
 
I wonder if there is truth to this. My summer car has a 12 year old battery in it that has not let me down. TWELVE years old. The only thing I do is disconnect the negative cable. I don’t even tender it. Been a great battery.
What brand is your 12 year old battery? I want one!
 
I'm wondering if the BMW OEM (Varta?) batteries are any different than the Varta AGM batteries they private label now for AC Delco, Interstate and WalMart other than the case colors? AC Delco, Interstate and Walmart AGMs are now seen with these curiously shaped white "made in Germany" stickers...assuming all three brands are made by Varta.
I am not sure origin matters. It is more about manufacturers specifications and QC. I highly doubt same battery is in BMW dealership and Wal Mart.
 
As others have said, modern cars have many computer modules that can kill a battery with parasitic load. It is such a problem that GM cars have a special "transport mode" that is enabled before a new car is shipped from the factory. This setting reduces the parasitic load on the battery. Once the dealer receives the car the setting is disabled.

I buy AGM batteries for longer life, higher reserve capacity, and no acid leaks. In addition, on our rarely used cars I run battery maintainers.

Things of note. Each time a battery is severely discharged, it will lose some of its capacity. This is such an issue that some manufacturers warn that the warranty is voided if allowed to be severely discharged due to parasitic drain. Also, if your battery is severely discharged, it is best to put a battery charger on it rather than to do a jump start and allow the alternator to recharge the battery. Many an alternator has been overheated doing this. Alternators are not cheap.

Modern cars have many computers and sensors that must have a supply of clean voltage that is in a fairly narrow range. An old battery can cause all sorts of check engine warnings/codes such as traction/stability control, ABS, etc. If you get a bunch of warnings and you have an older battery, replace it first. It might save you a bunch of money and aggravation.

Before deciding to disconnect a battery to keep a battery from being discharged due to parasitic drain, keep in mind that when a battery is disconnected the ECU monitors are reset and will require one or more drive cycles before the monitors are set to ready. This is a consideration for cars that must be emissions tested. Until the monitors are set to ready, the car will fail an emission test.

One last tip. On modern, negative grounded cars, when disconnecting battery cables be sure to disconnect the negative cable first, then the positive cable. When reconnecting, be sure to first connect the positive cable, then the negative cable. This is not only for safety. Modern car computer modules can be damaged if they receive a surge from connecting the positive battery cable last.
 
I think a lot of this may have more to do with the vehicles the batteries are going into and the conditions they are subjected to than the batteries themselves.

As others said, modern vehicles often have more parasitic draws than older vehicles. Also, the high tech "smart" charging systems we have been seeing lately are designed to keep the load on the engine as low as possible for MPG gains in simulated government test cycles, not to keep the battery alive for as long as possible. If a charging system doesn't fully charge the battery or cycles the battery for the sake of reducing engine load, it's longevity will suffer significantly in the long run.

Another factor I haven't seen mentioned yet is our deteriorating road infrastructure in many places. It's no secret that flooded lead acid batteries don't like getting vibrated and beat up like they do from hitting potholes all the time.
 
Another factor I haven't seen mentioned yet is our deteriorating road infrastructure in many places. It's no secret that flooded lead acid batteries don't like getting vibrated and beat up like they do from hitting potholes all the time.
Interesting point I had not considered.

I wonder if setting the battery on a makeshift bed of coil or leaf springs, would be good for the battery longevity, especially for off road vehicles?

For instance, a dozen springs from old oil filters cut open, affixed and sandwiched to thin boards, sandwiched under the battery?
 
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