checking "maintenance free" battery

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Old 12-02-14, 10:11 AM
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checking "maintenance free" battery

Have a recently acquired Kia Optima (2005) four cylinder car with a battery in it like this: NAPA AUTO PARTS
The punched-out sticker label on the battery is Sept 2012 and it's a 75-month battery so I figured that means it's supposed to last 6 years and three months from Sept 2012 which would be December 2018. I'm currently having no issues with the battery but would like to determine for sure whether it's adequately charged and in good condition (gonna start the car fine throughout the upcoming winter months and beyond) or if there's anything I could do in regard to checking under those cell caps it has on top even though its considered a "maintenance free" battery in regard to checking for fluid or adding any or whatever. Any comments/advice appreciated. thanks
 
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Old 12-02-14, 11:01 AM
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If the battery has a sealed top you can't add or check the electrolyte level. All you can check is the voltage and/or do a load test. As with all batteries, check/clean the terminals as needed.
 
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Old 12-02-14, 11:51 AM
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If the battery has a sealed top you can't add or check the electrolyte level.
Well it has two long caps that can be pried off, probably each one covering three cells. I could pry them off I suppose and look in there. But it's called a maintenance-free battery so I'm unclear about what that means if I need to be possibly checking/adding electrolyte.
Insofar as checking/cleaning terminals, sure I know about that and have no questions in that regard. Plus, the local auto parts store I think will do a load test on it for free if I bring it in. I guess what I'm wondering about most is what I'm looking for if I pop those caps, what to check, what to add if anything.
 
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Old 12-02-14, 01:39 PM
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Your battery because it has the removable cap bars can be maintained. My opinion on "maintenance free" is that this is a marketing term. You can add distilled water to the cells just like in the days before the term. Only add the distilled water until the water level just touches the split ring that extends down from the opening. As in the picture below. Do not use tap water.

 
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Old 12-02-14, 01:39 PM
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I've always added tap water but they say you should use distilled water. Are you sure it's a cap that will pop off? I've never seen a maintenance free battery that had removable caps. I would never buy a maintenance free battery but sometimes you have to deal with what comes with the vehicle purchase
 
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Old 12-02-14, 02:04 PM
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Are you sure it's a cap that will pop off?
Two caps, long bar type. Each would cover three cells. Looks like they could be pried off with a screwdriver, designed to be able to be removed. Like the napa link I posted, they call this a maintenance-free battery but like Gibbsm said yeah just a marketing term meant to throw people like me off. I'll try to double check and see for sure whether those long bar caps indeed are supposed to be able to come off if need be, maybe not. Dang newfangled batteries anyway. I might even take a picture of the top of the dang thing and post it here so ya'll can see.
 
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Old 12-02-14, 02:07 PM
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Your battery because it has the removable cap bars can be maintained. My opinion on "maintenance free" is that this is a marketing term. You can add distilled water to the cells just like in the days before the term. Only add the distilled water until the water level just touches the split ring that extends down from the opening
If I remove those cap bars and take a look, I'm guessing the fluid level will be fine, but we'll see. Plus, probably might take it in to the auto parts store and have em put it on the load tester doohickey and see how that all turns out. thanks
 
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Old 12-05-14, 03:25 PM
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Those caps do indeed come off, three cells under each. The marketing for these particular battery states: "Features and Benefits: Maintenance Free Under Normal Operating Conditions"
The "operating conditions" have always been what I'd consider "normal" for the life of this battery. And in that case, because they're "maintenance free" I shouldn't have to "maintain" them. So guess I just won't. Might wish I did though, some day. Hope not.
 
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Old 12-05-14, 03:38 PM
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Lead acid batteries are no longer built to the same standards we once had here in the States.
Four to five years is now good for a lead acid battery.

That Legend battery has an 18 month free exchange if it's defective. After 18 months it's replaced on a prorated basis. That means they divide the remaining months into the price of a new battery. By the time that battery gets to 75 months.... it would be cheaper to just replace it and start with a fresh battery. Under most warranties... a battery is only replaced once under its original warranty and the warranty months don't start over.
 
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Old 12-05-14, 04:01 PM
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Thanks PJmax. Yes, the guy at NAPA pretty much explained just as you did to me the specifics about the warranty on the battery when I thought to ask him little about it when I was in there just today. So, based on the info you just shared in your last post, if at least four to five good years is what I should expect for this battery, I shouldn't have to think much more about it until at least Sept 2016 (four years from punched-out date on battery sticker/label). I'll mark it on my calendar.
 
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Old 12-06-14, 03:43 AM
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Since the cap pops off - I'd check and add water if needed. If the electrolyte level goes down it can shorten the life of the battery, keeping the level where it's supposed to be should extend the life. Excessive discharging/charging will lower the electrolyte level.

I generally get 8-10 yrs out of a battery on my older vehicles [not a lot of electronics] although I don't expect the battery in newer vehicles to last that long
 
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Old 12-06-14, 04:16 AM
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As previously mentioned, the lifespan of a battery is also determined on how it's maintained. As others have said; allowing the electrolyte level to drop below the top of the plates can and will shorten battery life (maintenance free batteries are, or course, less prone to this under normal use). You can also expect a shorter lifespan if you and/or the previous owner allowed the battery to discharge excessively (due to extended periods of sitting and/or charging system problems).

As a precaution I often replace the battery in most of my used vehicle purchases regardless of the "punch out" date (this is especially true if my wife or daughter is going to use the vehicle). The trouble and cost of dealing with a dead battery while on the road is often more than the cost of a replacement battery imo.

Note: one symptom of an over discharged damaged battery is that it will drop well below a 50% charge rate (i.e. ~ 12.45v) in less than 10 days or so. Also keep in mind that weak batteries can cause the alternator to work harder than normal (which can lead to premature alt. failure).
 
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Old 12-06-14, 03:57 PM
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Since the cap pops off - I'd check and add water if needed. If the electrolyte level goes down it can shorten the life of the battery, keeping the level where it's supposed to be should extend the life. Excessive discharging/charging will lower the electrolyte level.
I generally get 8-10 yrs out of a battery on my older vehicles [not a lot of electronics] although I don't expect the battery in newer vehicles to last that long
^Ok marksr I'll check the levels and add water (distilled!) if needed. I've no clue whether there has ever been excessive discharging/charging with this battery, but I assume not anything "excessive". Just an assumption though. The vehicle year is 2005 (Kia Optima LX) so has some electronics of course but not what might be considered "a lot" especially if compared to newer models/makes. So if I'm lucky I might get 8-10 years out of this battery if it's in good shape and if I keep it maintained (despite it being "no-maintenance"), I guess. Thanks.

As previously mentioned, the lifespan of a battery is also determined on how it's maintained. As others have said; allowing the electrolyte level to drop below the top of the plates can and will shorten battery life (maintenance free batteries are, or course, less prone to this under normal use). You can also expect a shorter lifespan if you and/or the previous owner allowed the battery to discharge excessively (due to extended periods of sitting and/or charging system problems). As a precaution I often replace the battery in most of my used vehicle purchases regardless of the "punch out" date (this is especially true if my wife or daughter is going to use the vehicle). The trouble and cost of dealing with a dead battery while on the road is often more than the cost of a replacement battery imo. Note: one symptom of an over discharged damaged battery is that it will drop well below a 50% charge rate (i.e. ~ 12.45v) in less than 10 days or so. Also keep in mind that weak batteries can cause the alternator to work harder than normal (which can lead to premature alt. failure).
^Okay FMB42, so if I am understanding correctly, "maintenance-free" batteries are less prone to the electrolyte level to dropping below the top of the plates than regular (or non-maintenance-free) batteries. Still prone, but just less prone to some certain extent apparently. And it sounds as if it's not a good idea to let the battery "sit" for extended periods either, but what might be considered an extended period? Couple of weeks or a couple of months or longer? And, I too definitely want to avoid the inconvenience/hassle/cost of dealing with a dead battery while on the road. But wouldn't it be reasonable to go ahead and rely on the battery from this used vehicle if after I test it (or have it "professionally" tested, maybe a load test at the auto parts store or something like that) and all turns out with a clean bill of health (instead of running out and buying a new replacement battery -- maybe unnecessarily -- just as a precaution)? Thanks.
 
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Old 12-06-14, 04:49 PM
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Just my opinion, but I don't want to be inconvenienced by a dead battery whether at home or on the road somewhere. I like to buy the best battery, usually with a 3 year free replacement warranty, and will replace that battery after 3 winters. I may spend a little more, but I haven't been stranded or had to call for a jump or tow in years. I had one occasion where the battery was 3 years and a few weeks old when it went south, but luckily I was in a position where I could get a free jump and went directly to get a prorated replacement. I prefer batteries manufactured by Johnson Controls. Sam's Club is my choice of battery vendors.
 
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Old 12-06-14, 05:16 PM
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Just my opinion, but I don't want to be inconvenienced by a dead battery whether at home or on the road somewhere. I like to buy the best battery, usually with a 3 year free replacement warranty, and will replace that battery after 3 winters. I may spend a little more, but I haven't been stranded or had to call for a jump or tow in years. I had one occasion where the battery was 3 years and a few weeks old when it went south, but luckily I was in a position where I could get a free jump and went directly to get a prorated replacement. I prefer batteries manufactured by Johnson Controls. Sam's Club is my choice of battery vendors.
Thanks for the comments CasualJoe. Probably a sensible approach you take there; I'll consider going that route too. And yeah now that you mention Sam's Club (called Walmart here in my neck of the woods), I bought one of those EverStart brands from there before. I'm pretty sure it was manufactured by Johnson Controls. It provided me great service, I never had any issues with it.
 
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Old 12-06-14, 05:24 PM
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The one battery I had crap out at 3 years and a few weeks was also a yellow Everstart from Walmart. I am not saying they aren't a good battery, but that it was probably a fluke. Johnson Controls makes a lot of those yellow batteries, but not all of them. Even the best manufacturers have a few lemons. The last two batteries I bought at Sam's Club were Energizer branded by Johnson Controls; no problems so far.
 
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Old 12-06-14, 05:55 PM
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Hmm, I can't recall whether my EverStart was yellow. If it was then I'm pretty sure it wasn't one of the "lemon yellow" ones anyway.
 
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Old 12-07-14, 04:32 AM
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But wouldn't it be reasonable to go ahead and rely on the battery from this used vehicle if after I test it (or have it "professionally" tested, maybe a load test at the auto parts store or something like that) and all turns out with a clean bill of health (instead of running out and buying a new replacement battery -- maybe unnecessarily -- just as a precaution)?
IMO if the battery will pass a load test, it shouldn't give you any problems BUT cold temps are harder on a battery than warmer temps along with cold/thick oil making it harder to start an engine!
 
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Old 12-07-14, 06:35 AM
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IMO if the battery will pass a load test, it shouldn't give you any problems BUT cold temps are harder on a battery than warmer temps along with cold/thick oil making it harder to start an engine!
Well, in my location, typically coldest temps are down to 10 degrees for periods sometimes lasting several days usually in January or February -- cold of course but probably not considered extreme. My experiences over the years with my car(s) left outdoors (with no block heater used, although might not be a bad idea for these periods) is that they start fine with average batteries that have had no particularly close attention paid to their maintenance. Although there HAVE been the occasional no starts because of old tired batteries, for which the remedy is usually having to go buy a replacement after having gone through the inconvenience of the no-start (which is what I'd like to do what I can to try to avoid in the future by maybe paying closer attention to battery maintenance/condition).
 
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Old 12-07-14, 06:37 AM
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cold temps are harder on a battery than warmer temps along with cold/thick oil making it harder to start an engine!
I disagree with that. I believe there are more batteries that die in hot weather than in cold. Many of the batteries that get replaced in cold weather aren't really bad, but just won't turn over a cold engine with thick oil like a new battery and actually test as good. When a battery dies in hot weather it's really dead.
 
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Old 12-07-14, 07:03 AM
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Many of the batteries that get replaced in cold weather aren't really bad, but just won't turn over a cold engine with thick oil like a new battery and actually test as good.
^How "new"? Three years... ?
 
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Old 12-07-14, 08:22 AM
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Most "experts" that I have heard agree that hot weather weather is harder on batteries, but that there are a number of other factors, which cause many to think otherwise. The fact that it takes more power to crank a cold engine is relatively obvious, but, with colder engines, you also have more condensation. This isn't as much of a factor with points being a thing of the past, but it also affects things like distributor caps, plugged connectors, etc. Also, the days are generally shorter in the winter, so headlights may be on a higher percentage of the time (not as much of a case any more with more vehicles having daytime running lights), defrosters and wipers often operating more frequently, and many of us try to reduce the number of trips when the roads are bad, often at reduced speeds, so the draw on the electrical system is often greater, putting more demand on the charging system, and not giving it enough time to fully recharge the battery.
 
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Old 12-07-14, 11:05 AM
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^How "new"? Three years... ?
My intent using the word "New" was meant to mean 1 to 3 months after manufacture or right after you buy it new. That doesn't mean to say that a lot of 3 year old batteries won't turn over an engine almost like a new one because many will.
 
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