Battery quality and battery myths

Posted on 05 Nov 2014 by

Like most businesses, the battery ocean has a few sharks swimming around. The other day I heard of someone who had purchased 4 batteries for his golf cart about 6 months ago - got them very cheap from an online company with no retail store - and they now need replacing again. The reason? The on-line store buys direct from the USA factory, and buys their OLD STOCK at a great price. These batteries were 2 years old when the customer got them, and had sat in a state of partial discharge for most of that time. If you sense something is too good to be true, you'll probably smell a rat at the same time. 

Today I spoke to someone who has a diesel ute, one that is notoriously demanding to start, and he wanted the cheapest battery that would fit in, even though it wouldn't really be powerful enough to start the ute after a few months of use. He was going on a trip into the desert, with his tent and no spare battery. I genuinely don't like turning business away, but I also don't want to be responsible for someone stranded in dangerous conditions. There is a huge difference between poorly made batteries and well made batteries. The easiest way to get big power out of a car battery is for the manufacturer to use excessively strong acid, or very thin lead plates so that there is plenty of surface area contact with the acid, or even both at once. The result? A battery that has high cranking amps today and is rapidly dissolving, internally, into a mush of acidic deposits, and on the way to an early failure.

We get asked about cranking amps a lot (in the same way that people used to ask for a "heavy duty" battery, which was largely a marketing gimmick). A manufacturer can make a high quality battery with high cranking amps, but it will cost. The truth is that the average ute has a battery that had about 650 cold cranking amps when new and, after a couple of years, it might have 350 cold cranking amps. That's still enough to start the engine in most cases, and a well made battery with lower cranking amps will have far more cranking amps after 2 years than a cheap battery with initially higher cranking amps of the same age. Unless there is a very special reason, the CCA of a battery isn't of much importance in the buying decision.

We're recycling a couple of tonnes or so of batteries each week in our Warriewood store, and we see which batteries fail before they should. We know what brands we are likely to see when we open a bonnet on a cold morning, or a very hot day, and we won't sell those brands. We won't say which they are, but if we sell a brand then you can be sure we're happy with it, and we'd use it ourselves. We reckon that if we sell something that we are personally happy with, at a skinny margin so you get great value, we'll see you again, hopefully for a battery for something else, and you might recommend us to other people too. Whales tend to grow big and live a long time. We'd rather be whales than sharks!