Car battery died and I lost settings. Can I replace it myself?

I’m in Minnesota, so I buy heavy-duty cold weather batteries, and the cars are in the garage at night. Still, I usually get 3-5 years on a battery. I test the voltage much like @QuickSilver describes above. My alternator died last spring, but that’s a different story.

I’d say if your back and neck bother you, take it to a shop. Batteries are heavy and awkwardly placed, plus you need to bend over under the hood for a period of time. Or if you have a teenager at home, make him/her do the work under your supervision (my new approach).

Many auto part stores will run a free system diagnostic to check the battery, alternator, and starter. If you have troubles starting your car in the future, the first place you should drive is a nearby auto parts store for a quick check to see if everything is okay.

That’s cool you were able to do a rolling start with the clutch. I remember doing that a lot when I was a broke student with a crappy car. I guess that’s going to soon be a lost skill since fewer cars are being made with manual transmissions anymore.

In my experience 3.5 years is in the expected range for the crappy manufacturer installed battery, followed by one replacement battery that lasts until I get rid of the car.

Car batteries have settings now? Man, do I feel old. :frowning:

I haven’t had that for a long time. But my daughter does. Maybe I could make him come over.

Yes, you can just replace the battery like in an older car. If you are sure that is what is wrong. Some things will get cleared, like engine trouble codes, every other setting should restore.

Your description of the power to start the engine getting weaker each time you start it says to me that it is not the battery. It is in the charging system. Maybe alternator. Maybe just faulty connections. If your charging system is working well it should keep even a weak old battery charged.

Do it! Inter-generational bonding, and he learns the basics of replacing the battery. If you do this, make sure you take him there to buy the thing, and to return the core. I dunno why I don’t just take a 10MM wrench with me and change the battery at the store, I just don’t. So, I have to make two trips.

BTW: I double checked with my wife, and her 2017 Outback needed a new battery at, you guessed it, 3.5 years.

I did this once at Sears–changed the battery in the parking lot. It wasn’t very cold, and it was an easy car to change the battery. Saved a trip. My current car (Mazda) is a pain to change the battery.

I’ve actually done it more than once (in Texas, it’s a rare day that it’s too cold or hot to change a battery in the middle of a parking lot). In my old cars, I generally carried at least a 1/2" and a 9/16" wrench for that kind of purpose. Unusually for someone as untidy as me, I think I stopped because I want to clean my hands before jumping back in my car after changing a battery. I’ve ruined too many pairs of pants in the same method as kayaker damaged his shorts.

Auto parts stores will also swap out the battery for free (at least the ones around here do).

If I got 3.5 years out of a battery here in Phoenix I would be ecstatic. Two years is typical for me.

Yup. Advance Auto and Autozone will do it for free.

They’ll also check your charging system to see if there’s anything going on. I don’t know if their testing is reliable or not.

Have most of your trips been short? In these Covid times, I can imagine people’s batteries dying more quickly than usual because they aren’t driving enough to keep them fully charged.

The OP’s question made me wonder: on a modern car, what settings does one have to worry about losing? The clock, obviously, but that’s easy to reset. What, if anything, is there that could actually cause problems?

Nothing to cause any real problems beyond some inconvenience. Trip computers that track not just mileage but total hours the engine has been running and average mileage. Seat memory/driver position settings. Tailgate height for SUVs. Drive mode settings. Etc.

One thing to be aware of (check with the appropriate car forum or your dealer/mechanic) is that the charging profile for car batteries differ based on their construction and some vehicles can be altered to accommodate them. AGM and deep cycle batteries don’t charge the same way as the old plate style lead acid batteries so if you’re planning on replacing with something like an Optima it definitely won’t hurt to check that.

Second, like washing machines in N America, car batteries are made by only a few manufacturers, as noted in the link, So the idea that the OEM batteries are somehow not as good is just bias, IMO.

Last, it isn’t cold that kills batteries, it’s heat. Having said that extreme cold will freeze a weak battery and damage it internally. Cold reduces the batteries ability to produce output but heat is the killer, which is whey cooler climates can get away with replacing them at longer intervals all things being equal.

Good point, and it has me a bit mystified. On Saturday we drove, now that I make better accounting of it, about 100 miles, during which I think we stopped three times. Each of those 3 times when I started the engine, I noticed that it turned over less vigorously than usual, and progressively worse, before it ignited (but everything else seemed normal). Then it was parked in my driveway for an hour or so. Next I used the car to fill my diesel fuel cans at a gas station about 3/4 mile away. But I also kept having to restart, because the one gas station pump didn’t work, and then because I had to reposition to get the hose to reach. The more sluggish cranking got worse and worse. I brought the fuel home and transferred it and then made a second trip to the gas station, and it was on this second trip that the starter wouldn’t turn the engine and the starter solenoid fluttered, so I rolled down the hill to start, and kept the engine running at the gas station, and came home again. So at that point I’m figuring there’s no way it would start, because it couldn’t turn the engine and then I only drove 1.5 miles. It sat all day Sunday, and this morning I arranged a local shop to come get it.

But once the pickup was arranged, just out of curiosity, I tried starting again. And it started. Three times in a row. I don’t think it spun the engine quite as vigorously as I’m used to, but it didn’t struggle. So now I don’t know what to think.

Some car stereos have a security code that has to be entered into them again if battery voltage is ever absent on a particular input. This is to deter theft: the idea is that if the thief steals your car radio, it’s useless to him since he doesn’t have the code, so he won’t bother stealing it in the first place (this of course requires him to know in advance that your radio is the kind that requires such a code). So yeah, when you swap out your battery, the radio won’t run again until you put in that code. Th code is supposed to be included in the paperwork when you buy a new car, but of course it’s one more thing to lose over the years.

Lately I’ve used Batteries Plus to replace my car batteries. They will test it first to make sure it really is bad, and they’ll do the replacement for you, assuming you can get there car there.

When I’ve comparison shopped, they’ve been competitive.

It may be the heat that damages them, but every time I’ve had a battery die, it’s been in cold weather, like -20C or lower. I guess it depends what you mean by cooler climates, but my range is 3 years, maybe 4, which seems to match the comments in this thread from people down in Phoenix and similar points south.

I think the life a battery wishes for is to be stored in the refrigerator, and brought out and warmed up on a hot day when it’s time to start the motor, because at lower temp the battery does everything more slowly, including delivering power and aging. Besides, colder motors are harder to spin and slower to ignite.

So the worst case for a battery is baking under a hot hood all summer long, and then having to start the car on winter mornings when the temperature is its very lowest.

This. The summer is hard on a battery, but it’s the winters that kill them.