Dealer says "Car battery is weak" - replace now?

My wife brought her 05 Honda Odyssey in for an oil change yesterday. It’s one of the models without a published service schedule - it just pops up alarms when it’s time to do service. Anyway, she brought it to the dealer, who told her that “the battery is weak.” To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never had anyone test a battery before. They wanted some ungodly amount to replace the battery, so she declined. But is it worth it to either have it tested independently, or just go ahead and replace it myself? It’s the battery that with the car when it was new. The car starts fine, and she’s got jumper cables, and a AAA membership. I’ve never pre-emptively changed a battery before - I’ve always just waited till the car wouldn’t start, gotten a jump, and driven to Sears for a new one.

At 5 years old, he’s probably right. The longest I’ve ever got out of a battery was 6 years.

Like the old ads used to say “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.”

Incidentally, changing a battery yourself is one of the easiest things to do, car maintenance-wise. Why pay someone else?

The life of a modern car battery is about 4 years. They don’t fade away like older batteries so there is little warning. This is due to the closer spacing of the plates inside (gives the battery more power). I’ve had many batteries turn over the engine with the normal amount of power and then fail mid-start. Winter is a bad time to find this out.

Ask them what the voltage is.

You can have it tested at many auto parts stores.

I don’t follow this – no published service schedule? The schedule is certainly in my repair info, and I find it hard to believe it’s not in the owner’s manual or an accompanying booklet. Regardless, I’ve never seen a battery referred to in a maintenance schedule, so I don’t get the relevance.

It makes sense to me to replace the battery now. Just its being five years old is probably sufficient justification. The fee for another test probably costs more than the value of however more months of service the battery might give if it’s actually not weak, so I don’t see where anything is gained by doing that.

While it’s nice to have jumper cables and AAA, it’s a whole lot nicer not to have the car fail to start. I suspect your wife may not be as willing as you seem to be to have the battery give out on her, especially if it happens at a place and time where getting the problem resolved isn’t quick and easy (e.g., big storm with 3 hour wait for AAA). I’d say pre-emptive replacement is a good idea.

Its a judement call. A weak battery may do it’s job well enough for another 2 years or it could on a fast downward spiral. If you’re planning on driving anywhere out of town, I’d change the battery.

If you don’t believe the mechanic, take it somewhere else and have them test it.

Then change it yourself if you need to, you’ll save by getting a better price (probably) by choosing your battery source and by not paying the $10-15 (or more) labor. Some places do change batteries with no labor cost but they make up for it in retail markup. It works the other way too, many places markup to cover the costs of the “free installation”

Get a second opinion. When you take your car to a dealer there is ALWAYS something that needs replacement and they just happen to know which items are not covered by your warrenty. Last time my wife went to the dealer the told her that her 3 year old hand break cable was worn and needed replace, which would be very expensive because of it’s location. Two independent mechanics couldn’t figure out what they were talking about but they offered to replace the cable if we wanted for about a third of the dealer price.

Can’t hurt to replace a battery though. Just for fun, ask the dealer what it costs, then go to an auto parts store and ask. The difference will be shocking. The auto parts store will probably even help you put it in, a 5 minute job.

Yes, they always find work to do, but not sure what your point is there–the dealer gets paid for warranty repairs by the manufacturer.

Thanks - I guess replacing it is the way to go. I’ve always done the labor myself anyway, so paying the dealer markup on the battery plus the 1 hour of labor they were quoting her simply wasn’t going to happen.

GaryT, I know its hard to believe, but there is no service schedule anywhere in any of the documentation that came with the car – trust me, I’ve looked for it. It just pops up “Service engine soon” with a code on the display, which you then lookup in the manual to see what service is needed. The most common is “A1”, which is just an oil change. The dealer doesn’t charge much more than a JiffyLube for an oil change, and it’s next to the mall, so she goes there. I have no idea why they tested the battery this time, or if they always test it, or what.

Many auto parts stores will check the battery and let you see how they stack up before purchasing a new one. Some will even replace them for free. That’s definitely the way to go.

One of the advantages of having your auto parts store install the battery is they dispose of the old one.
Most also install air filters, wipers and such for free.

If I lived in a cold climate and thought my battery was on its last leg, I’d replace it. Waiting one errand too long could mean the price of a tow added on to the cost of the battery. Agree with others…do it yourself.

You might want to check to see if the car radio has a “code” before you replace your battery.

Not sure if it’s just state law or nationwide, but at least in Indiana, any place that sells car batteries (and other car parts) has to take the old one back for recycling, not just the places that install. Stores that sell parts to DIYers charge a nominal “core” fee at purchase that is refunded when you bring in the old battery/part; if you’re the kind (like me) who pulls into the parking lot, unbolts the battery, and hauls it in when buying the replacement, they just take the old one and waive the core charge.

Yes, Honda’s been going with this “oil wear” model on many models. The idea is that they calculate the remaining “lifetime” of the oil by keeping track of temperatures, revolutions, and such. Thus, the easygoing guy who drives moderately might get 8000 miles between oil changes, whereas the guy who jackrabbits everywhere at 6000 rpm without warming up in the middle of a hard winter may have that light go on after 4000.

You’re probably right.

See, I’m the kind of guy who buys the battery, takes it home and installs it, then lets the old one sit in my garage for a year or two. So I take advantage of the free install, no battery in my garage :slight_smile:

5 years is about it. Take it to Sears or Costco or some place.

Battery replaced, at a 31% saving over the dealer price. Install included. The installer valiantly tried to preserve my radio settings & security code with one of those cigarette lighter battery chargers, but in vain.

Battery’s are flying off the shelves at the auto parts store I work at part time(CarQuest). And yes we will do a test on your battery for free. The test will prove a bad battery bad but will not prove a good battery good:dubious:
as for changing it out, well now, its not a practice, but it can happen;)
muldoon, what was your out the door cost? and battery number?

My most recent battery crapped out at just under 2 years. At 5 years, in the winter, you would be nuts not to replace it. Wifey would never forgive you if it stranded her somewhere.