Car Battery Died

Our truck’s battery completely died on Friday. It was difficult to start in the morning. It had that drained battery slow crank. The battery is a gel-type, so there wasn’t much I could do. I made sure the charging voltage was at 14 volts prior to reaching this conclusion.

I set out for work in the morning and noticed that the engine nearly died each time it down shifted. Apparently the fuel injection needs some power assist from the battery when the engine revs drop. Once the engine warmed, this symptom went away.

I made it to work OK. There is a Costco within walking distance of our work, so I wandered over there at lunch. They had one gel-cell battery in stock that might have fit, but the cost was $190 and it was a slightly strange non-rectangular shape. I went back to work without a battery.

At the end of the day, I barely got the truck started. Since it had been having that stalling problem with the fuel injection, I let the engine warm up for around 10 minutes. I started home, and sure enough, it came close to stalling each time the engine downshifted.

I got on the freeway and figured I was home free. Traffic backed up in a few places and I almost stalled again. I made it to my off ramp and made it through the first light. I could sense I was not going to make it through any more downshifts, though. The battery was apparently that dead and not holding any charge. I turned off on the first side street and as the engine died I shifted into neutral. There were a bunch of cars parked along the curb as I coasted along. I came along side a space and stopped the truck. I had to park by turning the steering wheel, getting out and pushing, re-turning the steering wheel, and pushing some more. (Turning the steering wheel was not easy, because the power steering does not work with the engine off.) I got it parked OK with a few of these turn and push cycles.

I ended up walking home from there, 2.7 miles. I used our other car to drive to the truck the next day. I removed the battery and drove off to the auto parts store to get a replacement. At first they tried to sell me a different-sized battery. No thanks. The sales person called over the more-experience person. He still tried to tell me the different-sized battery would work. I acknowledged that it probably had the cranking and ampere-hours I needed, but I did not want the hassles of an incorrectly-sized battery. They eventually found the correct replacement at another store. Cost was $90.

The moral of this story is that gel batteries do not give much warning prior to failure. If it appears to be dying, and the charging system is working correctly, get a replacement immediately. Also, Costco has great prices for a lot of things, including regular batteries, But they are not the best for everything.