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Fragile Bird

Car battery question for the hive mind!

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Posted (edited)

I drive a Toyota Avalon. I’ve needed a battery boost 3 times in the last six months. The first two times the battery showed it had lots of life, this time it may have gotten worse.

My car has USB ports and I love to listen to audio books from my cell phone while I drive. I’m actually quite addicted to listening to books these days. I highly recommend A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms! But I was told the battery is getting drained because of this.

I had previously used a plug-in but saw on the internet plug-ins can be the culprits. I still keep one in the car, I just never leave it plugged in. I also have a USB cable that is always plugged in. Is the answer to the problem as simple as never leaving the cable plugged in? Is it draining the battery?

Anyone else have this problem?

Edited by Fragile Bird

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I don't think a USB cable by itself is a problem. Do you not take many long drives? From what I've heard, a car battery doesn't start recharging until about 20 minutes into a drive. Driving at high RPMs will help charging as well.

My wife's car battery ran out during a drive-in movie where we were supposed to keep the radio on to hear audio. After the jump (an employee of the theater said they had to jump five cars per night), I made sure to keep driving it around for a solid hour, gunning the engine up hills as much as possible, to ensure a healthy charge.

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Maybe that’s it, Dante, most of my driving is in the city. I use the highway once or twice a week. I had researched the issue the first time it happened. It was winter and I left the plug-in plugged in, and apparently they do draw power.

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17 minutes ago, Fragile Bird said:

Maybe that’s it, Dante, most of my driving is in the city. I use the highway once or twice a week. I had researched the issue the first time it happened. It was winter and I left the plug-in plugged in, and apparently they do draw power.

How old is the car and how old is the battery? And is the car a hybrid or fully gas-powered?

I don't think leaving the cable plugged in would be an issue unless you're leaving it plugged in for days without starting your car.

And driving on the highway a couple of times a week should be more than enough for your alternator to top off the charge, unless you're driving a hybrid, in which case I don't have nearly enough experience to accurately troubleshoot battery problems.

When you got a jump did you notice any corrosion on the battery posts or the battery cables? If so, you probably need a new battery. Also, if your car gets going after a jump, then you run it for a while and turn it off and it won't start again, then your battery isn't holding a charge.

If your car is relatively new and the battery is in good shape, then you might check and see if there is something else pulling power while the car is off, like an alarm system or something else.

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Thanks for that! There is no corrosion on the battery. It’s a used 2013 gas vehicle that I bought two years ago. I guess I’ll have the battery tested the next time I get an oil change.

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Yeah what DG said, a 'plug in' (I'm going to assume you mean it's running directly off the cigarette lighter DC plug,  and not an inverter switching to AC / household current) won't be enough to drain a battery.  

Get the battery tested, and get the alternator tested.  Probably just an old battery.  

 

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Ever leave your headlights on by mistake? Someone once drove my car and changed the settings from auto to 'regular' I guess, and the lights were running (even when I was at work, so I had to get a jump). Headlights for 8 hours can drain the battery completely, so thats the kind of power/energy draw we are talking about. A plug-in doesnt seem to be in the same order of magnitude.

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Sounds to me like the alternator is not working right, or is only working intermittently.  But I am not a mechanic.  I'd have someone with a volt meter check it out, like ThinkerX said.

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Not an expert, but the car is six years old. Probably still the first battery, which has just reached the end of its lifespan.

 

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On 6/22/2019 at 3:38 PM, Fragile Bird said:

Thanks for that! There is no corrosion on the battery. It’s a used 2013 gas vehicle that I bought two years ago. I guess I’ll have the battery tested the next time I get an oil change.

Birdie, take the car up the 400 to Wasaga or Georgian Bay on the Canada Day weekend. Catch the Stones even.  That will charge your battery. City driving does not help.

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4 hours ago, Loge said:

Not an expert, but the car is six years old. Probably still the first battery, which has just reached the end of its lifespan.

 

That was my thought too.  If you get similar problems with a new battery then it’s time to check the alternator. 

I don’t know how expensive are the various diagnostics, nor whether you trust your mechanic.  Probably the most economical path is to replace a battery close to end of natural life rather than spend money on diagnostics first and then probably replace the battery anyway within a few months.

(plug-ins shouldn’t drain a battery like that unless you use them a lot compared to actual drive time)

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4 hours ago, Fragile Bird said:

Well here’s another question, should I get. Toyota battery? 

Hopefully Toyota wouldn’t charge a huge mark-up like BMW, but even so you can probably get best value from any quality car parts store.  You definitely don’t need to pay the dealership premium or installation charge.

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Check your dimmer switches on all lights. You could be using juice and not even know it. 

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On 6/22/2019 at 5:06 PM, larrytheimp said:

Get the battery tested, and get the alternator tested.  Probably just an old battery.  

 

This. If it's  a 2013 vehicle with an original battery, then the battery has surpassed its life and is just on the edge of dying entirely. Getting 6 years out of a battery is pretty normal. 

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On 6/24/2019 at 10:52 AM, Fragile Bird said:

Well here’s another question, should I get. Toyota battery? 

anymore, you walk into the parts store, give the make/model/year of the vehicle, and the staff (if competent) will pull the recommended battery right off the shelf.  

 

another thing to check is battery clamps. sometimes these corrode from the inside, causing connectivity issues.  baking soda/vinegar on bad spots, followed by wire brushing ($3 tool for that)

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