Auto Service World
Feature   October 1, 2014   by Auto Service World

Complex Technology Driving Battery Sales

The number of consumers who install their own car battery is on the decline; in fact, the numbers have actually reversed. Less than a decade ago, more than 70% of consumers installed their own car battery. Today, almost 70% of consumers now rely on repair shops for installation.
This migration away from DIY is mainly due to the location of the battery in the vehicle and complex system requirements. Many vehicles now require additional steps when the battery is replaced. These steps may include electrical system management, component flashing and/or reprogramming.
“One of the reasons why more consumers are hesitant to install the battery themselves is the fact that many vehicles have to be flashed after the battery has been changed. It’s much more complicated than it used to be,” explains Robert Brault, regional sales director (East) for Exide Technologies. “For example, if you replace the battery in a 2010 Honda Civic and don’t flash the system, the voltage will be too high and it will burn out the battery in a period of about three months.”
While this new and growing dependency on automotive shops for battery replacement provides increased sales opportunities for both jobbers and technicians, the complexity of charging systems on newer vehicles also creates new challenges. It can often be difficult for technicians to learn the specifics of each vehicle’s charging system requirements, as this data is not always readily available.
“Through our analysis of trends at the retail level, we have found that consumers tend to migrate towards higher product upgrades. At the same time we have found that technicians often miss this window of opportunity,” adds Brault.
Today, consumers are better informed and their level of expectation is much greater. Fortunately, technology is available to support your recommendations. Several tools are available that include a battery state-of-health report.
“Battery testing should be part of the vehicle inspection that is usually performed during an oil change service. By taking the time to test the battery and provide the results to the consumer, not only do you provide peace of mind to the consumer, but you can also anticipate non-start situations before they occur. The solution becomes even more obvious when the consumer receives a periodic battery state-of-health report showing gradual deterioration. At some point in time, the decision is inevitable. Either they change their battery, or wait a little longer and risk being stranded and end up paying for additional services such as road assist,” says Brault.
Dealing With Battery Warranty Issues
According To Canadian Energy, education and prevention are two of the best tools you have to limit most warranty issues. Warranties may seem like a straightforward topic, but in many cases they are not. When a battery comes in for a warranty issue, the first priority is to diagnose the issue and find out why the product failed so you can avoid the issue happening again.
If the issue isn’t with the product, but due to a lack of proper testing equipment, improper care, using the wrong product for the application, or something else, work with the customer to ensure it won’t happen again.
Battery Is Discharged:
A battery is deemed discharged and not suitable for testing if the battery is below 12.60 volts (maintenance-free), or if you are getting a specific gravity reading below 1.260 per cell.
Solution: Charge battery to achieve 12.60 volts, and a specific gravity reading of 1.260. You can load-test the battery when the battery is 100% charged.
Battery Has One Dry Cell:
This is an indication of two things: either the battery has a shorted cell, or there is a puncture somewhere on the casing, usually caused by a pebble getting into the battery tray during use, or from installers not cleaning out the battery tray before installation. The pebble will sit there while the application vibrates, and will eventually create a small hole.
Solution: Pour water into the dry cell and wait a couple seconds; if the battery starts leaking then there was user error, and no warranty should be issued. Put a load on the battery using a carbon pile load tester if the cell does not leak. You should see bubbling in the cell, which indicates a short cell. Free replacement warranty should be issued in this case.
All Cells Are Dry In The Battery:
This is an indication of overcharging, or neglect to water the battery. No warranty should be issued.
Battery is overcharged:
There are a few distinctive indicators of overcharging. In flooded batteries, all the cells will be dry, or the electrolyte will be extremely muddy or black-looking. In AGM batteries the distinctive indicator is case bulging, labels melting off the battery, or the plastic around the posts are melting.
Frozen Batteries:
The battery’s cells (or one cell) will be frozen, or the case will be cracked due to thermal expansion. No warranty should be issued.
Solution: (If the battery has not cracked) Bring the battery inside, and let it thaw at room temperature. Once the battery has thawed, and hopefully hasn’t cracked, place on charge. (Never attempt to charge a frozen battery).
Battery Cells Have Varying Specific Gravity Readings:
Check each individual battery cell. Specific gravity should not vary more than .050 (or 50 points) between cells. If a cell varies more than 50 points, charge again. If this difference remains it could be an indication the cell with lower specific gravity reading has failed or could fail soon.
Terminal Damage:
If the battery returned for a warranty check has damage to the terminals, melted posts or broken, no warranty should be issued.
Shorted Cell:
If the battery is maintainable, look into the cells while load testing. If one of the cells bubbles, and the voltage catastrophically drops off, there is a short. Replace battery.

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