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Old 10-18-2010, 07:30 AM   #1
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Why Are Batteries Not Maintenance Free

My sister-in-law just got a 2003 9-3 arc turbo. I am a little bit of a car guy, but have never seen the inside of a Saab before (or underside or underhood) and I am impressed with it. However, the 2-yr old saab battery won't hold a charge now, and I notice that it has a vented compartment and what looks like removable caps on top of refillable cells. I am surprised to see that. I thought all batteries were maintenance free now. Why does Saab continue to use the old style ?
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Old 10-18-2010, 07:53 AM   #2
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I'm not sure they make automotive batteries that need to be maintained anymore unless they are some cheapo battery...which would explain why it won't hold a charge after only 2 years. Small engine batteries often allow for the addition of additional acid. Many batteries do have the caps still and vents, but it usually states to never remove the caps and the vent is just to get rid of excess off gassing from the continuous chemical reaction going on inside the battery.

I would suggest taking the car into a sears and get the diehard service done. They will test your current battery to see if it's still good. If not get a new one, diehard is now made by East Penn Manufacturing out of Fleetwood, PA area. On a side note, they are the number one lead recycler in the US and treat their employees well. Also, the battery warranties are hard to beat.

After they test your battery/replace it if needed they will run a starting system test as well as a charging system test to ensure the battery being dead isn't cause by a bad alternator, ground, key off drain, etc. it's $14.99 and well worth it in my opinion....Yes, I do work at a Sears Autocenter part time, but it truly is worth the time and money.
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Old 10-18-2010, 07:56 AM   #3
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That's an AC Delco / General Motors battery, have been for quite a while, and they stop holding a charge after a few years. The 9-3SS like your sister-in-laws car puts a really heavy load on the charging system from all the onboard electronics and it wasn't uncommon for them to have batteries replaced even during the warranty period.

Are you sure hers is only 2 years old?

If you're used to working on cars you can pry the caps off and drain out the old battery acid and fill with fresh and see if that takes some of the junk off the plates and brings it back - I've heard you can still get it at NAPA.

Otherwise just swap it out for a higher quality battery. In the SS even the Interstate batteries don't seem to last real long.

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Old 10-18-2010, 08:23 AM   #4
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I'm confused about the saab battery. Did she get that battery from the dealer or something? Since the car is a 2003 and its 2010 its not the original right, that would be 7 yrs old.

When I worked at Autozone, I saw a fair number of the AC/delco sealed batteries come in for replacement. By no means is that a comprehensive survey of battery quality, but that does stick out in my head for some reason.

I've had some luck pulling the caps off and topping off the acid inside. I've even put water in (your supposed to use distilled water) and gave it a good slow charge and brought some back to life, even for just a short time (like 3 months). It may buy you some time if needed, but don't count on it.

edit: pulling the caps off a non-sealed one that is.....
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Old 10-18-2010, 03:19 PM   #5
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Our '04 9-3 had the battery replaced under warranty (in '07 when we got it), and so far so good... However I'm sure I just jinxed myself by saying that... lol
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Old 10-20-2010, 09:06 AM   #6
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Thanks for the info and advice. I'm apparently not as much a car guy as i thought - or just getting old and senile... Turns out the battery in question is a maintenance free one, just with big elevated caps and a drain tube. I suppose that makes sense when taken in the context of what I am finding to be the Saab design philosophy - redundancy and conservative margins in design engineering. An FSM i got says the heavy-duty covered battery box is to keep the battery from getting hot, as is the dedicated air intake to the box from the front grill. The extraordinarily vented battery i suppose is just in case the battery gets hot anyway, and can then easily vent its gases (out the tube). I didn't know it got so hot in Sweden?!

I put a new battery in from Advance Auto (specs call for exactly the same type/style as oem), and car is fine now.
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Old 10-20-2010, 03:17 PM   #7
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Maintenance free batteries for the most part are junk (start flames). I prefer batteries that require maintenance. They will generally last longer as long as you do the proper maintenance, like add distilled water when the levels get low. The problem is that 99% of people never do battery maintenance, run them dry, or add tap water, which in the long run damages the cells.

The battery I run is the top of the line NAPA gold that requires maintenance. On my Jeep I went through two Red Top Optima batteries, which overheated when I drained them using my winch, then were junk as they wouldn't hold charge. I changed it to a NAPA Gold, and even after I drain the battery with the winch it will hold charge again.
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Old 10-22-2010, 04:26 AM   #8
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I haven't had a Sears battery in years. Last time I was in there I bought one battery for like 49.95 and the next day under the same sale I bought the identical battery for my other car and they charged me like $58.50.

The salesman sez, "I gave you the anti-corrosion pads".

No, you didn't give them to me, you charged me almost $10 for a $1 dollar product.

"Well sir you don't understand, I can take them off but I'll have to void the warranty because the battery I sold you yesterday had nickle-bullcrapium in it and this one has unobtanium-disulphide and needs the pads"

Um, yeah right, well get the battery out of my car and take back your pads.

Lurked and they were doing this to a lot of people so I called Chicago and they drove me nuts for weeks trying to get me not to make an issue because they were doing this in a few NJ stores. It was not isolated to the one salesman that Chicago claimed.

If you can't tell I hate Sears. New tractor lasted one year and one day and my new leaf blower would never start.

Try a Red Top or Interstate from your local inde dealer.
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