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This is about my Nissan Altima 2.5S. I drive it to work and drive back to home every weekday. My workplace is 10 miles from my home and it's about 20 minutes' ride single trip. Other than that the car is not driven much.

I got the car in February 2010 and my driving pattern has been the same in the past 3.5 years. The battery was all good until last winter when it started to not jumpstart after not being used over the weekend. I took it to Nissan service for checkup and they told me there was nothing wrong with the battery or the alternator, it's just not driven enough to charge the battery.

So I ran some long errand (>2 hours trip), after which the battery felt like rejuvenated for 2 weeks, but as soon as I do not go on long errands, it dies over the weekend. I called the service department again and their response was the same, that I should drive it more.

So my question are:

  • Is my usage really below the minimum requirement to maintain the battery?
  • Should I take my car to a different place to checkup?
  • Should I get a battery charger/tender and use it for every weekend?
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1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

As batteries get older, they will gradually lose their ability to hold a charge over time - How old is the battery?

The length of your journey sounds like enough to replace the charge used to start the car, assuming the alternator is working fine.

Get a multimeter (aka volt/ohm/amp meter), and measure the voltage across the battery. It should be roughly 12v with the engine switched off, and around 13.5v with the engine running. If either of these are low, you have a problem with the battery or alternator respectively.

You might also have a parasitic draw, i.e. something that is using too much current when the car is switched off - this can be checked by switching the meter into current mode (A on the dial) and putting it in series with the battery - but don't attempt to start the car like that or you'll destroy the meter...

IMHO the most likely suspect is a tired battery. You can keep it going for a while by putting a trickle charger on it over the weekend, but the only long-term solution will be a new battery - the problem will only get worse as you head into winter and the weather gets colder...

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I agree with Nick - this sounds like a battery that's past its prime == out of warranty (they pick those warranty periods for a reason!). –  Bob Cross Sep 30 '13 at 14:10
    
Thanks for the answer! The battery is also 3.5 years old, to answer your first question. BTW, when I'm going to test the voltage, I should put the multimeter on DC Voltage mode right? –  NS.X. Sep 30 '13 at 18:32
    
Yep - Often marked "20V DC" –  Nick C Oct 1 '13 at 9:31
    
@NickC Hi Nick, I tested the voltage as you suggested, the voltage was 14.65v with engine on, 12.45v right after engine off and 12.05v after sitting over a weekend. With 12.05v it's completely unable to start the engine. However, when I attached an auto battery charger to it, the 'battery full' light was on and it wouldn't charge (not really surprising since the voltage was not below 12v). I tried the headlight and it didn't seem less bright. Could the problem be the igniter? –  NS.X. Oct 7 '13 at 8:05
    
hmm. Those voltages sound about right. What are the symptoms when it doesn't start? Does it turn the engine over slower than usual? Or not turn at all? (often with a click) –  Nick C Oct 7 '13 at 9:56
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