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For the past year or so, I've had to manually charge the Protege's battery before going anywhere, every single day. Either the battery is not "holding its charge" or there's a component that's draining the battery.

Today I charged it and it started just fine, then when I got into the car for the trip home from shopping just a couple hours later, the battery was completely dead and it wouldn't start at all.

The alternator is relatively new and outputs good voltage. The battery seemed to be in good shape originally, but with all of the charging and uncharging of the battery, it's probably almost kaput by now. I have no idea where to even start looking at this point.

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

Take the battery somewhere it can be tested. It probably is only holding what is called a "surface charge". One cell may be bad in which will not charge correctly. When left to sit, even a small drain can cause it to lose its charge. I will bet the battery is the root cause if your issue, especially since you say the alternator is putting out good juice.

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Do you think it's likely the battery will need to be replaced? – user4878 Apr 16 '14 at 2:11
Yes, very likely. Get it load tested first, though. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Apr 16 '14 at 10:09
Could be a parasitic drain, too. They're not uncommon in older vehicles. – Mark Johnson Apr 18 '14 at 19:38

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