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Small batteries for Motorcycles and Lawn Tractors are typically sold with the electrolyte in a separate bottle and must be added to the battery at home before installing it. I've never seen a "dry" car battery - they always seem to be full of electrolyte and ready to go at the auto parts store.

What's the main reason for this? Is there a fundamental difference between a small battery and a large car battery, or is it "just the way it's done"? It seems like if nothing else, separate electrolyte would give the battery a longer shelf life, and make transportation easier.

Battery with electrolyte bottle

Electrolyte bottle playfully peeking out from behind battery...

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  • Years ago I believe the used to be filled with acid at point of sale (so my dad said).
    – HandyHowie
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 16:53
  • @HandyHowie when I used to work in a shop all the MC batteries came like this but I have no idea about the car batteries nowadays. I was told they did that for safety purposes on international shipping. Hazard material rules in the States. Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 17:23

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To answer the title question, no. I've worked in several automotive retail outlets and have never seen an automotive battery not precharged. They may exist, but it would be an odd sight to see.

Automotive batteries are very frequently purchased and installed in the same transaction. The batteries in which you need to put in the electrolyte, you also need to charge them for several hours. This would prove very impractical and annoying to the customer.

One thing to note is due to the rate at which these smaller batteries are sold. Motorcycle and lawn equipment batteries are often sold less frequently, and may end up sitting on a shelf for a very long time. Once the battery is given its first charge, its lifetime begins. If it ends up sitting for too long, the customer will have a battery that may not last as long as if they had bought it and charged it themselves.

I may also point out that the most common lawn and garden batteries I've seen are filled and pre-charged, though the warranty is usually only a 3 months (just the summer season), and many customers end up buying a new battery every year. The durability does not seem to be very high compared to their larger cousins.

And just a side-note, some customers will look through the rack of compatible batteries and pick out the newest manufactured battery (it's usually stamped or stickered onto the case) in order to get the longest lifetime out of their purchase. I've seen similar actions done with tires.

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