Nope. I've never run into a defect so far that caused a leak. Every battery failure has had a cause that could be attributed to its age or to the vehicle. The most common thing I see is that white corrosion on top, and if the battery isn't bad yet, it will be soon. I warn the owner to be prepared, but they usually elect to wait unless they spend a lot of time on the highway a long way from home, or when winter is approaching. When they get that far along, load testing would prove the battery doesn't have its advertised capacity any more, but that load will often kill a battery that could last a few more months. Cleaning that corrosion won't solve anything either. It's time for a new battery.
The second issue, as I mentioned, is when the battery isn't bolted down securely. That's worse in trucks that sustain a lot of abnormal vibration, as in off-roading. Truck batteries also come with shorter warranties because of that vibration. The battery manufacturers know how fast that lead will flake off the plates and build up at the bottoms of the cells. When it builds up high enough, that cell becomes shorted and the battery has to be replaced. Vibration makes that lead flake off faster, and that's why those batteries fail sooner.
Also, without going into theory in detail, charging an older battery with a portable charger vibrates the plates, and that helps the lead to flake off. Setting the charger on the lowest setting for an hour vibrates the plates very little. Charging at a high rate for a shorter time period vibrates the plates a lot. That's why it is common to see a battery fail a few days after a generator failed and the owner charged the battery at home. That happens mainly to older batteries.
When batteries fail repeatedly in the same vehicle, it is almost always due to a defective voltage regulator. The clues are the sides of the case will be bulged out and if it has vent holes in the caps, the top of the case will be wet. The proof is in measuring the charging voltage. If it gets over 15 volts, the excessive current going through the acid heats it up which promotes boiling the water out of the acid. That damage is easy to identify and no manufacturer will warranty their batteries for that. The only other cause of bulged sides is from freezing, and the battery has to be totally dead for a while to turn the acid into straight water for that to happen.
About the only thing a manufacturer will warranty a battery for is if a cell becomes shorted before the end of the warranty period. As I mentioned, they know how fast that occurs, and they provide the longest warranty they can advertise to match that time period. If they can give up one property, such as the cold cranking amps they can achieve and advertise, in favor of packing the lead tighter on the grids, they might be able to forestall a shorted cell for five and a half years, so they'll give a six-year warranty. They could also make the plates smaller, which reduces the number of amps it can deliver, but that leaves more room at the bottom for the lead to collect and build up. That's the case with the battery in my minivan right now. It's nine years old but will still crank the engine just great for starting, but it can only do it for about 20 seconds before it's run down. It could do that intermittently for a total of well over five minutes when it was new.
The problem is most people aren't swayed to buy one battery over another by the length of the warranty. They compare cold cranking amps and reserve capacity, so that's what the manufacturers want to make as impressive as possible. That means packing larger plates into the case, and that leaves less room for that flaked-off lead to collect.
Thursday, February 12th, 2015 AT 10:55 AM