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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
This is a very basic problem and not 164-specific other than the fact that the battery I'm having a problem with is currently in my 164.

The battery charges up OK over a usual length of time - gassing is evident at the end of the charge, and the battery holds a terminal voltage of 12.6 volts for at least 24 hours. After that, the voltage steadily declines even when it is not installed in a vehicle.

The battery came to me in a flat state (8 volts) fitted to an Alfa Spider. It is an Exide, DIN 66 type (large - the original plastic tray in my '89 164 holds only a DIN 55.) It is approximately one year old and is about $200 (US$160) to replace. It could be argued that the inconvenience of a flat battery is worth paying $200 to avoid, but I also don't like throwing money away unnecessarily!

Initially I expected sulphation had taken place, so I ran it through a high-voltage pulse 'Recondition' cycle on my super-duper battery charger.

Once the battery is charged, it will start and run the 164 fine, but only for a few days. I've recharged it three times so far; will try a few more times I guess, as I think it might be getting better.

The 164 itself has no electrical problems and has been operating perfectly with a battery fitted new three years ago. For the record, it's a maintenance-free (sealed type) Exide DIN55 made in the USA and I highly recommend these - last for many years, no gassing or topping up, indicator eye allows quick check, trouble-free, quality product worth the $200.

The problem battery has correct levels in all cells (screw-caps). I was about to try adding a battery conditioner liquid to the cells, but that assumes sulphation is the problem. I'm now starting to think there must be an internal short. If that was the case, would it charge or work at all? Or conversely, can sulphation cause self-discharge?

So the real question is, can anything be done to save this battery?

Thanks for your thoughts...

-Alex
 

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Have you checked the specific gravity of each cell before and after charging? Maybe it has a weak/bad cell?

I was going to suggest desulf process but sounds like your charger has that option.
 

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Alex, There may be a problem in that the lead oxide plate "filler" material has been driven off a plate surface, often due to a high rate rapid charger used too often. The filler will fall off the plate and sometimes hang up and create a resistance short circuit between positive and negative plates.

This will bleed off the charge slowly.

The same thing can happen by warping of a plate caused by excess charge rate and the resulting heat.

I have heard of the practice of removing the battery acid and then flushing out each cell with water to remove the sediment, and then re-filling with new acid of the same specific gravity as came out, then slow charging again.

I have not done this myself. When a battery starts to cause trouble, I change it.
 

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I just replaced, under warranty, a one year old battery on the wife's minivan. Had another go bad on my Touareg after 6 months. If it is only a year old, it should still be covered under full replacement.
 

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Another issue is plate particles accumulating in the bottom of the battery and causing current to flow internally. An auto battery does not tolerate being flat very well. Once they go flat once they often fail completely.
 

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One cell might have an internal short due to bits of the plates flaking off.

I had one such case in a pair of 6 V batteries from an industrial sweeper. They were badly sulfated and had loose sediment. Try emptying the battery, filling with distilled water and taking note of the specific gravity of each cell weekly. When the density stops increasing, the distilled water has dissolved most of the lead sulphate. Then you can add new electrolyte.

Also, try giving that battery a few bumps and shakes. It might free some conductive crystals between the plates.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thank you everyone for the replies. Quite a bit to think about, particularly the draining/filling with water.

Since being used regularly in my 164 it seems to be coming right, but probably doesn't have the capacity it should and is probably saving up its flattening energies for a rainy day. All cells are equal s.g. but only 1.25 (should really be 1.280) and I think the theory about the active material having fallen off the plates is likely, due to the past history of flatness/boost charges etc. as the car sat around before I bought it.

I'm getting in touch with someone I know who happens to work at Exide. He will either arrange the warranty replacement if it applies (it probably won't; there are terms&conditions), or will do me a great deal on one of those batteries I've had good service from. Buy once and treat right seems to be a motto for car batteries - and also, you do get what you pay for, the expensive sealed type lasts longer because the plates are more robust and have a different alloy (calcium) that reduces gassing. This battery is clearly the ordinary type.

At least all my cars take the same battery, which is useful if I ever have a faulty one again.

-Alex
 
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