Drivers with start-stop cars pay the price for choosing cheap batteries

Cheap batteries

Fit the wrong kind of battery to a start-stop car and you might be surprised at how quickly it fails

Drivers are paying more than they have to for replacement car batteries because they don’t realise that cars featuring eco technology need specialist equipment. Frequently, cheap batteries bought for start-stop cars then fail relatively swiftly because they aren’t up to the job they’ve been bought for. 

Nearly two thirds (60 per cent) of the cars sold in Europe now have either start-stop or energy recuperation technology. This is where the engine automatically shuts down when the car comes to a rest. It then fires up again as soon as the driver dips the clutch, or in an automatic, releases the foot brake. Start-stop is estimated to cut fuel use by between five and 10 per cent. Energy recuperation harvests the kinetic energy that’s usually wasted as a car slows down.

But in order for these smart technologies to work, cars need to have special batteries. These Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) and Enhanced Flooded Batteries (EFB) last longer than regular lead acid cells. This is because they’re designed to retain sufficient charge to be strong enough to power a car’s various electrical systems such as the windscreen wipers, ventilation and sound system while the engine is turned off.

Spares company Euro Car Parts has reported a 100 per cent year-on-year increase over the first three months of 2016 in sales of AGM and EFB batteries. But it warned that some drivers ignore their car’s requirement for a special battery. Company CEO Martin Gray said: “It is no longer a case of any old battery will do. It’s about choosing the right battery. If you fit an incorrect battery to a car with start-stop, it might work initially but certain systems will soon begin to fail, starting with things like the radio, air con and electric windows, and then more vital systems, such as the start-stop function itself.”

Understandably, drivers are being tempted to choose cheaper batteries by the difference in price between regular and start-stop batteries. A battery for a Volkswagen Golf-size car without start-stop will cost £85 including a four-year guarantee, from motor retailer Halfords. However, an AGM battery for the same size car will cost £149. And it will cost around £15 more to fit an AGM battery compared to the less sophisticated sort. While the majority of batteries are guaranteed for four years and can go on to last between five and seven years, a regular battery that’s fitted to a car needing an AGM type may struggle to outlast its guarantee.

Find out if your car needs a special battery by looking in the handbook. This should give the exact specification of battery that it needs.

Read more about looking after your car’s battery

3 comments on “Drivers with start-stop cars pay the price for choosing cheap batteries

  1. Sam April 18, 2016 5:45 pm

    Nice comment about cheap batt why don’t you explain why are the batts going dead the real problem like short trips batt not getting charged due to short trips.

  2. John Grayson November 17, 2017 9:18 am

    I let my start stop battery go flat for 4 weeks. AA started the car but the car cut out completely [twice] at speed [I was just short of going on a motorway!!!] Had to fit a new Ford battery under warranty. This new system could cause fatalities in the near future as batteries reach the end of their lives and cars cut out in the fast lane.

  3. John Grayson November 19, 2017 9:19 am

    I have been told Ford Eco car alternators do not continuously charge [as per older car alternators used to] but ‘pulse charge’. In my case the battery was not giving any output so presumably when the alternator decided to have a rest then that is when the car cut out completely. Hope this problem is sorted before this type of alternator is used in a ‘driverless car’!
    I understand that I should not have set off with a duff battery but the AA engineer got the car started [just as we used to do in the olden days] and off I went.

    I should be grateful if someone could let me know what will happen as these type of batteries just get to the end of their lives and just get the car going only to find your car cuts out completely in the fast lane of a motorway.

    i.e. Has this ‘pulse charge’ system been fully tested to ensure the car keeps going with a duff battery.

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