The 10-Year Old Battery in my SVT Lightning Finally Died | What Killed It???
Your car’s battery is an often overlooked maintenance item. You typically don’t even consider replacing it until it starts giving you issues. There’s usually nothing wrong with that method of replacement requirement determination as long as you’re not getting excessive out-gassing, leakage around the posts, or you have HEUI fired Powerstroke diesel (weak batteries will kill a 6.0L FICM). I recently found myself in need of a new battery for my SVT Lightning.
First, a little back story. Over the past few months I’ve been dealing more with batteries of all types than I ever really wanted to. It’s insane the amount of batteries I’ve bought an installed various projects. Yachts, RVs, golf carts, SVTs, you name it; I’ve brought new meaning to the phrase “Slingin’ Lead”. As a side note, if anyone needs Trojan or Odyssey Batteries I’m now a dealer for them. That should give you an idea of how many I’ve bought. Just let me know what you need.
Back on topic, I recently suffered a battery failure in my 2004 F-150 Lightning. It’s not really surprising, the truck is 15 years old and this is only the second battery it’s had. This particular flavor was a Group 65 Napa Legend 75 with a build date of July 2011. It’s safe to say this thing lived its best life, and that I get my money out of my start batteries. There’s a good reason for that, I keep a battery maintainer plugged in whenever the truck isn’t on the road. That’s what has allowed the current Napa battery (made by Deka) to survive through an impressive ten years of service. It has also lead to a really interesting failure mode for that particular unit.
Here's a little look at how this battery failure mode looks in action.
One day I went out to fire the old girl up and she just wouldn’t turn over. All the lights worked, the stereo played a CD from the mid-2000s, and door chine annoyed me like always. The battery obviously no longer just didn’t have the nuts necessary to spin the Kenne Bell blown V8 over. I grabbed the volt meter to check things out and was surprised to see the old Napa battery was still putting out a respectable 12.3 volts. That voltage reading would indicate that the battery would be perfectly serviceable, but that simply wasn’t the case.
Even after putting a small draw on the old battery it still managed to produce 12 volts, which would seem to indicate that it is still good.
With just the load of a single lightbulb placed on the battery, its voltage fell to under 3 volts. It simple can't provide sufficient current any longer.
My trusty battery had simply died of old age, or in technical terms, Anodic Corrosion. To put it simply, the corrosion that naturally forms over time on the lead plates had progressed to the point that enough current could not be passed through the cells to turn over the engine. The interesting bit is that the battery was still capable of making full voltage. So if you were to test it at rest with a multi-meter it would produce around 12.3 volts. However, as soon as a load is applied to it the voltage would plummet. That’s how a well maintained battery should go out , quietly in the garage still hooked to the maintainer that help it to live to the ripe old age of ten.
I happened to have an extra Group 65 battery sitting around waiting to go into another project, so with just a few minutes work the Lightning was again ready to hit the road. That’s a temporary replacement though. I haven’t decided what battery will be the long term fix for the L. Motorcraft is always a good choice, but I’m also partial to the unit from Odyssey linked below. Any thoughts?