I get asked this question quite often, what is the best battery for my Toyota, Lexus or Scion?
I have quite a strong bias in favor of Interstate batteries, which are made by the same company that makes Toyota's batteries, which is Johnson Controls. I have a strong bias against batteries made by Exide.
The Toyota batteries made by Johnson Controls have an excellent track record of longevity. In the early 90's Toyota switched over to Exide for one or two years, and for the first time that I'm aware of they started having to warranty lots of batteries that were failing in less than 12 months.
They switched back to batteries made by Johnson Controls, and that I know haven't had trouble with bad batteries since.Throughout the 90's we saw the same results with Exide made batteries sold under other companies' labels as well. During that time period, Les Schwab batteries were made by Exide, and over and over we encountered situations where the customer would have a problem "that couldn't possibly be the battery because it's only 3 months old" that would in fact prove to be another bad battery made by Exide.
Batteries are more susceptible to failure during cold weather, due to a combination of the battery being at a lower level of chemical activity when cold, and the engine simply being more difficult to crank when it's oil is thicker due to being cold. A failing battery can have a number of symptoms. A gradually failing batter will progressively crank the engine over more slowly during startup. Often times the progression is so gradual that the primary driver doesn't notice it because each day it's performance seems essentially the same as it did the day before. A weak battery gets drained of charge much more easily as well, so that perhaps only a few minutes of sitting with accessories on but the engine off will discharge the battery so that you can't start the car.
If the battery is discharged enough that you no longer get a slow crank out of it, oftentimes the starter will give multiple clicks for a single turn of the key. This happens because the battery has just enough power to engage the starter gear with the engine, but at that point it requires much more electrical power than the battery is able to supply, which causes the battery voltage to drop so low that it can't even maintain keeping the starter gear engaged. So, the starter momentarily releases, and then as soon as the higher demand is removed, the battery is able to supply enough power to reactivate the starter. This happens repeatedly back-to-back producing multiple clicks for as long as the key is held to the start position.
An alternate cause of the same symptom of multiple clicks from the starter can be poor connections from the cables to the battery, which, again, allow just enough power through to engage the starter, but not enough to maintain engagement in the face of the higher demands made by trying to crank the engine. Occasionally the battery or the battery connections will fail at just the right amount of failure to allow the starter to give a single click and then hold but not crank. More often the symptom of a single click but no crank indicates a problem with the starter, or with the power supply from the key to the solenoid that activates the starter. Occasionally, though, the battery and/or connections can explain the single click.
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