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Steering You Right with Sharon Peters: Lot Rot

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Q: We bought a new car at the dealership last year and the battery died last week, 11 months after we got it. It’s under warranty so they replaced it, but still, it’s kind of a pain to have the surprise of a dead car when you’re ready to go. But here’s the real question. This is the second time in four years we’ve bought a brand new car and the battery died in 12 to 14 months. Are batteries lasting less than two years now?

A: Batteries last less time than they used to because of all the electronics that now draw on them that didn’t even exist 15 or 20 years. But the life expectancy generally is about three or four years, not one year.

Here’s what I’m thinking: maybe you did what I do: wait until the end of the model year to buy a new car so as to get a significant price break as dealers attempt to clear the lot for the new year’s vehicles. Some of those cars have been on the lot for many months, and some dealerships don’t bother to start them up and drive them around. Bad for the battery. Indeed, service departments have a term for this problem: lot rot.

As an ex Ford mechanic explained to me, often the dealership discovers that a particular battery has gone dead from lack of running. No problem. They just recharge. But it’s not as good as new. You can power it up again, but it won’t last as long.

Maybe you didn’t wait until the end of the model year. But that doesn’t mean the car didn’t sit around for some months. And battery drain could have occurred in that case as well, depending on how diligent the dealership was about taking their long-term residents for a spin.

So did you get an old-ish new car that might have suffered lot rot? Probably.

It’s worth noting that some say lot rot is a myth, but I’m someone who bought an end-of-model year Acura nine months after it was built and wound up with a deader-than-a-door-knocker battery 14 months later. I’m a believer.

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Sharon Peters What’s your question? Sharon Peters would like to hear about what’s on your mind when it comes to caring for, driving and repairing your vehicle. Email Sharon@ctwfeatures.com.