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'99 Impreza with intermittent battery failure(?)

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Jul 22, 2012, 2:58 PM

Post #1 of 3 (502 views)
'99 Impreza with intermittent battery failure(?) Sign In

1999 Subaru Impreza
~135,000 miles

I apologize in advance for my long-winded explanation - I don't know what is important and what isn't, so I included everything that happened.

Several months ago my car wouldn't start. Nothing would light up on the dashboard. So clearly an electrical problem, I thought. I never do maintenance and know very little about cars, but I opened the hood and saw a bunch of residue caked around the battery terminals. I brushed the worst of if off, and the car started. Not sure what was wrong, I took it to O'Reilly's. They hooked up the battery to a device and said the output was good, and based on the age of the battery, that it should last for several more years. However they told me that I should clean the battery terminals properly to ensure good conductance.

I was relieved but also lazy and did not clean the terminals right away. The car worked fine for another couple months, but then of course the same thing happened again; when I put the key in the ignition, I got some suspiciously faint dashboard lights - when I tried to start the car, everything went dead, and all of the electrics stopped working (lights/locks/windows). So I did the right thing and cleaned the terminals as best I could. However, it still wouldn't start. I took it back to O'Reilly's and the guy said nonchalantly "It's just your battery terminals, I have an Impreza myself, the stock ones are crap, buy these new ones, cut off the old ones, insert the wire, etc..." At this point I was lost but thankfully my roommate knew what to do and he helped me replace the terminals and tighten them down nice and tight.

The car worked fine again for another month or so. Then today, after driving it to work, the same thing happened AGAIN! I looked at the battery; nothing seemed loose, everything was attached as it should be. I ended up getting it jump started.

What should I do from here? Replace the battery? I was going to do this, but a guy on O'Reilly's online chat said that replacing the battery may temporarily fix the problem, but it seems like there is probably something wrong with the electrical system of the car that is causing the battery to fail prematurely. He said that when batteries have trouble but then get better and then get worse again unless there is a bigger problem with the car, and I would need to see a mechanic.

I just want the car to start consistently - I expected this vehicle to last for at least 200,000 miles. What do you guys advise? Again, sorry for how clueless I am. Thanks!

Veteran / Moderator

Jul 22, 2012, 3:26 PM

Post #2 of 3 (487 views)
Re: '99 Impreza with intermittent battery failure(?) [In reply to] Sign In

Were these solder on terminals or the cheap crap you slice the cables off and bolt into? What is the age of the battery? Has it been placed under a load test? I personally don't trust conductance testing a battery. A load test proves what it is capable of doing and if done right there is no way to get a false result.

New User

Jul 22, 2012, 3:31 PM

Post #3 of 3 (486 views)
Re: '99 Impreza with intermittent battery failure(?) [In reply to] Sign In

They were the crap kind, because there was no soldering involved - but they are on tight. Undoubtedly the connection is better now than it was before, when they were caked over with gunk and a nut was half dissolved (seriously).

I believe the battery is at least 4 years old - when they tested it though, I was told it was the kind of battery with quite a long lifespan. I could believe, though, that I somehow shortened that lifespan by not taking good care of the connections.

'99 Impreza with intermittent battery failure(?)

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