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By Jordan W. Charness

What everybody wants from their vehicle, at a minimum, is that when they insert their key into the ignition and turn it, they hear a nice starter motor sound immediately followed by the engine roaring to life. One of the most disappointing sounds is that slow, grinding sound when the engine will not turn over. That usually happens when you are late for work or must go to an incredibly important appointment that you absolutely cannot miss.

Most people look at their cars dumbfounded and immediately try again. This of course rarely works. There are those rare occasions when there was just a glitch with the starter motor and a second try at the key produces the desired results; but most often you are simply wearing down an already dying or dead battery. Aside from those times when you need it most, your car battery also seems to die with the change of seasons or temperature in the air.

The fact of the matter is that car batteries are only good for a limited number of years. And almost nobody remembers when they last changed the battery. They do seem to remember that the battery was purchased with a warranty, particularly if it was a replacement battery. Most of the big box stores that sell automobile batteries crow about the fact that they come with a 36 month or 48 month or 60 month or longer warranty.

However, most people don’t realize that, in most cases, these warranties are both limited and pro-rata. Usually when we buy something that comes with a warranty it means that the store or manufacturer will either fix or replace the item when it breaks. Not so with most battery warranties.

If you read the fine print on your replacement battery warranty you will note that in most cases it is a return policy based on a pro–rata basis. It usually means that when you try to return a dead battery the store calculates the number of months of use you got out of your battery and then credits you for the remaining number of months under your warranty.

It usually works like this. Let’s say you have a 48-month warranty and your battery dies after 24 months. That means that you have a working battery for one half of the warranty life. According to the fine print, the store will usually give you a 50 per cent credit towards the purchase of a new similar battery. They will rarely give you a brand-new battery for free even though it was still under warranty. When you complain they tell you to read the fine print.

Another thing that you’ll notice is that when they do replace your battery you will not get another 48 month warranty but will only have the remaining months of your original battery warranty attached to the new replacement battery. In our case above, you’ll pay 50 per cent for the other battery and it will realistically only come with a 24 month pro rata warranty.

Not all batteries come with the same type of warranty and there are some stores and manufacturers that are offering true full replacement warranties where they will in fact give you a brand-new battery for free during the warranty period. They do, however, often charge extra for this feature.

Like everything else you do or buy these days you really should carefully read the fine print so that you know what you’re getting into before you buy.

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