Who Put A Used Battery In My New Car?

Amanda’s car is pretty new: it’s a 2008 Honda Civic. She’s its first and only owner, and a trusted family member performs all maintenance on it. When the battery died recently, a mechanic changed it out for her. What was supposed to be the car’s original battery….wasn’t. It was a reconditioned battery that had clearly served her well for 4 years, but didn’t belong in a factory-fresh car. So how the heck did she end up with a used, refurbished battery instead of the shiny new one that it clearly deserved?

Something odd happened to me this week…my car battery died. That, of course, isn’t really all that odd – but it was odd that the mechanic pulled a reconditioned battery out of the car when he went to put in a new one. I’ve never had my battery changed, and bought the car new. Where did this used battery come from?

The mechanic I used said he’s heard of dealership mechanics who take new batteries out of new cars and put them in cars they are repairing. If this used battery didn’t come with the car when I bought it, I have no idea how it got there – I have a family member who does all the maintenance on the car, and have only used the dealership once (this year to replace a dead engine that apparently befalls all 2008 Honda Civics – but that’s another story!) for a repair that couldn’t be done at home.

I’ve done some Googling but can’t find much information about this phenomenon. If it’s as common as my mechanic said it is, though, it might be worth looking into – I feel a bit ripped off and hope others don’t encounter a similar issue. (I realize this isn’t the biggest scandal in the world or anything, but still – new should be new, right?)

Should be. The problem, of course, is that it will be impossible to determine who’s behind the Great Battery Swap. if a dealership mechanic is responsible, they’re not going to admit it. If the dealership where it was purchased did it, they certainly won’t admit it either.

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  1. Blueskylaw says:

    Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains,
    no matter how improbable, must be the truth.

    The trusted family member did it.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Have we actually aliminated the other mosre likely scenarios? I.e. the original dealer?

    • savvy9999 says:

      I disagree. Occam’s razor tells me… when the engine was pulled, the battery would have been removed to do so. At some point during the process, the battery was changed. Anything could have happened to the original at the dealer. It could have been rooked; it could have been lost; it could have been dropped and broken; either way the dealer threw in what was probably the closest thing it could find.

      It lasted for 4 years which is fairly average, so who cares. You get no extra $$$ back on the ‘core exchange’ for a battery if the old one was the sparkly OEM or a middling refurb or a total piece o’ crap.

    • That guy. says:

      It was Colonel Mustard in the study with the lead pipe.

  2. donjumpsuit says:

    This post perplexes me. The part where she goes ” I bought the car new, and have done all the service myself …. except for that time that the entire contents of my engine cavity was extracted and replaced with something else.” I am no time genius, but there may have been one other time in which a battery swap may have taken place.

    • PHRoG says:

      This…exactly.

      If they pulled the engine, they pulled the battery.

      Busy shop with nothing but Honda’s, and possibly several getting done at the same time due to recall…sure, I could see batteries getting mixed up.

    • Costner says:

      Yes – and I’m guessing during that engine swap they would have had the battery sitting outside the car for a while. A mistake could have been made, or the battery could have tested bad – so they very well could have installed a different battery.

      One would think there would be a date code on the battery which would in theory narrow down the window a tad. To just assume it came that way from the dealership originally is probably a stretch.

    • Murph1908 says:

      Agree. This.

      Seems obvious. The battery was exchanged during the engine repair, either by mistake (grabbed wrong one from the shelf), on purpose for good reasons (battery was corroded, leaky, or otherwise in need of repair), or nefariously (switch new for old and profit).

    • econobiker says:

      You’d be amazed at the stuff that is LEFT out of a car when major work like engine replacements are done.

      Things that slow down shop mechanics like plastic splash shields, plastic rub shields, plastic plugs for access holes, wire harness to body plastic clips, radiator hose shields, etc. are routinely left off because these are “not important” and “slow down” the repair. And most people like Amanda will never, ever notice.

  3. deathbecomesme says:

    No proof of who did it. Looks like you just gotta take it as a learning opportunity to peek under the hood yourself every once in a while.

    • TheWraithL98 says:

      This is what I came to suggest. A car is generally in the top two most valuable possessions you have. Not knowing at least a little bit about it is just bad judgement. The OP pretty much admits they haven’t looked at their battery in 4 years time.

  4. az123 says:

    You had a car battery that lasted 4 years, I think you pretty much got out of the battery what could be expected if it had been new or not. I could see complaining if you had the battery die after a year and found this out, but basically the OP is in the appropriate death life cycle of the battery.

    Also, not sure how they knew it was a reconditioned battery, all Car batteries are reconditioned as the old ones are taken and recycled into making new batteries.

    Also you did take the car into a dealer for what was sounds like a major service, so in reality stating it had been in the car since day 1 is not something that you cannot truly state happened.

    Why is consumerist even reporting on this, OP got a reasonable life out of whatever battery was in the car and sounds like they want to be a self important hero saving the world from a non-existent problem.

    • Silverhawk says:

      Well, most car batteries have a sticker or label with removable month/day labels where a date of sale is removed, or the date of sale is otherwise stamped on it. And/or a date of manufacture is attached. Every battery I’ve ever bought, they removed the month/day numbers just before I walked out the door with it.

    • Captain Spock says:

      I drive a 2006 VW Golf. Original Battery, has died several times (Jump it once and it runs for 6 months easy, I usually do something stupid to kill it) I even used to charge my laptop on it whilst at work all day!

      You never know.

      • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

        Sounds like you’re just draining the battery, rather than having it completely die. That’s user error rather than manufucturing defect (esp since you not that it’s due to doing something “stupid”) :)

    • JHDarkLeg says:

      I bought the battery that’s currently in my wife’s car in 1998. It’s a solid gel cell made by Interstate. My Dad thinks it runs on free energy at this point.

  5. leprofie says:

    No harm, no foul.

  6. shepd says:

    Your car is 4 years old. It is hardly new. Many people expect a car to fail after 10 years. It’s almost half way through its service life.

    Change your own battery, too. I mean it. It’s barely harder than changing your wipers (perhaps actually easier).

    • az123 says:

      Wow, you really did not read the article…. not that I think the OP has anything to really complain about… but still… read before you comment

      • shepd says:

        What article? Is there a link I missed in the post? Something you’re seeing that I’m not?

        I see that she feels ripped off regarding her battery. If she did battery maintenance herself, she’d know what was in there to begin with. Unless you’re suggesting the factory installed a reconditioned battery, which would be… odd.

        If the battery was swapped during a service without her request, well, in my case, I check under the hood every couple of weeks, as should all drivers. I know what those the battery looks like, because I service it. If it were changed, and had a reconditioned sticker, I’d know rather quickly. It wouldn’t be a mechanic telling me.

        And you might say today’s sealed batteries don’t need to be maintained, and that’s where you’re wrong. You still need to clean corrosion up here and there. And in a Civic, again, the battery is so honking obvious, I’m not sure how you’d miss it when you do your oil level checks.

    • flyingember says:

      change a battery on a Chrysler Sebring.

      there, now your “easier than changing wipers” assessment is false

      • shepd says:

        Luckily this is a Honda Civic. I know how easy it is to change a battery on those. Heck, it’s easier than the average vehicle because the battery is so puny.

        • The Cupcake Nazi says:

          No crap…I drive an E150. The battery on that is a monster, and it’s not exactly a cakewalk to lift it at chest height for installation or removal.

        • KnightCrusader says:

          My fiancee has a 2007 Civic Sedan. NOTHING on that car is easy to change. I had to change the battery after it died on her a few months ago and that thing was a PITA to get out. There is no wiggle room and its a non-standard battery.

          Heck, we had to go to the Honda dealer to get the wipers replaced…. and the techs there were even having issues with it.

          Civics are not user-maintainable friendly.

      • KnightCrusader says:

        Change the battery in a 1995-1999 Monte Carlo or Lumina. Enjoy taking out the windsheild washer fluid reservoir that sits on it before you can even get to it. Oh, and the big metal brace holding the nose and fender on top of that…

  7. wackydan says:

    Be happy you got four years out of it?

    Of course, your mileage may vary…. My 99 Dakota had a near 9 year old battery in it when I traded it… I live in the south, so no winters, and there was a ton of room in the engine bay so the battery didn’t cook from the engine heat.

    On our 2005 Chevy Malibu, I get three years out of a battery… ANY battery. Does not matter if I buy the most expensive long life rated battery out there… 3 years… EXACTLY… battery dies…. Because the engine compartment is so tight and the battery gets baked by the heat… I imagine if I lived in the north, the Malibu’s battery might actually last longer.

    So as for her mystery… Move on. Too late, not enough evidence….

    • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

      I think the fewest years I’ve gotten out of a battery is 5. Usually around 7 seems to be typical. I’ve only owned 5 vehicles though, so there’s not a huge sample size.

  8. Gravitational Eddy says:

    Attention: auto batteries are by design *recycled* and not usually “reconditioned”.
    I’d suspect her dealer found a dead unchargeable (shorted or open) OEM battery, swapped it out with another known good used battery he already had.
    Hey, these things don’t last forever you know.
    And why complain? If you got 4 years out of a battery, you should be happy. I’ve seen brand new top line batteries die in 2 years. (extreme conditions though)

  9. Power Imbalance says:

    So a trusted family member does all the work except for the time when everything in the engine bay was replaced at a dealership and the OP is wondering when the battery would have been replaced? Seriously?

    1+1=2

  10. Moniker Preferred says:

    This.is.not.an.issue.

    Here’s a woman who admits that she has no clue what is under her hood (or her car’s hood either), and apparently hasn’t looked there for four years. Oil changes? Coolant checks? Wiper fluid even? Not a clue.

    When the engine was replaced, with parts laying all over the bench, was there a possibility that the dealer put in the wrong battery, replacing a four-year old factory battery with a refurb? Maybe, that hardly sounds like a scam.

    Even if it was in her car when it was delivered (unlikely), she still got four years from it. Factory warranty is three years, right? Not bad. Shut up, lady, and drive your Civic.

    Why is Consumerist reporting on this? Apart from the “we got nuthin’ else” problem, of course.

  11. aerodawg says:

    So she had an engine swap done after nearly 4 years and now the battery is different? Well duh huh cletus.

    4 years is about typical battery life in my experience. I guarantee that when they swapped her engine, they tested the battery, found it to be on the downhill slope and replaced it….

  12. polishhillbilly says:

    Never assume anything, verify, verify, verify.
    Do a complete and total walk around of the vehicle prior to purchase
    Even make note of the lower quality tires your dealer installs
    Have them remove the dealer advertising from the car, are they paying you to advertise?
    Make sure that the dealer hasn’t install unneeded accessories

    just replace the battery. move along nothing to see..

    • MrEvil says:

      Do Dealers really pull tires off factory fresh cars and remount cheaper rubber? My F150 (granted the only new vehicle I’ve purchased) still had the Factory part ID tags on them when I drove it home. Matching set of $200/ea Michelins.

      I wouldn’t think that the cost of paying a guy to dismount and remount tires would leave any profit from re-selling the used OE tires.

  13. winstonthorne says:

    This is not a problem.

    Most batteries can be considered “refurbished” – that’s why, when you buy one at an auto parts or big box store (which you should – changing a car battery is no more complicated than changing any other battery – two bolts and it’s out), they add $5-10 to your receipt and refund you that “core charge” when you return your dead battery.

    The battery manufacturers use the physical casings from old batteries to make new ones. That doesn’t make batteries “used” – all the chemicals and any sensitive internals are replaced. This also happens with engines (the block is re-used) and transmissions (the housing is re-used, along with other durable parts as needed).

    In the electronics industry, the glass from TV displays and the metal housing from lamps/light engines are re-used.

    • az123 says:

      There is a huge difference in the way a battery is redone and an engine. Any engine that is rebuilt is considered to be so, a battery that is recycled is done to the extent that the lead plates that go inside it are melted down and re-formed and the plastic casing is also melted down and reformed, so you get a “new” battery made from recycled materials. If you reuse an engine block you are not getting a new engine, you are getting a rebuilt one and should not be paying the cost of a new one

      • Moniker Preferred says:

        Refurbed batteries are not the same thing as “recycled”.

        For refurbs, they open up the plastic casing with a laser cutter, or some equivalent, pull out all of the internals and replace them, reseal the case, than add fresh electrolyte.

        • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

          So why on Gadget’s green Earth is that better/more economical than assembling a new battery? The only difference is instead of using a new case, you are cutting open the old one, going through the effort and labor to remove everything that was in it, clean it, then assemble it like it was “new”.

  14. Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

    It’s quite possible that a refurbished battery was part of the engine swap “package”. Not sure why they’d need to do that, but it wouldn’t surprise me. We had recall work done on a Civic and it included a bunch of “courtesy” stuff that wasn’t part of the problem.

  15. Murph1908 says:

    Somebody stole your batry! I say we go get the MFer!

  16. healthdog says:

    Yes!! A chance to bore you all with my battery story.

    My 2001 BMW 3 series died a couple of months ago, so I jumped it and took it to my mechanic. He pulled out the factory original battery. That thing lasted 11 years.
    #coolstorybro

  17. milrtime83 says:

    Why is a mechanic doing something as simple as changing a battery if you have a “trusted family member” do all of the work on your car?

    And as others have said. An engine replacement is a pretty big deal. The battery would have come out in the process. The battery switch could have been a mistake as I don’t see anyone intentionally taking the original battery since that would be ~4 years old as well.

  18. Bob says:

    Is it possible that during the engine swap the dealership did something GOOD for her and she just didn’t know it? Maybe by giving her a reconditioned battery she was able to go a bit further before needing a battery replacement since her original battery already had some of its life used up. Also, let’s assume that she drives the average of 12-15,000 miles per year. If it’s a 2008 model that was potentially bought new in 2007, then it’s going on 5 years old. That puts her anywhere between 60,000 and 75,000 miles. She’d be due for a battery anyway.

  19. DanKelley98 says:

    After having the car four years, this story is stupid and irrelevant.

  20. MrEvil says:

    Odds are the dealer put the reconditioned battery in the car during the engine swap. Many batteries have a 60month pro-rated warranty on them. The dealer probably noticed something amiss with the original 3-4 year old battery and replaced it for you with a reconditioned one for customer satisfaction. It may even show in the service record in all the parts they replaced that you likely don’t know the name of.

    So in either scenario you got a battery that lasted you as long as most batteries typically last. My F250 needs a new pair of batteries every four years. My Crown Vic can last the better part of a decade on a battery.

  21. nicoleintrovert says:

    Battery gnomes.

  22. Dave B. says:

    Your car was only factory fresh for the first week or so of it’s life, I’d be far more concerned that the engine didn’t even last 4 years than I would be about the battery, but that’s me.

  23. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    What is this, a $50 or $60 replacement? Just get a new battery and quit fussing. Good grief.

  24. Bodger says:

    How does someone know that a battery was ‘used’ when it was installed (whatever its source)? I’ve purchased more than a few ‘refurbished’ items which, in common trade usage, means that the item has been run through a check by the maker who then certifies that the item is essentially as good as new. These items can truly be used, can be open box items which were never used, can be items with minor cosmetic flaws, or can be returns which simply sat on a shelf somewhere for a period of time. If it lasted four years then clearly there wasn’t much, if anything, wrong with it in the first place.

  25. CrazyEyed says:

    Knowing the engine kicked the bucket, its possible the battery was damaged at the same time. The dealer was probably trying to do her a favor. Nothing to worry about here. Move on.

  26. madtube says:

    As a dealer mechanic, I can offer a potential explanation. When a car comes in from the factory, it gets inspected (called a PDI). One of Honda’s big things is to perform a battery test on a PDI. If the battery fails for any reason on a PDI, it must be replaced. Here is where it gets unusual. Dealers do not get batteries from the manufacturer but locally from a vendor. In our case, it was Interstate Batteries. That vendor is contracted to provide the batteries for the manufacturer. The batteries arrive blank and the dealer attach the brand labels on the batteries.

    There have been occasions where batteries have been in short supply. When we need a battery that is back-ordered we would try other methods of procurement. We would try to get one from another dealer, another vendor of Interstate, or even a refurb that is backed by Interstate. As long as it passes the criteria set forth by Honda, it is valid. That refurb could have the Honda stickers on it. It would be fully backed by Honda’s warranty.

    Another note to consider: Amanda has a 2008 Civic. That means there is a good likelihood that is was manufactured in 2007. If she has indeed never changed the battery since she bought her car, that battery lasted roughly 5 years. That is awesome life for a battery that is grouped for a Civic. At our dealership, the average life for a battery was 20 months, less than 2 years. If everything is accurate to her story then she definitely got her money’s worth out of that refurbished battery.

  27. evilpete says:

    This is why it is good to photograph everything on a car, including under the hood.

  28. offtopic says:

    Oh my, why the heck is this being posted – perhaps if the engine had not been replaced, but come on.

  29. sparc says:

    4 or 5 years on a battery is pretty good. I’d be happy with that lifetime.

    Too late to worry about the battery swap unless you can pinpoint a date and a specific service that coincides.

  30. Medusa2005 says:

    We just found out that the same thing happened to my husband’s car! He bought a brand new 2008 Kia Optima and a few days ago, his battery died. We went to have a new one put in and the service guy told us the battery that had been in his car this whole time was made in 2006! That led me to believe some shady dealings have been going on somewhere down the line and I intend to do a full legal evaluation on it! If I find anything, I’ll let you know!