RAC Caught Misdiagnosing Batteries at the Roadside by BBC Watchdog

We’ve long had our suspicions about roadside recovery services wrongly condemning batteries at the roadside.

For years we have had supposedly faulty batteries back for warranty replacement after the RAC or other large roadside recovery companies have tested them and confirmed them as faulty. In many cases, we find that when we give them a good recharge they’re perfectly healthy!

This all boils down to the fact that a car battery can only be properly tested when it’s in a fully charged state. A battery takes 10 hours to be charged fully. If your battery is drained down to the point that it won’t start your car, when the roadside patrol come to assist you they cannot perform a correct test as the battery is discharged (or flat).

In certain circumstances a battery can easily become drained down to the point that it won’t start your car and it just needs a good recharge. You may leave your lights on; or in cold weather (when batteries can struggle anyway) your may have your headlights/heaters/heated seats/heated windscreens etc on meaning that the battery is being depleted faster than the car’s alternator can recharge it. Other reasons could be a multitude of short journeys using more battery power than is being restored by the alternator, or even a faulty glovebox or boot switch causing the glovebox or boot light to be left on 24/7. You’d be surprised how common that is!

When we have to inform a customer that their battery is in good health and just needed a charge we often get the response that “the roadside patrol has condemned it and they know everything about cars”… With the evidence uncovered by the BBC it’s clear that this is not always the case. Eight of the ten batteries tested in their report were wrongly diagnosed as being faulty.

It may simply be the case that as they can’t test the battery properly at the roadside the patrols are taking a punt that the battery is at fault, but in the programme they were quick to offer to sell a replacement at very high prices compared to our own. The patrols stated that if a second callout is required for a battery issue that there would be an £85 callout charge. One wonders if the patrols are on commission!

Why not view the Watchdog Episode HERE (available for 30 days from broadcast date).there’s also a writeup by the Telegraph newspaper HERE.

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