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Why do lead-acid (automotive-style) batteries typically only last for a few years of regular use (or x amount of cycles) before having problems?

Obviously, things can't last forever. But, what are the physical differences between an old battery, and a new one? What changes? What exactly occurs (physically) inside the cells that eventually leads to failure?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you done any research to try to answer this question yourself? It's hard to imagine that a quick search didn't turn up a wealth of information. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 13:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Research sulfation, it's a well known effect. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jeroen3
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 14:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, think about how much vibration they are subjected to... engine vibration, road surface, pot-holes - it's a wonder they last as long as they do... \$\endgroup\$
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 14:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Question should be closed - insufficient research. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 15:07

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Internal deposits build up on the plates. If you take the battery apart, clean up the plates, and give it some fresh acid it will be like new again. Of course cleaning the internals of a lead-acid battery can be dangerous if you don't know what you're doing; the acid will melt skin.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for a genuine answer. I was curious if that was actually the case. The general consensus seems to be that it's not, but I'm willing to try in order to satisfy my curiosity. I thought maybe the lead plates would simply lose structural integrity and deteriorate, but from a cursory examination with a torch & a probe through the access holes to the individual cells, they appear to be fine. I'll cut the top off with a small rotary blade, and see what I can do \$\endgroup\$
    – voices
    Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 4:35

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