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Tips & Tricks

/Tips & Tricks

General Battery Tips

  • Never let the electrolyte level of a wet battery fall below the plates. Lack of maintaining the electrolyte in a wet battery causes damage (sulfation) to the exposed portion of the plate which reduces capacity.
  • Never store a battery in a discharged state. The sulfate that forms during discharge should not be ignored for an extended time period because severe sulfation will sometimes take place, making the battery impossible to recharge fully. Sulfation starts at voltages less than 12.4(6.2) and at specific gravity less than 1.225.
  • Always fill your serviceable, wet batteries with water (preferably distilled)…after they have been charged (provided the plates are covered). If the electrolyte level is at least above the plates, do not fill the battery until after recharge. The electrolyte expands during charging and if you fill them before recharging, the electrolyte will possibly bubble out of the battery. The plates must be covered with electrolyte for recharge but be careful not to overfill.
  • Don’t use a battery strap that locks onto the battery posts for transporting battery. This type of device can physically damage the battery’s internal connections.
  • Don’t hammer battery cable clamps down on battery posts. This damages internal parts of the battery.
  • Don’t add acid to a battery low on electrolyte solution. This increases the % acid above acceptable limits and causes pre-mature failure. Only add distilled water.
  • Don’t use a fast charger that increases voltage across the battery terminals above 16 volts, especially when connected to the electrical system of the vehicle. A fast charger can damage sensitive electronic components.
  • Don’t disconnect a battery cable while engine is running. This causes the charging voltage to rise since the voltage regulator loses its reference and cannot regulate the charging voltage. The voltage spikes can damage electronic components.
  • Always allow batteries to ‘cool off’ after charging. The cooling time is very important because heat is generated during the recharge and discharge cycles. Without the cooling time the heat grows, accelerating grid corrosion which is one of the major causes of battery failure.
  • Never charge a wet battery with a sealed (gel cell) battery charger. The wet battery needs the higher voltages to finish the charge and without it the batteries never come back to 100% and sulfation can occur.
  • Never charge a sealed (gel cell) battery with a wet battery charger. The higher voltages (above 14.8 volts) that a wet battery charger generates cause excessive gassing too fast for the sealed battery to recombine, causing dry-out and battery failure.
  • Always keep the tops and terminals of batteries clean and free of corrosion. The film on top of the battery can cause the current to migrate between the posts, accelerating self-discharge.
  • A fully charged battery will give you the best and longest service. Be sure the batteries are fully charged before testing or using it in your vehicles. Even a perfectly new battery that is discharged only, will fail load testing. Various states of charge of a battery, without a drain or load, after the surface charge has dissipated, are:

12.66 volts = 100% charged
12.54 volts = 90% charged
12.45 volts = 80% charged
12.39 volts = 75% charged
12.27 volts = 60 % charged
12.18 volts = 50 % charged
11.97 volts = 25 % charged
11.76 volts = completely discharged

  • In situations where multiple batteries are connected in parallel, series or series1parallel, a replacement battery(s) should be of the same size, age and usage level as the companion.
  • As batteries age, their maintenance requirements change. Generally their specific gravity is higher. Gassing voltage goes up. This means longer charging time and/or higher finish rate (higher amperage at the end of charge). Usually, older batteries need to be watered more often. And, their capacity decreases.
  • When a battery is not in use for long periods of time, it can be harmful to batteries. If they sit for several months, a ‘boost’ charge should be given; more frequently in warm climate (about once a month) than in cold (every 2-3 months). This is because batteries discharge faster at higher temperatures than at colder temperatures.
  • Monitoring either stabilized open circuit voltage or specific gravity will tell you when to charge and how much to charge batteries that are being stored. Battery voltage should not be allowed to drop below 12.4 for 12-volt batteries or 6.2 for 6-volt batteries. Specific gravity should not be allowed to drop below 1.225.

Winter is the hardest on your car.  Colder temperatures make your engine harder to crank and your battery less able to crank the engine over. There are services that should be performed at a time like this to maintain vehicle reliability.  If you believe out-of-sight, out-of-mind is acceptable for vehicle maintenance, it’s time for a reality check.  Good vehicle performance is directly linked to the care it receives.

  1. Visually inspect your battery for clean surfaces, loose connections, and corrosion. Dirt, corrosion and moisture provide a path for energy to escape from the battery. When corrosion  or dirt accumulates, use a weak solution of baking soda and water to clean the battery’s exterior. You may need a wire brush to scrub the terminals.  Loose connections also may result in an explosion!  Battery cables are important as defective cables and poor connections are two of the top reasons for cranking problems.  Keep cables and connections “bright and tight”.  Play close attention to ground connections.
  2. Make sure you maintain the electrolyte levels (for serviceable batteries, but  not for sealed batteries) between above the battery’s plates and below the vent well cap opening. Plates exposed to air will sulfate, become hard and brittle and you’ll lose battery power. Be careful not to overfill.  Adding too much water not only dilutes the electrolytes of the sulfuric acid, but can cause a drop in voltage.  Never add acid to the battery!
  3. Measure (on a serviceable battery) the “state of charge” preferable with a hydrometer.  If the battery is sealed, let the voltage equalize and determine “state of charge” with an accurate volt meter.  Appropriate charge levels (1.265 specific gravity as measured by a hydrometer and 12.6 volts as measured with a volt meter) are very important component of year around maintenance.  A discharged battery will lead to a starting failure.  A battery stored in a discharged state is susceptible to sulfation and freezing.
  4. Have your battery tested by a mechanic or battery specialist to ensure that it meets manufacturing specs for its power.  Not all batteries are created equally.You need a load tester or other digital battery testing equipment to accurately test the battery.  If the battery does not meet the manufacturer’s specs, then replace the battery with one that does.
  5. If you are storing batteries be sure to charge the battery before storage and store them in a cool, dry location.  Once a battery is filled with electrolyte, it discharges at 1% a day at 70 degree Fahrenheit. Cooler temperatures, from 40 to 60 degrees F are ideal. Discharged batteries can freeze at 18 degrees F.  Batteries stored in cars newer than 1981 have parasitic drains that will further discharge the batteries.  Check with a specialist before disconnecting the battery from the car’s electrical system.  Charge automotive, R.V. batteries every 3 months.  Charge motorcycle and ATV batteries once every month.  For vehicles left in storage including cars, R.V’s,  trucks, motorcycles, personal water craft, etc, there are several very good manufacturers (i.e. Interactor, VDC Electronics, Battery Tender, etc) that have perfected “completely automatic” chargers that will maintain your batteries at a “full state of charge” but not overcharge.

Before attempting to jump start the car, it is important to use safety glasses.Measure battery terminal post voltage with a volt meter to determine if battery has a shorted cell. A car should not be jump started if the battery has a shorted cell. The voltage at the shorted battery remains about two volts low even with the jumper cables connected. Attempts to jump start the car could result in damaged computer memories or alternator damage from voltage spikes from the source battery. Using jumper cables and jump starting should be the last resort.

Background:  A reading of 11.89 volts(0% charge) indicates the battery state of charge and a shorted cell may not exist in the battery. Compare the actual reading obtained to the BATTERY VOLTAGE vs. STATE OF CHARGE CHART to determine the battery’s state of charge shown below. Readings below 12.45 volts indicate low state of charge and might be the reason the battery cannot crank the engine. A reading of about 10.55 volts(4.22 for six volt batteries), indicates the battery may have a shorted cell and should be replaced.

OPEN CIRCUIT VOLTAGE VS STATE OF CHARGE

12.66 Volts = 100%
12.45 Volts = 75%
12.18 Volts = 50%
11.97 Volts = 25%
11.76 Volts = 0%
  1. Place the source car (good battery) close enough to the dead car so that jumper cables can reach between the batteries without stretching too tight.  The      jumper cables should be long enough and the cars close enough so the jumper cables have plenty of slack.  Do not let car bumpers touch each other. Wear protective eye glasses. Do not attempt to jump start a car if gasoline fumes are present, either around the source car or the car with the dead battery.
  2. Turn the source car off before making any jumper cable connections between the two batteries. Having the source car OFF lowers the voltage on the source battery voltage. The lower voltage helps reduce the amplitude of voltage spikes generated when jumper cables are connected to the dead battery. Make your last connection be the ground on the car being jumped and maximize the distance of this connection from the positive terminal.

Background:  Avoid voltage spikes at the battery terminals. Voltage spikes are generated when jumper cables or battery charger cables are connected to the battery terminals of a weak or dead battery.  These voltage spikes can shock computers’ memories and alter information stored in sensitive memory chips inside computers.  The most sensitive memory chips are called EEPROMs (Electrically-Erasable PROMs) or NVM chips (Non-Volatile Memory).

Tips & Warnings:

  • Always be sure that alligator clips get a good connection.  Reposition clip  if first start is unsuccessful.
  • Never start with the jumper cable’s positive clip attached to disable vehicle.  Always start with negative (-) ground clips to vehicles.  This should eliminate any potential shock hazard.
  • Cycle the battery lightly (20% or less depth of discharge) the first few cycles. This helps complete the forming process of the plates (in case they are not completely finished forming).
  • Always allow batteries to “cool off” after charging.The cooling time is very important because heat is generated during the recharge and discharge cycles. Without the cooling time, the heat increases, causing grid corrosion to accelerate, which is one of the major causes of battery failure.
  • Opportunity charging (quick charging between uses) is detrimental to battery life.While it is true that the shallower the cycle, the more cycles the battery can deliver, opportunity charging is not good because the cooling time is eliminated, shortening the battery life. (I.e. One charge cycle per day is preferable.)
  • Never charge a wet battery with a sealed (gel cell) battery charger. The wet battery needs the higher voltages to finish the charge, and without it the batteries never come back to 100% and sulfation can occur.
  • Never charge a sealed (gel cell) battery with a wet battery charger.The higher voltages (above 14.8 volts) that a wet battery charger generates causes excessive gassing too fast for the sealed battery to recombine, causing dry-out and battery failure.
  • Never let the electrolyte level of a wet battery fall below the plates.Lack of maintaining the electrolyte in a wet battery causes damage (sulfation) to the exposed portion of the plate that reduces capacity.
  • Never store a battery in a discharged state. The sulfate that forms during discharge should not be ignored for an extended time period because severe sulfation will sometimes take place, making the battery impossible to recharge fully.
  • Always fill your serviceable, wet batteries with water (preferably distilled) after they have been charged. If the electrolyte level is at least above the plates, do not fill the battery until after recharge. The electrolyte expands during charging and if you fill them before recharging, the electrolyte will possibly bubble out of the battery. The plates must be covered with electrolyte for recharge, but be careful not to overfill.
  • Always keep the tops and terminals of batteries clean and free of corrosion. The film on top of the battery can cause the current to migrate between the posts, accelerating self-discharge.
  • A fully charged battery will give you the best and longest service. Be sure the batteries are fully charged before testing or using your R..V’s. A fully charged battery is 12.63 volts for a 12 volt without a drain or load, after the surface charge has dissipated. Other states of charge are: 12.60 volts = 93% charged 12.55 volts = 89% charged 12.50 volts = 85% charged 12.45 volts = 80 % charged 12.18 volts = 50 % charged.
  • An overly discharged battery may need to be cycled a few times before it can recover fully. If a battery begins to heat before coming up to a full state of charge, it may be necessary to discharge the battery and recharge it a few times. This charge and discharge cycle may help the current acceptance of the battery and facilitate its recovery to a usable condition.
  • In situations where multiple batteries are connected in parallel, series or series/parallel, a replacement battery(s) should be of the same size, age and usage level as the companion batteries. Do not put a new battery in a pack that has 50 or more cycles. Either replace all with all new or use a good used battery(s).
  • Deepcycle batteries need to be equalized periodically. Equalizing is an extended, low current charge performed after the normal charge cycle. It helps keeps cells in balance. Actively used batteries should be equalized once per week. Manually timed chargers should have the charge time extended with about 3 hours. Automatically controlled chargers should be unplugged and reconnected after completing a charge cycle.
  • As batteries age, their maintenance requirements change. Generally their specific gravity is higher. Gassing voltage This means longer charging time and/or higher finish rate (higher amperage at the end of charge). Usually, older batteries need to be watered more often. and their capacity decreases.
  • When a battery is not in use for long periods of time, it can be harmful to deep cycle batteries. If they sit for several months, a “boost” charge should be given; more frequently in warm climate (about once a month) than in cold (every 2-3 months). This is because batteries discharge faster at higher temperatures than at colder temperatures.

Steps

  1. Switch off the engine and keep sparks, flames, cigarettes away from battery at all times, before removing the old battery.
  2. Disconnect the negative terminal, first and avoid short-circuit caused by tools, when removing old battery.
  3. Clean corroded parts in tray and cable clamps, before installation of new battery.
  4. Connect the positive terminal, first and check the terminal clamps for tight fit, when installing new battery.

CAUTION

  • No Sparks, Flames, or Smoking.
  • Charge in well-ventilated area. Remove from vehicle prior to charging
  • Read your vehicle, booster, and battery manuals prior to charging.
  • In case of exposure to acid, flush immediately with water. Then get immediate medical help.
  • Do not block or alter vent hole.
  • Keep out of reach of children

WARNING

Lead acid batteries generate explosive gases. Keep sparks, flames, & lighted cigarettes away from battery, when charging or using battery in an enclosed space, provide ventilation. This battery contains sulphuric acid. Avoid contact with skin, eyes, or clothing. In event of accident, flush with water and call aphysician immediately. Maximum recharging voltage is 14.6Volt.