Monday, February 2, 2009

Battery Maintenance

Whether it's in your car, RV, boat, or part of your off grid power system, batteries are important and need regular maintenance. To do this, you need a few things. First off is a battery brush. These make the job of cleaning the crud that accumulates on the terminals and posts quick and easy. To do this, disconnect the terminals, negative first, using the proper tool for the fasteners. Be extremely careful not to touch metal with the tool, especially on the positive side. Also avoid shorting the battery across the posts, or you'll get a crash course in arc welding! Push the brush onto a post, and turn it clockwise. Just a few twists will do it, and when finished, the post will be bright and clean. Use the male brush to clean the terminal lugs.

To prevent that crud from building up in the first place, get some terminal protectors. Don't know how they work, but they do! It's PFM for all you former military folks.... Also, spray those terminals with protectant for even better crud prevention.

Always keep the top of the battery clean. Moisture, crud, dirt, they can all conduct current and cause your battery to slowly discharge. Never leave a battery in direct contact with the ground for the same reason. Place it on a board, rubber mat, or some other dry, insulating material. In a vehicle, make sure the battery is properly secured in it's tray. For boats, RVs, or other purposes, it's a good idea to keep the battery in a marine battery box, which will prevent objects from falling on the terminals and shorting the battery, possibly causing an explosion or fire.

Make sure the battery box is well ventilated. Charging batteries give off hydrogen gas, which is extremely explosive. Always charge batteries in a well ventilated area!

The last thing maintenance wise is keeping the electrolite level topped off. Lots of batteries today are "maintenance free", but if there are removable caps on top, they are not. Use distilled water only when topping off the cells on a lead acid battery. Tap water will cause scale to build up on the lead plates, reducing battery life. And remember, it might go in as water, but it comes out as acid! It will burn you, and eat clothing, paint, and other stuff. Be careful!

For long term storage, it's best to keep the battery on a trickle charger. Never dishcarge a battery below 50%, as this will reduce it's life. Use deep cycle batteries for power systems, and cranking batteries for starting engines. Choose battery size by the amperage required from the intended load. And there ya have it, battery 101!


APN said...

Good info, and don't forget if you live in cold climates, the cold will play hell on your battery. Keep your car inside the garage if possible, or buy a battery warmer

Anonymous said...

As a former GM mechanic,don't worry about where or what you set your battery on.Do you believe there are magic power's in concrete that suck out the energy? Do you beleive in the easter bunny too? As far as the best batterie's for long term,get an optima,no other choice. Gel cell,mount in any position,leakproof,,,but you'll pay at least 120 for them! As far as the so called "Die hard",they are no more than a normal battery,just taller for more water! Even a sealed battery has water cell's in it,just cut thru the sticker on the top,which will violate any warranty,and add water! Use distilled water when you can,as tap water has too much crap in it.

riverwalker said...

To: anonymous 6:03

Sorry Mayberry! I've got to go with anonymous on this point.

The only thing that “sucks” the power out of a battery besides use is the act of leaving it out of service for weeks or months at a time uncharged. This will cause it to slowly sulfate itself to death. The deposits that build up on the plates in the battery will flake off and build up to the point where the interior plates become “shorted out” by the deposits as they build up inside the battery. It would do the same thing if it were sitting in a room of your house on a table.

The concrete floor might actually help keep the battery alive longer than a shelf or the table would because it is usually ground temperature. This would create a cooler environment which is actually better for storing a battery for a long period of time.

Back when battery cases were made out of natural rubber, this was indeed the case. Although most people have never seen a battery made with natural rubber, current battery cases are usually made of polypropylene or other modern materials that allow a battery to be stored anywhere, thus effective eliminating the problem.

A battery’s rate of discharge is affected by several main factors including its construction, its age, and the ambient temperature of the area in which it is stored.

The main issue with storing a battery on concrete or other surface is that if the battery leaks, is extremely dirty or has a lot of corrosion on it, the concrete or other surface it is setting on may be damaged.

The main reason therefore to place a battery on a board or mat is to protect the surface and not the battery.

Almost two decades in automotive and truck repair also helps!


riverwalker said...

To: anonymous 6:03

What? No Easter Bunny! You have totally ruined my day. Now what am I going to do with all those colored plastic eggs? LOL


Anonymous said...

To: Riverwalker
Another bunch of pepper's for you! That battery stuff was one of the first thing's they taught us in college! After a few yr's of off roading,I went thru more batterie's than an Optima would have cost to begin with. They are not cheap,they are not refillable,but they seem to last thru anything I've done with them.

HermitJim said...

This is , as always, very good information...made my mind up for me about what battery to choose!

Bullseye said...

Maintenance is the Preppers code I think. We all need to take extra good care of the things we are blessed to have. Good post to keep us all thinking about taking care of our preps, no matter what they may be.

Mayberry said...

Anon 6:03, was that really necessary? That's one of those things that's been passed down through the ages. I would have accepted your information without the sarcasm....

RW, now I know where that came from, thanks...

Dean, Optimas are great. I've just never been able to afford one.... When we used to have a drag strip here, I did tech inspections, and got to know all the racers. Those that had them swore by Optima batteries. They stood up to the heat, vibration, and heavy load of electric fuel pumps, fans, water pumps, and hot ignition systems, not to mention Nitrous Oxide solenoids, roll control, delay boxes, etc.....

Hermit, glad you got something out of it.

Bullseye, thanks!

Mayberry said...

American, good advice!

riverwalker said...

To: Mayberry

No real sarcasm meant on my part. It was a truly excellent post. One thing still bothers me though and could use your help. Would you mind checking out the Easter Bunny thing and letting me know what you find out? LOL

Your friend.


Thomas Miller said...

Just got finished reading a great book on batteries for my RV. Mayberry hit all the main points. I went with Interstate's. Couldn't handle the price of the AGM's right now. Bought (4) 220a 6-volts for about $500. Optimas or Lifelines would have been double, or triple. Figured I'd do these first, then if we're still around in a couple of years I'd upgrade.

Oh, thing the book mentioned was don't mix battery types!

Sanjac said...

Good post Mayberry, I had a positive terminal that kept getting corrosion on it and had to be cleaned one time with milk and a toothbrush (all I had in the car when it wouldn't start outside a 7/11) just to crank the car over. After cleaning it a few months later I gave it a REAL close inspection and found a hairline crack next to the post. It was leaking acid gas out the crack and corroding the terminal. I replaced it and learned a lesson about having tools in the car and maintenance/inspection.

Gulf Coast Dean