Never add new electrolyte (battery acid), use distilled water. Don’t use unregulated high output battery charges to charge batteries, especially AGM and Gel batteries. Don’t put your equipment or toys (jet skis, vintage cars etc) into storage without some form of maintenance charger. Don’t disconnect battery cables while the engine is running (your battery acts as a filter). Don’t put off recharging your batteries. Don’t add tap water, as it may contain minerals that may contaminate the electrolyte. Don’t discharge the battery any deeper than you possibly have to. Don’t let a battery get hot to the touch and boil violently when charging. Don’t mix size and type of batteries in battery banks.
28 June, 2013
Think safety first; wear safety goggles and gloves when charging batteries. Do regular inspection and maintenance or water levels on connections, especially in hot weather. Recharge batteries immediately after discharge or at least the same day. Fully charge a battery before it goes into storage. Always use batteries of identical make, model and manufacturing code. Make sure the battery cable is not undersized for the battery system.
A lead acid battery when overcharged will produce hydrogen gas. If the ventilation is inadequate a flammable concentration of hydrogen gas may remain in the cell or in the battery enclosure. Any spark can cause the hydrogen explosion, which will damage the battery and its surroundings.
Without the right testing equipment it can be very difficult to test a battery. The easiest method is to measure the specific gravity by using a hydrometer and to measure the voltage using a digital multimeter, if you test a lot of batteries you may need to buy a good load tester. First you must fully charge the battery (see chart). Check the battery voltage after removing any surface charge, it should read above 12.65 volts for a fully charged battery, if your battery is measuring 10.5 volts after charging it typically indicates a shorted or faulty cell. If you can check every cell in the battery with a hydrometer, the cell readings should all be the same, a fully charged cell reads 1.265 - 1.280, if there is more than 0.05 points different it indicates a faulty battery. Readings below 1.225 indicate the battery needs to be charged before load testing. If the battery is sealed it should have a built in hydrometer telling the charge of one cell, you may get a good reading in that cell but the problem may be in one of the other cells. Once the battery is charged you need to use a load tester. A good load tester is very expensive so it may be better to get a professional to test it.
A problem can arise when you battery is extremely discharged, for example; a light is left on in the vehicle and the battery voltage drops below 7 volts. Some chargers will not charge a battery when the voltage is that low and you will have to take it to a professional to charge it for you. Chargers are getting better and there are some on the market that will start at 3 or even 0 volts. The problem is that the battery has developed an extremely high internal resistance (caused by sulfation) and the charger is not strong enough to push current through the battery.
Vehicle alternators are a very basic battery charger, they can recharge you vehicle battery if it is not deeply discharged. If your battery is deeply discharged it is highly recommended to recharge on an automatic or “smart” charger. These chargers have multiple stages of charging and some offer different modes depending on the type of battery you are charging. Wet, Calcium, AGM and Gel batteries all like different voltages check with the battery supplier for more info on suggested charge voltages. Before charging check the electrolyte levels and top up with distilled water if necessary. Connect the charger leads to the battery terminals red positive lead to the positive terminal and the black negative lead to the negative terminal, make sure they are on the correct terminals it is possible for the charger to reverse charge the battery if hooked up incorrectly. Only turn on the charger once it is connected to the battery. Never touch the charger leads when the charger is on and turn the charger OFF before disconnecting the leads. Batteries should be monitored whilst on charge, if the battery is faulty there is a good chance the charger will not switch off and the battery will overheat and be overcharged. If the battery has a faulty cell the charger will continue to charge the battery until a predetermined voltage in the charger is reached. If the battery has a faulty cell the charger cannot reach this voltage and will continue to charge until it is manually [...]
Cable connections need to be cleaned and tightened as battery problems are often caused by dirty and loose connections. Don’t forget to check the earth cable, this can be the last thing that is checked but the easiest to fix. If the battery has removable caps it is best to check the water at least every 6 months and more often as the battery ages. Distilled water is best as all the impurities have been removed and there is nothing left that could contaminate your cells. Don’t over fill battery cells especially in warmer weather because the natural fluid expansion in hot weather can push excess electrolytes from the battery and will make an awful mess. To prevent corrosion on the terminals ensure the terminals are clean and have a good connection, a covering of grease or a battery terminal protection spray will help. If you continue to have problems try felt washers and cover them with petroleum jelly or even a bead of silicon sealer around the base of the post. The corrosion is caused by acid creeping in between the case and the terminal post and also excessive gassing, batteries are getting better and we don’t see as much corrosion anymore.
Sulfation generally starts when the battery voltage is below 12.4 volts. It is a build up that occurs when the sulphur molecules in the electrolyte (sulphuric battery acid) become so deeply discharged that they begin to coat the battery plates. Before long the plates become so coated the battery will no longer be able to be recharged or deliver current. The causes of sulfation are numerous, some examples are: Batteries sit too long between charges, as little as 24 hours before damage can be done. Battery is not used regularly and has no maintenance charger. Low electrolyte level, battery plates exposed to air will sulphate. Parasitic drain in the vehicle is constantly flattening the battery. Alas there are many maintenance chargers on the market, just plug the charger into the mains power and attach to your battery, this will prolong the battery life considerably and can be left on permanently without damaging the battery. If there is no access to mains power another option is to use a solar trickle charger.
27 November, 2012
Batteries are only dangerous if handled incorrectly and proper maintenance is not followed. The hydrogen gas that batteries make when charging is very explosive. We have seen instances of batteries blowing up and drenching everything in sulphuric acid and sending jagged pieces of the poly propylene case up to 20 metres away. It only takes a small spark, flame or burning cigarette to set off a dangerous explosion. Therefore ignition sources must be kept well away at all times. Extreme caution must be taken to avoid spilling or splashing electrolyte (battery acid) as it can destroy clothing and burn the skin. Care should also be taken when lifting and carrying batteries due, if excessive pressure is placed on the end walls of the battery it can cause electrolyte to seep (or even squirt) through the vents, this is usually found in cheaper imported batteries that use thinner casings and not reinforced. It is highly recommended to wear safety goggles and even a face shield when working near batteries. Never lean over the battery during charging, testing or “jump starting” operations. If acid does get into your eyes you must flush out with water immediately and continue to flush with water for at least 5 minutes. Take care to ensure tools or other metallic objects do not fall across the terminal or any adjacent metallic part of the vehicle. When doing electrical work on vehicles it is best to disconnect the ground (earth) cable. Just remember that you are messing with [...]
As a member of the ABIA (Australian Battery Industry Association) we are responsible for the collection of scrap batteries, so you can drop your batteries off to us and we will send them off to be recycled. Never put them in with your household waste. Batteries are recycled by grinding them, neutralizing the acid and separating the plastics from the lead. The recovered materials are used in a variety of applications including new batteries.