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Battery Maintenance


Servicing Batteries isn't all that hard. A little bit of care and attention, plus a basic idea of what's good for them and what's bad for them, can go a a long way towards extending your battery life. While most of it is just common sense and eyeball inspections, a few simple tools can be helpful when maintaining your batteries. Flooded batteries do expel acidic hydrogen gasses when charging. These corrosive gasses really do a number on the battery terminal connections so one of the first points of maintenance is to keep these connections clean. You won't pass much electricity through a dirty connection. Besides, eventually the cable will rot away and fall off so you might as well take care of them.

What are common mistakes made by lead acid battery owners?

Undercharging: Generally caused by not allowing the charger to restore the battery to full state of charge after use. Continually operating the battery in a partial state of charge, or storing the battery in a discharged state result in the formation of lead sulfate compounds on the plates. This condition is known as sulfation. Both of these conditions reduce the battery's performance and may cause premature battery failure. Undercharging will also cause stratification.

Overcharging: Continuous charging causes accelerated corrosion of the positive plates, excessive water consumption, and in some cases, damaging temperatures within a lead acid battery. Deep cycle batteries should be charged after each discharge of more than 50% of the batteries rated capacity, and/or after prolonged storage of 30 days or more.

Things to look for during battery inspection:

1. Examine the outside appearance of the battery.

  • Look for cracks in the container.

  • The top of the battery, posts, and connections should be clean, free of dirt, fluids, and corrosion. If batteries are dirty, refer to the Cleaning section for the proper cleaning procedure.

  • Repair or replace any damaged batteries.

2. Any fluids on or around the battery may be an indication that electrolyte is spilling, leaching, or leaking out.

  • Leaking batteries must be repaired or replaced.

3. Check all battery cables and their connections.

  • Look closely for loose or damaged parts.

  • Battery cables should be intact; broken or frayed cables can be extremely hazardous.

  • Replace any cable that looks suspicious.

4. Tighten all wiring connections to the proper specification (see below). Make certain there is good contact with the terminals.

WARNING: Do not over tighten terminals. Doing so can result in post breakage, post meltdown, or fire.

Here are the proper Torque values if you desire and have a torque wrench to torque the battery hardware.

Automotive: 50-70 in-lbs

Side: 70-90 in-lbs

Wing Nut: 95-105 in-lbs

LPT: 95-105 in-lbs

LT: 100-120 in-lbs


Battery Watering:

Flooded batteries need water. More importantly, watering must be done at the right time and in the right amount or else the battery's performance and longevity suffers.

Distilled water should always be added after fully charging the battery. Prior to charging, there should be enough water to cover the plates. If the battery has been discharged (partially or fully), the water level should also be above the plates. Keeping the water at the correct level after a full charge will prevent having to worry about the water level at a different state of charge.

Depending on the local climate, charging methods, application, etc. it is recommended that batteries be checked once a month until you get a feel for how thirsty your batteries are.

Important things to remember:

1. Do not let the plates get exposed to air. This will damage (corrode) the plates.

2. Do not fill the water level in the filling well to the cap. This most likely will cause the battery to overflow acid, consequently losing capacity and causing a corrosive mess. (If this happens, spread some baking soda around and flush with clean water.

3. Do not use water with a high mineral content. Use distilled or de-ionized water only.

CAUTION: The electrolyte is a solution of acid and water so skin contact should be avoided.

Step by step watering procedure:

1. Open the vent caps and look inside the fill wells.

2. Check electrolyte level; the minimum level is at the top of the plates.

3. If necessary add just enough distilled water to cover the plates at this time.

4. Put batteries on a complete charge before adding any additional distilled water (refer to the Charging section).

5. Once charging is completed, open the vent caps and look inside the fill wells.

6. Add distilled water until the electrolyte level is 1/8" below the bottom of the fill well.

7. A piece of rubber can be used safely as a dipstick to help determine this level.

8. Clean, replace, and tighten all vent caps.


Suggestions for help in filling your batteries.

Purchase a small plastic pitcher (2 cup) (Wal-Mart’s) with a spout. Use a flashlight.

Install a battery watering system - http://www.flow-rite.com/spw/pro-fill

Lot of folks use a Turkey Baster (Wal-Mart’s) to assist and a mechanics telescopic mirror (Automotive Parts Store)

You can make a battery watering system by picking up a replacement fuel priming aspirator bulb (Wal-Mart item) that typically goes into the fuel line on boat fuel tanks. Then add some 3/8" clear hose (Home Depot type item) and you have a hand pump to pump battery water from a jug into the batteries.

WARNING: Never add acid to a previously installed battery as a substitute for distilled water!


Submitted by Mike Sundberg - 2/06/06

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