Battery Maintenance

Joined
Oct 16, 2010
Messages
2,464
Location
california
The lead acid battery, which includes AGM and the rare actual Gelled electrolyte battery, ideally, always wants to be fully charged, and kept cool.

The Ideal float voltage for any specific battery, is specific to that battery, and its temperature, and to a lesser degree, its state of health, as self discharge can also rise with declining age.

Stories that charging source V, kept battery Y alive, for X years are absolutely meaningless regarding battery Y and charger X, as not are those two variables different, every other variable is too.

Each vehicle will present different parasitic loads to the battery with the engine off, and each vehicle's voltage regulation will be different, and each vehicle owner will use the vehicle differently, which means the time the charging voltage isheld, that the regulator allows, is different as will eb the depth of discharge, and the battery tempertature.

By and large, almost all reports of battery longevity on this forum are simple parroting of brand loyalty, with EastPenn/Deka being the favorite for the last few years, but several years ago Johnson controls was the bitog favorite.

Add to that is so few people ever check the actual voltage any given charger holds, or how much the battery accepts at that voltage, much less for how long the charger holds absorption voltage, or what the actual float voltage is when the charging source reverts from absorption to float, or if it just shuts off and restarts when battery voltage falls to 12.XX.

Most drivers like having an odometer, and a fuel gauge, yet when it comes to batteries, it seems most people are not aware how much gas they have in their tank, the size of their tank, the potential miles per tank, nor their starting point, nor the distance to their destination, much less the time it will take to get there, which is often far longer than they will ever realize, even if they knew their starting point, which they don't, Yet they spew their misinformation as fact.

Get an ammeter, watch how much amperage you battery accepts from your charger at the voltage the charger allows. The battery determines how much amperage it accepts at the voltage reaching the battery terminals, upto the maximum amperage of the charging source.

Or just remain completely ignorant, and wait for that green light to tell you that your battery can start your engine, and someone else with same product to tell you how wise you were to buy the same product they own.

Each and every engine start can be a load test. A voltmeter that can sample voltage several times per second, attached to battery terminals, will show how low battery voltage falls each cold engine start. Warm restarts of fuel injected engines happen so fast that only cold starts really are worthwhile load test.

If voltage falls to the low 8s, but then the battery accepts 65 amps at idle and battery voltage is 13.2, but revving the engine raises amperage to 80+ and voltage climbs into the 14's, says the battery is still healthy, just discharged. In this case, even if the vehicle would hold 14.4 and it be driven to 4 hours, the battery would only get to the 90% state of charge range, and that last 10% could take another 1.5 to 15 more hours, depending on the health of the battery.

But jow blow with chromed ' high output' alternator seems to think a well depleted healthy battery can be fully charged in 15 minutes, because they are so special.

If one starts their cold engine, and voltage falls to low 8's during, but then voltage climbs to 14's and amperage is less than 10 and quickly falling, the battery is severely compromised, and putting it on a charger will not buy much if any more time.

The ampmeter, and the voltmeter, are similar to the odometer ANd speedometer.
Many people can arrive at their destination without either operating, just put some gas in the tank every so often, and claim it works fine.
Others want to know more.
Others think they know more, but are clueless, just loud.

Unfortunately the loudest voice, is often thought to be the wisest, which is yet another sign regarding the sorry state of a failing society/culture.

Put one of these, or one of its many clones, on your plug in charger's DC output leads:
It will handle 25 amps continuous, and show voltage, amperage, watt hours, amp hours, minimum voltage and peak wattage and peak amperage. They are imperfect below 0.4 amps, and how imperfect varies among the actual unit/ clone.

I have one of following on the alternator to battery feed+ , and one the (-) battery cable. They are like a permanent DC clamp on ammeter, without the clamp, the cable mush be slid through the ring sensor. The opening is only ~7/8" though.


So I get to see how much amperage the alternator is making, and how much of that the battery is accepting vs going to powering loads, like the fuel pump, or lights, or even a cell phone.

I can also adjust the charging voltage of ALL, my charging sources, and seeing how much amperage the battery can accept at different electrical pressure (voltage) is extraordinarily enlightening, not only to the state of charge/ health of a battery, but who is experience free in this regard, and simply parroting incorrect information from someone who never understood it in the first place.

Forums are filled with the latter, on so many topics, that are much more complicated than the charging of lead acid batteries.

It has gotten so much worse, as the experienced, wise and knowledgeable get frustrated and give up, and the parrots that need to hear themselves squawk, are free to do so with no one to spray water at them.
 
Joined
Mar 30, 2015
Messages
9,329
Location
Lake Havasu City, Arizona
I just don't understand "Battery Maintenance"? Maintain it how? Years back you added water to the cells every so often, (preferably distilled). But most just used those battery fillers they had at the gas station when they filled up. Most all of those were filled from a hose spigot. If you took off the caps and saw the plates, you added water.

Today there is nothing to "maintain". Most batteries are sealed, and you have to pry off things to expose the cells.... Something they tell you not to do. You don't touch the AGM batteries that are used in many new cars today. Except to remove them when they go bad, and install a new one. Any and all "maintaining" is done by your vehicles charging system.

And running around revving your engine in order to charge your battery, makes about as much sense as chewing your food longer to burn calories before you swallow it. If normal driving won't keep your battery fully charged, you've got other problems.

About all you can do in a new vehicle to help your battery last, is turn off all that crap that is programmed to stay on after you shut it off. Like headlights that stay on after you get out, etc. None of that does a battery any good over time. And it goes without saying, if your car sits for weeks on end, use a Battery Tender, or you're not going anywhere.

Other than that, battery life today is luck of the draw. I've had them last 2 years, up to this last one I changed out that lasted 6. And there is nothing I can do to control any of it.
 
Joined
May 25, 2005
Messages
14,692
Location
ROCHESTER, NY
wrcsixeight thanks! That's a lot of info. I have read and understand what you're saying and more than I've ever though about for any battery. (y)
billt460, this is how I think of battery too. I keep my battery acid level up, the post clean and a maintainer on most of the time when not in use.(y)

I prefer to buy batteries with removal caps and the most amp/largest size I can fit in the space available when possible.
I am finding it harder & harder to find batteries with removable caps now-a-days. I can keep my battery a long time when doing what we've talked about and I find that a battery maintainer in a huge factor in keeping them longer and in good health along with my +/- cables.
 
Last edited:

JHZR2

Staff member
Joined
Dec 14, 2002
Messages
48,637
Location
New Jersey
Short trips can affect the battery, but longer trips and maintenance can help it. My mother routinely short tripped her 97 Plymouth breeze, but never had to change the battery for well over 10 years. Same with my father’s 94 Previa. We changed it proactively after >10 years. My 1981 Mercedes 240D also has a battery that is 12 years, maybe older at this point. Works perfect, even cranking a diesel which is a bigger ask.

These were simple cars. The Plymouth had crank windows. The previa had keyless entry as its fanciest feature. No retained power after shutoff, no fancy stuff. My parents also never use the door feature for the interior lights. IMO the significantly reduced off-state losses? Coupled with no draw after the vehicle was off helped a lot. Small engines also probably helped.

So I’d work to minimize parasitic draw, and draw in general on the short trips. The less you pull from the battery, the higher SOC is retained, the less sulfation happens. Then a maintenance charge (my parents never did this for their super long life batteries).

If you can get a bigger battery, consider that too.

The biggest things I see are:

1) no need to drive in D3
2) do a drive longer than 20 miles when you can. The entire vehicle will thank you.
 
Joined
Mar 21, 2004
Messages
27,555
Location
Near the beach in Delaware
If the battery has non removable vents or caps I would not try and remove them. East Penn makes good batteries. They will not last as long in a hotter climate vs colder.

I do not think there is much you can do to make the battery last longer. If the vehicle is not going to be used for a few weeks then put it on a battery maintainer if possible.
 
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Florida
I bought a golf cart this year. You have to pop the battery caps off once a month and add distilled water. There is a gauge built into the battery that shows exactly where the top of the water should be.

I just popped off my Toyota battery caps yesterday. This is a “maintenance free battery”. This battery is two years old. To my surprise, it has the same exact gauge built into the battery cell to show you exactly where the fluid level should be. Every cell of my two year old battery was down 1-3 ounces. I topped the battery off with distilled water and then used my NOCO battery charger to give it a good charge.
 
Joined
May 6, 2005
Messages
8,722
Location
San Francisco Bay Area
I bought a golf cart this year. You have to pop the battery caps off once a month and add distilled water. There is a gauge built into the battery that shows exactly where the top of the water should be.

I just popped off my Toyota battery caps yesterday. This is a “maintenance free battery”. This battery is two years old. To my surprise, it has the same exact gauge built into the battery cell to show you exactly where the fluid level should be. Every cell of my two year old battery was down 1-3 ounces. I topped the battery off with distilled water and then used my NOCO battery charger to give it a good charge.

Haven't seen one of those in a while, and then only in Japanese car brands where the battery was made in Japan. The case is typically white and translucent. Once on a Yuasa, one Panasonic, and another small battery manufacturer from Japan. Found a photo of a Panasonic.

31c2e6da590bb39e15e4e8cb8c2006b5x.jpg


I haven't seen any kind of single caps in any American battery in years. Even the ones sold for Japanese car companies just have a different label but are either "maintenance free" or have the same kind of caps. If they have caps they're usually 3 cells under a single cap. Of course there are ones like the East Penn design where the caps seem like they're glued on and even the edges covered by a label.

03559633.jpg
 
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Joined
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257
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New Hampshire
The lead acid battery, which includes AGM and the rare actual Gelled electrolyte battery, ideally, always wants to be fully charged, and kept cool.

The Ideal float voltage for any specific battery, is specific to that battery, and its temperature, and to a lesser degree, its state of health, as self discharge can also rise with declining age.

Stories that charging source V, kept battery Y alive, for X years are absolutely meaningless regarding battery Y and charger X, as not are those two variables different, every other variable is too.

Each vehicle will present different parasitic loads to the battery with the engine off, and each vehicle's voltage regulation will be different, and each vehicle owner will use the vehicle differently, which means the time the charging voltage isheld, that the regulator allows, is different as will eb the depth of discharge, and the battery tempertature.

By and large, almost all reports of battery longevity on this forum are simple parroting of brand loyalty, with EastPenn/Deka being the favorite for the last few years, but several years ago Johnson controls was the bitog favorite.

Add to that is so few people ever check the actual voltage any given charger holds, or how much the battery accepts at that voltage, much less for how long the charger holds absorption voltage, or what the actual float voltage is when the charging source reverts from absorption to float, or if it just shuts off and restarts when battery voltage falls to 12.XX.

Most drivers like having an odometer, and a fuel gauge, yet when it comes to batteries, it seems most people are not aware how much gas they have in their tank, the size of their tank, the potential miles per tank, nor their starting point, nor the distance to their destination, much less the time it will take to get there, which is often far longer than they will ever realize, even if they knew their starting point, which they don't, Yet they spew their misinformation as fact.

Get an ammeter, watch how much amperage you battery accepts from your charger at the voltage the charger allows. The battery determines how much amperage it accepts at the voltage reaching the battery terminals, upto the maximum amperage of the charging source.

Or just remain completely ignorant, and wait for that green light to tell you that your battery can start your engine, and someone else with same product to tell you how wise you were to buy the same product they own.

Each and every engine start can be a load test. A voltmeter that can sample voltage several times per second, attached to battery terminals, will show how low battery voltage falls each cold engine start. Warm restarts of fuel injected engines happen so fast that only cold starts really are worthwhile load test.

If voltage falls to the low 8s, but then the battery accepts 65 amps at idle and battery voltage is 13.2, but revving the engine raises amperage to 80+ and voltage climbs into the 14's, says the battery is still healthy, just discharged. In this case, even if the vehicle would hold 14.4 and it be driven to 4 hours, the battery would only get to the 90% state of charge range, and that last 10% could take another 1.5 to 15 more hours, depending on the health of the battery.

But jow blow with chromed ' high output' alternator seems to think a well depleted healthy battery can be fully charged in 15 minutes, because they are so special.

If one starts their cold engine, and voltage falls to low 8's during, but then voltage climbs to 14's and amperage is less than 10 and quickly falling, the battery is severely compromised, and putting it on a charger will not buy much if any more time.

The ampmeter, and the voltmeter, are similar to the odometer ANd speedometer.
Many people can arrive at their destination without either operating, just put some gas in the tank every so often, and claim it works fine.
Others want to know more.
Others think they know more, but are clueless, just loud.

Unfortunately the loudest voice, is often thought to be the wisest, which is yet another sign regarding the sorry state of a failing society/culture.

Put one of these, or one of its many clones, on your plug in charger's DC output leads:
It will handle 25 amps continuous, and show voltage, amperage, watt hours, amp hours, minimum voltage and peak wattage and peak amperage. They are imperfect below 0.4 amps, and how imperfect varies among the actual unit/ clone.

I have one of following on the alternator to battery feed+ , and one the (-) battery cable. They are like a permanent DC clamp on ammeter, without the clamp, the cable mush be slid through the ring sensor. The opening is only ~7/8" though.


So I get to see how much amperage the alternator is making, and how much of that the battery is accepting vs going to powering loads, like the fuel pump, or lights, or even a cell phone.

I can also adjust the charging voltage of ALL, my charging sources, and seeing how much amperage the battery can accept at different electrical pressure (voltage) is extraordinarily enlightening, not only to the state of charge/ health of a battery, but who is experience free in this regard, and simply parroting incorrect information from someone who never understood it in the first place.

Forums are filled with the latter, on so many topics, that are much more complicated than the charging of lead acid batteries.

It has gotten so much worse, as the experienced, wise and knowledgeable get frustrated and give up, and the parrots that need to hear themselves squawk, are free to do so with no one to spray water at them.
wrcsixeight,
Your explanation of battery charging was very understandable and I think even I understand your explanation. A batteries apparent quick recovery after a cold start could indicate that the battery is almost done for. Kind of like a cel phone battery. Battery indicator shows 100%, but the phone only works for 10 minutes before the battery is discharged and only takes 5 minutes to "recharge" back to 100%.

I recently changed a battery in the wife's Subaru when a slightly slow cold cranking speed was observed and the battery voltage would go back to 14.2 volts in about 5 seconds after start. The new battery cranks the engine much faster in cold weather.
 
Joined
Mar 21, 2004
Messages
27,555
Location
Near the beach in Delaware
It's been many months since the OP started this thread. Are you still driving in a lower gear than the transmission wants to be in in an effort to more fully charge the battery? I hope not.

As for getting your battery to last longer being in a state where it's hot is the biggest issue. If your driving habits are not getting the battery to a fully charged state on a regular basis then you need to fully charge it with a plug-in charger every few weeks.

You can try an insulating blanket for the battery. I do not have much hope.

But compared to other car costs your battery is only costing you $25 a year if you get 4 years out of a $100 battery. I would not spend a lot of time on getting your battery to last longer.

Go do something fun like take kids to park or play catch with them. But a new battery every few years.
 

SWS

Thread starter
Joined
Apr 10, 2004
Messages
397
Location
Tennessee
Hello - OP here:
Donald, I am driving more & longer now, and able to get a fair percentage of highway driving - in 5th gear!

Also, I now have a NOCO Genius 5 charger. Through the winter (short trips) I used it monthly and observed it took about 3 hours to get to full charge. This reminded me of what wrcsixeight said - that you have to drive for 3 hours to reach full charge...

This is a great thread! Thanks to all who have contributed!
 
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