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For A Good Life, Charge On!

Machine Design, May 17, 2001

Your car or motorcycle is a technological marvel. All of the various components required to create a machine capable of transporting people and weighty objects hither and thither requires years of design work and weeks of factory construction. The finished product is sleek, shiny, and in many cases, a work of art that is also quite functional.

There is one component, much as your own heart, that can terminate your car's performance - the battery. Without a functioning battery, your car or motorcycle will not start without a great deal of assistance. Without a functioning battery, odds are other electronic components will hiccup and not operate correctly. One could say your battery is the heart of your vehicle, and because of that fact, your battery requires maintenance, good care and the proper charger in order to support your vehicle's life cycle.

There are actually three stages involved in charging your vehicle's wet battery. The first is the bulk stage. This requires the charger current be constant, resulting in voltage increases in your battery during the first 80 percent of the recharge. This is followed by the absorption stage wherein the current decreases during the final 20 percent of the charging effort until the battery is fully charged. Next is an optional float stage. This is a maintenance stage and a much lower charge voltage is held constant. This overcomes the battery's normal self-discharge and retains a fully charged battery in your vehicle. There is an optional, fourth stage, that being the equalizing stage. This process actually reverses the accumulation of chemical effects in your battery and balances each of the battery cells voltage and specific gravity. Electrolyte stratification, which usually occurs in the bottom of the battery where the concentration of acid is greatest, is reversed and sulfate crystals are removed from the surface, or within, the pours of the battery plates.

If you detect a bad egg odor coming from your battery or note the base of the filler caps have black deposits on them, you have probably overcharged your battery. Other indicators of overcharging your battery include electrolytes that are brown or muddy red in color, or there may even be brown sediment that is lumpy in texture.

You would want the best care available to ensure the health of your own heart. The same applies to your vehicle's battery. Your car battery charger or motorcycle battery tender should be considered a long-term investment. A bad charger used on a good battery is far from ideal, while a good charger used on a less-expensive battery is a much "healthie" decision. Life goes on ...

Written by Hartley G. Lesser for BatteryStuff.com

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