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Battery Testers and Load Testers: Tools with Different Purposes

Battery Testers and
Load Testers: Tools with Different Purposes

Have you ever stopped by the auto parts store, asked to see some battery testers, and had the sales clerk question whether you really meant a load tester? That is because the terms ‘battery tester’ (which we will from now on refer to as an ‘electronic tester’) and ‘load tester’ are often used interchangeably. Both types of devices are capable of testing batteries, but they are two distinctly different tools that perform their tasks in very different ways.

The best way to sort this out in your head is to understand that electronic testers read a battery’s internal structure and characteristics. Meanwhile, a load tester evaluates a battery’s performance, specifically under load. Both serve a valuable purpose. That is why your typical auto repair shop keeps both on hand.

Testing With No Load / Limited Load

We like to say that an electronic tester primarily tests the internal characteristics of a battery. Think of things like open circuit voltage, internal conductivity, internal resistance, etc. An electronic tester does not primarily rely on a load. Rather, internal measurements are what matters.

Are you looking to check a battery’s current charge (OCV)? An electronic tester is your tool, and will provide this information to a level of detail not typically provided by a load tester. The same goes if you want to know certain things about a battery’s general health. On the other hand, an electronic tester will not tell you how well a battery performs under an extended load.

Digital Battery and System Testers from SOLAR actually combine all the great features of today’s electronic testers with our MicroLoad Technology, which actually places a small load on the battery at the start of the testing process. Our MicroLoad Technology stabilizes the battery, allows us to get a more accurate reading of battery health and reduces the likelihood of “Charge and Retest” results.

Electronic Testers Add System Testing Capabilities

Our advanced electronic testers, like the SOLAR BA9, 40-1200 CCA 12 Volt Digital Battery & System Tester, offer the convenience of precise system testing capabilities. Our electronic testers are capable of testing six different types of batteries, including conventional flooded acid, AGM flat plate, Spiral Wound, Gel Cell, Start-Stop AGM and EFB. They can also help a user identify certain types of system problems, such as a defective starter and or a charging/alternator issue.

Why would you choose an electronic tester over a load tester? There are a number of reasons:

  • Electronic testers can accurately test discharged batteries, so they save time. Load testers require the battery to be above 85% State of Charge (SoC) to get an accurate reading.
  • Quality electronic testers have specific judgement maps for each battery type they service, so you are specifically testing each battery type using dedicated go/no go criteria, for more accurate assessment.
  • Electronic testers provide precise details when performing system assessments. For instance, when running a starter draw test, you will know that the system hit a low of 10.1V, whereas with a load tester, you’d have to watch the deflection of the needle and get an approximate value for the system low during the starting event.

Testing With a Load

If you want to know how well a battery does under real world demands, one tried and true way to do so is to apply a load. That is the purpose of a load tester. A load tester is designed to create a current draw that simulates typical tasks. Think of a car battery. Its main task is to start the car. A load tester would draw enough current to simulate a start. It would also test how the battery performs as it’s being drained.

Why would you choose a load tester over an electronic tester? There are a number of reasons:

  • Load testers provide more information about battery performance.
  • A load tester can reveal internal battery problems, like weak cells.
  • Load testing is a definite way to determine if a battery can support a specific level of load.

You could say that a load tester is designed to reveal whether a battery is still capable of doing its job. In a professional setting, you would use a load tester to diagnose performance problems, starting problems, and potentially serious internal issues. We recommend having both to hand if you are a professional automotive technician.

If you are a hobbyist or just a driver curious about car battery health, a basic battery tester may be all you need. Look for a portable tester with basic features like reverse polarity protection and an easy-to-read LCD display.

We Have Both Types

Here at Clore Automotive, we carry both types. Whether you need one or both, we invite you to check out our products. Each battery and load tester in our inventory has its own product page complete with description, list of features, and other pertinent information.

Battery testers and load testers are two distinctly different devices with different purposes. If you are ever unsure which is best suited to your needs, we would be happy to help. Just ask.

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