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What You Need to Know About Batteries

Last month, we said, it all starts with the battery. We thought that, in light of the frigid temps that are wreaking havoc on batteries across North America, we’d delve deep into the world of batteries, setting it straight and debunking myths with the help of several serious authorities on the subject. Batteries, even the boring (as compared to lithium) lead acid battery, are evolving rapidly to meet the increasing demands of today’s vehicles. It is important to differentiate between the fundamental truths that still underpin battery performance and outdated concepts that will get in the way when working with the current generation of batteries. We hope these resources are useful to you.

Pete Meier Updates the State of the Union

Just last Friday, SearchAutoParts.com published a comprehensive look at current batteries, including the types techs and vehicle owners are likely to encounter, how batteries are being deployed within today’s system architecture, service issues that are likely to be encountered and the impact that a poorly performing battery can have on related components. “The demand on the vehicle’s battery is increasing as technology continues to move us toward an all-electric future… Add to that the fact that modern electronics is less tolerant of weakness in the battery than ever before and you can see that it is important for us, as professional technicians, to be able to properly service and test them.” As always, there’s much to learn when Pete digs into a topic in detail.

 

Spotlight on AGM

If you have been reading our articles for any length of time, you know that we are rather over-focused on the AGM battery and it consequences for assessment, service and maintenance. Although you might think we’re a broken record, this battery construction has been steadily gaining ground for the last ten years, to the point where they simply cannot be ignored. Yet, we find a fair amount of misinformation in the marketplace related to these batteries and speak to many techs who are still fuzzy on them. We always like to stress that these batteries require an optimized charger designed to service them, such as PRO-LOGIX, or they can be damaged. Recently, SearchAutoParts.com published an article by Jason Searl that covers the evolution of these batteries and what shops should be focusing on when educating their customers on the AGM battery in their vehicle.

 

A Key Fleet Investment

Batteries are a big deal for fleets, where the battery investment, with as many as 4 or 8 batteries per vehicle, can be considerable. In these environments, utilizing a battery construction properly matched to vehicle usage patterns combined with following best practices in battery maintenance can mean the difference between batteries being a money pit and a competitive advantage. An article published this week on VehicleServicePros.com discusses the issues fleets face when it comes to keeping their vehicles running and getting a long life from their battery investment. As they note, “Developing a solid preventive maintenance program where batteries are checked on a regular basis can help identify battery problems early, helping to prevent costly no-start situations and battery-related breakdowns.” It’s definitely worth a look if you are responsible for fleet service.

 

When Working Around Batteries, It’s Safety First

As noted in the heading of this article, “Although battery maintenance is deceptively simple, it can be dangerous if the proper precautions aren’t taken.” Truer words have never been spoken. Vehicle batteries are deployed to provide high power bursts to start the vehicle or power specific systems. That power is great when it is harness to perform its assigned task. But, that same power can severely and negatively impact the well being of techs and vehicle owners alike who grow carless and fail to respect it. Following some simple steps can greatly reduce the likelihood of personal injury. This article gives a quick rundown.

For most vehicle owners, when they think of their ride, the last thing they think about is their battery and its state of health… until it isn’t so healthy and starts giving them problems. For shops, batteries are just one of many areas of growing complexity when it comes to vehicle service. But, arming yourself with updated battery knowledge and the tools need to assess and service current batteries can make the task much easier. Have you run into a difficult or strange battery service situation recently? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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16 Comments

  1. What is a AGM battery

  2. Great article on batteries. This will help NAPA customers understand what we have been saying for 5 years. AGM batteries have to be charged differently.
    Jack

  3. charles glidden says:

    Should you keep a battery plugged into a battery maintainer that you don’t use very often

    • Charles – Thanks for your question. For a battery in a vehicle that is not used regularly, use of a battery maintainer can be very beneficial in extending the useful life of that battery. Inactivity, for a battery, can lead to sulfation, which is detrimental to battery health. When choosing a maintainer, it is important to make sure it matches well with the battery you intend to use it on. For instance, if the battery is an AGM construction, ensure that the charger is AGM compatible. We, of course, would recommend the PL2140: https://cloreautomotive.com/blog/optimal-battery-maintenance/. Thanks again, Jim from Clore Automotive

  4. Cliff Barbour says:

    I recently had to replace the battery in my Mazda-6. The car has a iLoop system which stores energy in a capactor system. The total cast of replacement was over $600.

    • Cliff – Thanks for adding to the discussion. We were unaware of the battery replacement costs for that vehicle. But, some quick research this morning seems to show that the cost you paid was inline with what others have experienced. It is a rather large expense if you were expecting a normal battery replacement costs ($100-$200). Jim from Clore Automotive

  5. i read on optima website you cant charge there agm batterys with regular battery charger unless you put regular lead acid battery in series with optima agm battery as a buffer. well my question then is if you cant push voltage into a agm battery how can a cars charging system charge an agm battery arent you still pushing voltage into the agm battery? i bought the optima battery charger that does both agm and lead acid batterys seems to do good so far. my motorcycle ( 16 star/yamaha v max) has a agm battery from new i do like the performance of agm batterys as well

    • Robert – Thanks for your feedback. I thibk the best way to manage all AGM batteries, including the Optima batteries, is to have an AGM-compatible charger, as you have done and as is offers by our PRO-LOGIX line of chargers. It isn’t that you can’t push voltage into an AGM battery, but that you must charge an AGM battery using a specific routine and ensure that the battery’s voltage does not exceed specific parameters. Essentially, that requires a smart charger. Thanks again, Jim from Clore Automotive

    • Please post a link to the page on the OPTIMA website where they said the only way to charge their batteries with a regular charger is by putting another battery in series. That is completely false, so if it’s on the website somewhere, we want to remove it.

      • Robert – Thanks for your input. That comment was provided by another poster, not by Clore. We did find this from the Optima site: “Different chargers. Different capabilities. Under normal conditions most 12-volt automatic battery chargers will work on an AGM battery. Many newer battery chargers have settings specifically for AGM batteries; some even have separate settings for OPTIMA REDTOP and YELLOWTOP batteries, like the OPTIMA Chargers Digital 1200 12V Performance Battery Charger and Maintainer.” That said, the Optima is an AGM battery, as noted on the same page as the previous quote. Here’s another quote from the same page: “For regular charging, we recommend a maximum of 10 amps, 13.8 to 15.0 volts. For float charging, we recommend one amp maximum, 13.2 to 13.8 volts.” We would suggest that this is the key to answering the question of what should be used to charge an Optima battery. Older, traditional chargers can easily exceed 15V, with some pushing close to 16V, if the battery is relatively discharged. AGM batteries, including Optima batteries, are very sensitive to excessive voltage. We suggest that any AGM battery should be charged using a multi-phase smart charger designed to properly charge them. So, although we cannot state that what the original poster wrote is correct or incorrect, we can say that it is always best to use an AGM-compatible charger on an AGM battery. Thanks, Jim from Clore Automotive

  6. Where I worked at before, we had Optima’s for a while. Even going to a short one evening session at “Optima University” (as we called it) didn’t give us much useful information. This was about 20+ years ago. The Absorbed Glass Mat batteries worked well if the charging systems didn’t try to totally saturate them with charging current. Optima’s website said 10 amps was a good charge, I think 15 was tops.

    • Mike – Thanks for adding to the discussion. For sure, it is best to check the optimal charging parameters for any battery under charge. The AGMs are great batteries, but as you say, they need to be handled in the proper manner. Thanks again, Jim from Clore Automotive

  7. Now this is real information. Thanks for this. Highly appreciated!

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