13 Tips for Battery Use

Jan. 1, 2004

January 2004

Batteries and battery chargers help keep ground support equipment running but to do this they must be maintained. With the help of Ed Price, Manager of Training and Technical Support of Motor Power Operations at EnerSys Inc., Reading, PA, GSM has assembled a list of tips to keep yourself safe and your batteries and chargers in top condition.

1. Before charging the battery check for loose connections, damaged cables, corrosion, cracked cases, and loose terminal posts. "Quarterly or biannually would be a good time to go through and look at the entire fleet," says Price.

2. If you see any corrosion on the cables or terminals, remove and clean immediately before further damage occurs. If corrosion has developed on the posts, remove the cable clamps and then clean them with a wire brush. Rust and dirt can be cleaned with a cloth that has been moistened with ammonia.

3. If the battery is not a sealed, maintenance-free battery, check the electrolyte (battery acid) level in all cells. If the water is low, refill with distilled or de-ionized water. Be careful not to overfill any cell. This can cause the excess electrolyte to be forced from the cell by normal gassing. "A typical user who charges about once a day has to water the battery once a week. Over watering and under watering can lead to a shortened life," Price says.

4. Make sure the battery is not loose because this can increase the damaging effects of vibration, which can do more than just crack the cells; it can also force active materials on the battery plates to shake loose and drop to the bottom of the battery acid, which could eventually short out the battery.

5. Remove the battery from the truck before it is charged. "If it has to stay in the truck than try opening the battery compartment as much as possible, if that means lifting a seat, opening side panels, or blowing a fan onto it," Price advises.

6. The more cycles the battery is subjected to and the greater the depth of the discharge in each cycle, the more the battery plates are stressed and the faster they wear out. "[The life of a battery] varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the typical life is about three to five years," Price says.

7. Do not let the battery be repeatedly discharged from full charge to fully discharged. This will also cut down the number of cycles a battery will last.

8. It is best to charge a battery as soon as possible after it has been used.

9. Try to leave the battery on the charger for as long and as often as possible.

10. Do not let a battery go below a 20 percent state of charge or an 80 percent depth of discharge. "If you discharge your battery too deeply and you don't bring it back to a full charge, you don't get the full gassing or the full mixing so you still have a high concentration of acids at the bottom of the cell," Price says.

11. Keep the battery from getting too cold. "It affects the charge acceptance so it is harder to recharge a battery in the cold, but there are things we can do to the charger to compensate for that," Price says.

a. Increase state of charge by allowing it to charge past the normal point.
b. Let the battery warm up before charging. An ideal cycle would be eight hours use, eight hours warm, and eight hours charge.

12. Always use Personal Protective Equipment when dealing with batteries and battery maintenance.

13. Never smoke by the battery and charger.

Battery Chargers are also in need of proper instructions to help them work correctly. Price calls them "very reliable and self-sufficient" but recommends a few things to keep them in top shape ).

Battery Chargers
1. When connecting a battery to a charger make sure that you are not connecting it to the truck. "Some people will plug a truck into the charger and the truck electronics will have a voltage in them and it will fool the charger into coming on. If that happens you can burn up your charger and burn up the truck's components. It is very easy to do because the connectors look the same," Price says.
2. Never yank the charger cord, unplug it by the connector.
3. Make sure the charger is off when you unplug it. This could lead to a lot of problems, including electrical arching at the contact tips, backward voltage that could fry the electronics, or burning up the contacts to name a few.
4. Blow pressurized air in the cabinet to help remove dust as this could lead to a heat build-up if it accumulates. This only needs to be done annually.