Battery Care & Maintenance
By Damien Andrews
Tips and tricks for battery care
Battery care and maintenance have changed as much in the last 50 years as batteries themselves. Battery care in the family car used to be a weekly or bi-weekly affair. Those who grew up in the 1940s and 1950s can surely recall watching the filling station attendant check the battery and add water as needed. Battery care in today’s automobiles may be performed as rarely as annually.
Automotive and marine battery care made its greatest leap forward with the introduction of sealed, maintenance-free batteries. These are marvelous batteries that do not require the addition of water in the cells. In fact, consumers can’t access the cells. Truly, battery care in the family car is part of a bygone era.
The fact that the vast majority of automotive batteries do not require regular maintenance has lead people to think that battery care is no longer necessary. This is simply not accurate. Good battery care practices save batteries, electrical devices, and ensure maximum performance and service life from both.
Today’s batteries are amazing things, to be sure. And it’s easy to see why so many people completely ignore battery care – until it’s too late. Here are some things you should know to ensure that your batteries and their parent devices perform optimally.
Batteries are fallible
Like all manufactured items, batteries are sometimes made, stored or shipped improperly. This will often be manifest by leakage. The leakage is corrosive, and good battery care will catch it early and prevent damage to the parent device. Check you batteries every other month. If you see leakage, remove the batteries, clean away the corrosion, properly dispose of them and replace them with fresh batteries. Don’t let a faulty $2 battery destroy your $300 digital camera.
Clean your contacts - 101
Battery care encompasses maintaining the contacts where the batteries transfer current to the device they serve. Rusty, dirty or corroded contacts will reduce battery efficiency and can ultimately destroy the device. Clean your contacts whenever you change batteries, and at any other time leakage or corrosion are detected. Do this for both the battery and the device.
Clean your contacts - 201
Small amounts of rust and corrosion can be easily removed from contacts using a pencil eraser and a can of compressed air. This is great for smaller electronic devices including cell phones, cameras, flashlights, etc. Larger battery care will call for more extreme measures. Use a wire brush, 100-220 emery cloth, and white vinegar to polish up battery posts and large contacts. Grease battery posts before reattaching cables to prevent future problems.
Distilled water for cells
If you have a battery which requires that the cells be refilled with water, here’s a great tip for your battery care regimen: only use distilled water when refilling the cells. This will ensure that your battery lasts longer and performs better.
Use the right battery
Using the correct type of battery can greatly reduce the need for battery care. If you have a device which uses current over an extended period of time, such as a trolling motor, then use a slow discharge or deep cycle battery. If your electrical device must operate in extremely cold climates, use a lithium battery. If your device suggests not using rechargeable batteries – don’t’ try to.
Disconnect or remove it
If you’re not going to use the parent device for an extended period of time, disconnect the battery or remove it completely. If the battery is rechargeable, including automotive batteries, do not let it completely lose its charge. Put it on a charger as necessary to keep it working properly and in good condition for its next service period. If such battery care is a regular event for you, then consider purchasing a charger which reads the battery’s condition and maintains a perfect level of charge.
Battery care dos and don’ts
• Always use a complete set of fresh batteries – never mix used with new – when changing batteries.
• Do not store batteries in metal containers as they can discharge very quickly before you get to use them.
• Always dispose of batteries properly.
• Always use the correct charger type for your batteries.
• Never attempt to recharge a battery that is not designed to be recharged.
• If you use sealed automotive or marine batteries, be sure to check for leakage near the cell covers.
• Do not store your batteries where it can get very hot or freezing cold. Batteries love 72°F.
Some basic battery care and battery knowledge will serve you well in today’s battery operated world. Put battery care on your list of things to do regularly and you’ll save money and aggravation - - - lots of aggravation.