Posted on 05/20/2020 at 08:17 AM by Angie Deever
Battery Protection Begins In The Summer
The cold of winter gets a bad rap, but did you know that the summer heat can wreak the most havoc on your fleet’s batteries?
It’s true. Much of the damage to batteries is done during June, July and August – although you may not notice it until the battery has to work harder in the cold temperatures during December, January and February.
Although engines tend to start easier in the summer, they also deteriorate quicker in the heat. How? Temperature speeds up the degradation process of lead-acid batteries’ current collectors, which corrode during the units’ charging process. This corrosion is amplified in hot weather, which results in a weaker battery over time.
Battery life is also shortened in the heat due to the quicker rate of sulfation, which is a growth of crystals made up of lead sulfate. This substance forms on a battery’s electrodes as the unit discharges, which isn’t a problem if a recharge occurs quickly. When lead sulfate is not immediately recharged, it grows into crystals, which are tougher to recharge.
Sulfation is further sped up by parasitic loads, which are small currents a battery must deliver to various electronic systems of the vehicle. Although these currents are just a few milliamps, they will combine with heat to shorten a battery’s life.
There are a number of steps you can take to minimize the wear that summer takes on your fleet’s batteries:
- Stay out of the sun: When not in use, park the equipment in the shade or in a covered storage area or garage. Keeping it out of the direct sunlight will extend the life of your battery.
- Check your batteries: Studies show that barely half of operators check battery health as part of regular maintenance. Properly charging them prior to a busy, hot summer will help them perform at a higher level all summer – and the following fall and winter. A battery charger may be necessary – relying on an alternator to charge it can lead to alternator stress and early failure. Inspect the battery for clean connections and ensure hardware holding the battery is tight.
- Use AGM batteries: Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) batteries are low-maintenance units that are less likely to be affected by sulfation and parasitic loads and can sit in storage much longer than lead-acid batteries. These sealed batteries are leak-proof and are solid choices for machines that use a lot of power for components such as air conditioning, heated seats and mirrors.
- Move it along: The longer an engine remains inactive, the more the parasitic loads will drain the battery. Avoid letting the equipment sit unused for long stretches of time if possible.
- Remember to shut off electronics: Electronic systems are the largest source of parasitic loads, so turn off all of the systems before leaving the machine. Inactive engines will slowly discharge a good battery.