Lead-acid batteries are frequent key components in some of the biggest machines we commonly use, such as cars, floor scrubbers, and other heavy machines. For this reason, understanding basic lead-acid battery maintenance should be a priority for anyone trying to get the most out of their tech.
Something like a car dying at the wrong time can spell disaster for one’s day or even their week. That’s why today we’re going to review the kind of maintenance batteries are likely to need, as well as signs it may be time for a replacement!
The Basics of Lead-Acid Batteries
We’ll begin by reviewing the basics of lead-acid batteries. While the science of batteries is a bit complicated, the broad strokes the average user should know really aren’t.
The most common type of lead-acid battery, and the kind in most of the devices we imagine we discuss lead-acid batteries, is called a flooded cell (also often just called a wet battery).
While perhaps an oversimplification, the typical user only really needs to understand their battery as having three parts (plus an additional two whose function is more obvious, discussed shortly):
- Battery acid
- Battery plates
The battery produces electricity through a chemical reaction between the acid and the plates. The terminals allow a connected device to complete a circuit and utilize the power the battery generates. It is the acid and terminals where most people experience maintenance issues.
Holding all this together is the case and cover. These are the two parts with an obvious purpose we mentioned earlier. So long as they are not cracked, they can serve their function more or less indefinitely.
Lead-Acid Battery Maintenance Tips
Many experts acknowledge that a thorough inspection of lead-acid batteries usually is not necessary for the purposes of maintenance.
This makes sense too; batteries often fail in obvious ways and, besides that, it can be dangerous to open up a case when it isn’t necessary. If your battery is damaged to the point where it must be opened to be fixed, it is probably better to just replace it.
We’ve compiled together some easy to implement tips to help maintain and extend a batteries life, presented here for your convenience:
Tip 1: Safety First
Before doing anything, it is best to inspect batteries wearing eye protection and gloves. Batteries are full of corrosive acid that can be dangerous if it is exposed to your skin, especially your eyes or insides.
As we hope is obvious, you also want to avoid getting anywhere near the battery with fire or chemicals. This could result in a dangerous, even lethal, reaction. It could even cause the battery to explode.
The best place to put a battery is usually on top of a plastic sheet or bag. If the battery is leaking, once it is in a bag, we recommend just wrapping it up and getting rid of it.
If you’re unsure if something is safe, consult an expert. It is better to act with caution that was unnecessary than act without it when it turns out it was.
Tip 2: Check Your Terminals & Connections
If you’re having trouble starting a car or other device connected to your battery, one of the first things to do is check your terminals.
First, make sure your car is off so there is no chance of getting zapped. Disconnect your battery, removing it if possible. Then, inspect the terminals for corrosion or other signs of wear.
Terminals often can become covered with a white or blue/greenish powder over time, as a result of chemical reaction. If you notice this, carefully clean off the powder without allowing it to touch your skin or eyes. This can be done with a toothbrush and clean water, although remember that the powder is acidic and so you must make sure it does not fall on other important components of your car.
Checking and cleaning your terminals makes it easier for devices to connect to your battery. In the simplest cases, this will be enough to get a car working again. This type of maintenance is also easy; a quick inspection of your battery can show you if there is powder that needs to be cleaned.
As a side note, also make sure your car’s connection to your terminals is solid. If they seem loose, or any wires are broken, that may be your issue, not your battery. If your car cannot connect to the battery’s terminals for any reason, it will not work.
Tip 3: Wet Batteries Need Water
Many car owners are surprised to learn that their batteries use water as part of the chemical process to generate electricity. In fact, it is a key part of battery acid, getting used up as hydrogen and oxygen gas escapes during the generation process.
What is even more surprising to many is that this water can be replaced. If your battery appears to be dying, it doesn’t always mean the entire battery is at the end of its life. Many batteries can be refilled with distilled water, extending their lifespan.
If you’ve never done this before, we recommend consulting an expert. However, you get it done, research the process and don’t cut corners. Furthermore, only use distilled water and remember not to fill cells fully.
Tip 4: Inspect Your Case and Cover
One rare but serious issue that can cause battery troubles is cracking. If a battery’s case or cover is cracked, acid can leak out and cause many problems for the battery, car, and nearby environment.
Technically you can patch a cracked battery but we are cautious about recommending that course of action. Done wrong, such repairs may at best do nothing and at worst expose you to acid. This is doubly true if you notice the battery leaking.
To check for cracks, remove the battery from your car. Gently look it over; if you notice any liquid coming out of the battery, treat it as extremely hazardous.
We recommend replacing cracked or leaky batteries unless you know exactly what you’re doing. The risks of handling outweigh the benefits of a repair for most users.
Consider a Maintenance-Free Solution
We hope you’ve found our tips useful! You deserve to get the most out of your batteries; just remember to practice proper safety precautions when you’re looking them over.
If lead-acid battery maintenance sounds like a hassle, allow RB Battery to recommend our maintenance-free solution. These batteries are resistant to corrosion, overheating, and pressure buildup. On top of that, they use less water!
Whatever your battery needs, RB Battery can help. If you have battery questions or are looking for a particular kind of product, contact us! Our experts can make sure you find a solution you’re happy with.