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Battery FAQ

How does a battery work?
A battery stores energy in a chemical form that can be released on demand as electricity. Each cell of a battery consists of positive plates, negative plates and an electrolyte solution. Batteries produce electricity because of the chemical reaction between these three elements.

What do CCA, CA and RC refer to on my car battery?
These terms are the three basic ratings a lead-acid battery has to determine the power levels of that battery. CCA stands for "Cold Cranking Amps." This is the amount of current (amps) a battery at 0 F can deliver for 30 seconds and maintain at least 1.2 volts per cell (7.2 volts for a 12 volt battery). Think of this as your cold winter morning rating. CA stands for "Cranking Amps" which is rated at 32 F - not 0. Think of this as your normal, everyday rating. "Reserve Capacity" refers to the amount of time, in minutes, that a fully charged battery will deliver 25 amps at 80 F and maintain a voltage of 1.75 volts per cell. If your charging system were to fail on your vehicle, this is the number of minutes your battery will provide enough power to sustain the electrical load.

What should I consider when purchasing any battery?
The three most important factors to consider when buying a battery are size, power and warranty. First, you have to make sure the replacement battery will fit. Check the physical dimensions with that of your original battery. Next, you need to consider what the required power is for your cacar, camcorder or other item and decide if you want the minimum power needed or if you want to upgrade. Keep in mind, however, that as long as the voltage is the same, you can never have "too much" power. Finally, you need to consider the warranty period. You should choose the warranty period that best fits your needs.

How do I know if my battery is failing?
There are several warning signs your battery will provide that indicate a pending problem. First, you want to look at the age of the current battery. The average car battery lasts 38 months. The average camcorder battery lasts 26 months. The older the battery, the more likely it needs to be replaced. If, when in your car, your motor turns over slowly or in an interrupted manner, you lose power quickly in cold weather, or your headlights dim when you are idling, you should seek a qualified battery technician for testing and evaluation. In any electronic device, your run time will gradually decrease. When this happens, it is best to start thinking about battery replacement.

What causes car battery failure?
There are several external factors that contribute to battery failure. The number one reason for failure is likely excessive heat, whcih causes the positive plate to quickly corrode and this dries out the battery cells. Extreme cold weather makes your engine harder to crank because the oil thickens which puts a heavier drain on the battery. This also is a contributor to failure. If your battery isn't securely held down, vibration will shed the active material from the batteries plate grids. This will cause failure. Overcharging causes a battery to over heat and cause gassing. This is where the electrolyte turns from a liquid to a gas and is expelled out of the vent holes, leaving the plates exposed. Soon the plates will short and the battery will fail. Other factors that can cause battery failure include corroded cables and/or terminals, sulfation due to inactivity, alternator and/or regulator malfunction or electrical shorts in the battery itself.

Can a car battery really explode?
Yes, they can so always use extreme caution when working around your car battery. Wear safety goggles and Do Not Smoke around any battery. Batteries have hydrogen gases escaping from the vent holes. Any spark will ignite those fumes. That is why extreme caution is used when jump starting another vehicle. If you get acid on your skin or in your eyes, flush with water immediately and seek medical attention if necessary.

How do I jump start my car battery?
When jump starting a vehicle, always wear eye protection and never lean over the battery. Inspect both batteries before connecting booster cables. Do Not jump start a damaged battery. Make sure that the vent caps are tight and level on both batteries. Make sure that the two vehicles are not touching and both ignition switches are turned in the "OFF" position. Now follow these steps exactly in this order.

1. Connect positive (+) booster cable to positive (+) terminal of discharged battery.

2. Connect the other end of the positive (+) cable to the positive (+) terminal of the assisting battery.

3. Connect the negative (-) cable to the negative (-) terminal of the assisting battery.

4. Make final connection of negative (-) cable to engine block of stalled vehicle, away from the battery.

5. Start vehicle and remove cables in Reverse Order of connection.

Where is the best place to store my battery during the off season?
Before storing a battery make sure it is fully charged. Remember that a fully charged battery will not freeze, but a discharged battery will freeze. Test your battery and charge if necessary. Now you're ready for storage. Store your battery in a cool, dry and well ventilated area out of the reach of children or pets. Check on the state of charge every 30 - 45 days. A trickle charge or low amperage charge overnight might be necessary. Also, check the fluid level and add distilled water if necessary.

What can I do to help preserve battery life in my car?
Follow these guidelines every 3-6 months and you can extend the life of your car battery.

A. Check for cleanliness - If the battery tray is dirty or corroded, remove the battery cables first then remove the battery from the vehicle. Wash the battery tray with a water and baking soda solution. Flush the tray with water and dry off with a paper towel. If necessary, clean the battery posts and the cable terminals with a wire brush or a special terminal cleaning tool. You can also wash the battery with the baking soda and water solution, however, be sure the vent caps (if the battery is not sealed) are on tight to prevent anything from entering into the cells. A clean battery, with clean terminals in a clean tray will ensure the best connection.

B. Check hold down brackets - Make sure the brackets holding the battery to the vehicle's frame are secure. Excessive vibration will cause premature failure in your battery. If the brackets are loose, tighten them up and spray them with a corrosion preventative spray. This will keep the corrosion from rebuilding.

C. Check your battery cables at the battery - Battery cable connections to the terminal should be checked for corrosion and proper tightness. Clean off the terminals with a wire brush and spray with corrosion preventative spray on them. Tighten all bolts as necessary. Also, check the cable itself for swelling, cracking or brittleness. If you notice any of these symptoms, replace your cable immediately.

D. Check your ground cable at the frame - Make sure your ground cable is securely fastened at the frame. Also, make sure the connection is clean. This connection gets overlooked quite often. A quick check once in awhile could save you a big headache down the road.

E. Check the battery case - The condition of the battery case often will indicate if you have a problem. If your case is "swollen" on the sides (concave) there is probably a charging system problem. If your case is cracked or your battery post "wiggles" your battery should be replaced. These problems are non repairable. Your car may start today, but it is recommended to replace it before your stranded.

F. Check fluid levels - On a non-maintenance free battery, remove the vent caps and check on the fluid level. If you see fluid, the battery is fine. If, when looking in the cell, you see an exposed lead plate, you need to add distilled water immediately. Do not add battery acid. Adding a premixed electrolyte solution will make the sulfuric acid too strong and will damage the plates and separators. Be careful not to overfill each cell. The fluid level should stop approximately 1" under the top of the battery. Make sure the plates are covered.

What should I know before I charge my battery?
Batteries emit hydrogen gases, especially when charging, so extreme caution and safety measures must be followed. You only need one accidental spark from somewhere to ignite those gases and your battery could explode. Please follow these guidelines before charging: always read the owners manual provided with the charger to familiarize yourself with all the features on the charger, put on protective eyewear, rubber gloves and work clothes for protection; make sure the battery is in a well-ventilated area; inspect the battery for cracks, holes or if it's frozen. Do not attempt to charge a battery if any of these conditions exists. Also, if possible, add distilled water to any cells in which the plates are exposed. If you take a cap off and see the lead plate exposed you should fill it with distilled water ASAP. When finished, make sure you put the vent cap back on. Never smoke around a battery. You're now ready to charge.

How do I properly charge a battery?
While the charger is still unplugged, connect the leads to the proper (+)(-) terminals. Wiggle the connectors to ensure a good connection. We recommend that you use adaptors when charging a threaded post battery or a side terminal battery. Adjust the settings on the charger for correct voltage and amperage. Now you can plug in the charger and turn it on. While charging in a well-ventilated area, periodically check on the battery. Make sure that the battery is not "overheating". If the battery is too hot to touch or if it's "gassing" profusely turn the charger off immediately. Once the battery is fully charged, turn the charger off, unplug it from the wall and then unhook the charging cables. Always use caution when charging a battery.

What is the difference between a "marine starting" and a "deep cycle" battery?
A "marine starting" battery is just like a car battery except that it has marine terminals and a handle. It is meant to only start the engine. A "deep cycle" battery has thicker plates, lower cold cranking amps and a higher reserve capacity. It is made for applications where you are running straight off the battery (RV, trolling, etc.). You can drain and recharge this battery hundreds of times. A "deep cycle" battery can be used to start the engine however, a "marine starting" battery cannot be used for cycling.

What is sulfation and why is it bad?
Sulfation is the formation of lead sulfate on the surface and in the pores of the active material of the batteries lead plates. If the sulfation becomes excessive and forms large crystals on the plates, the battery will not operate efficiently or at all. Common causes of battery sulfation are in incativity, operating in extreme temperatures and prolonged under or over charging. All batteries are self discharging. Inactivity will rob your battery of needed power. Monitor the state of charge when your battery is inactive for a long period of time and charge as needed.

What is the difference between a gel cell and a sealed lead-acid (SLA) battery?
There are two methods used to seal rechargeable batteries. This is done to eliminate free-flowing acid. Both of these methods are "valve regulated" which means that instead of simple vent caps on the cell to let the gasses escape, there are pressure valves that open only under extreme conditions. Both types of batteries also need an electrolyte design that reduces gassing, usually involving a catalyst that causes the hydrogen and oxygen to recombine into water. In the "gel cell" battery, there is silica gel that is added to the electrolyte, causing it to "set" in a gelatin or candle wax like form. In the "sealed lead- acid" battery (sometimes called absorbed glass mat - AGM) a highly absorbent glass mat separator is used between each plate to retain the liquid electrolyte. Both batteries are sealed, can be installed in any position and can be shipped via UPS. Both are also DOT approved and can be taken on a plane, train, boat because they are non-spillable.

What is "battery memory" and how do I avoid it?
Technically speaking, NiCad batteries do not have a memory effect. However, they do suffer from a voltage depletion or voltage depression phenomenon that most people call memory effect. If a NiCad battery is repeatedly charged after it has only been partially discharged it will develop a lower voltage and a lower capacity. Fortunately, this effect is reversible by conditioning NiCads. Conditioning is simply fully discharging the battery down to approx 1 volt per cell, after charging it. If a full discharge followed by a charge cycle is done several times, a battery suffering from voltage depletion should be restored back to its normal voltage and capacity. To prevent voltage depression, "exercise" (discharge to 1 volt per cell and then fully recharge) your NiCad battery once per month. Between these monthly exercise cycles, the battery can be used with any desired user pattern.

Why does my run time in my camcorder battery gradually decrease over time?
The amount of charge a battery can hold gradually decreases due to usage, aging and with NiCad batteries, lack of maintenance. Specified to deliver 100% capacity when new, the battery eventually requires replacement when the capacity drops to the 60% to 70% level. There are four main factors that affect your battery. They are declining capacity, increasing internal resistance, elevated self-discharging and premature voltage cut-off on discharge. To prolong the life of the battery try following these guidelines:

A. When the battery is new it usually comes in a discharged state. Fully charge it before using. A new battery will not reach its maximum potential until it has been 'cycled' (fully discharged and then charged 100%) several times. Go ahead and cycle the battery. If you have a NiCad or a NiMH battery, you will want to cycle the battery once a month. This monthly cycling is not necessary in a Li-ion battery.

B. Always keep the battery clean and make sure the battery contacts have had a cotton swab with alcohol put on them to insure optimum connection.

C. Inactivity for long periods of time put excessive strain on the battery. Once a month you need to 'exercise' the battery. Drain the battery to 1 volt per cell and then fully recharge it. In general, try to use the battery every 2-3 weeks.

D. Don't leave your battery on the charger for more than 24 hours. Doing so will overcharge the battery which will shorten its life. Once the battery is fully charged, remove it from the charger.

Can I use a NiMH battery to replace my NiCad battery?
In most cases, a NiMH battery can be used as a direct replacement for a NiCad battery. When doing so, however, the charger must be checked. A NiMH charger can charge a NiCad battery but a charger designed only for the NiCad battery should not be used to charge the NiMH battery. Battery damage may result due to inaccurate full-charge detection and excessive trickle charge while in ready mode. If no alternative exists, the battery should be removed as the green "ready" light appears. Battery temperature during charge should also be observed.


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