Keep stored bat­tery cold and charged

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - AUTOS - JIM KERR

THERE are many myths and sug­ges­tions about how to store au­to­mo­tive bat­ter­ies — some based on fact, oth­ers fic­tion.

With fall here, many mo­torhomes, col­lec­tor cars, mo­tor­cy­cles and even that spe­cial con­vert­ible are be­ing put away for the win­ter months. So what should you re­ally do to help pro­long the life of your ve­hi­cle’s bat­tery?

One of the best things you can do for an au­to­mo­tive bat­tery is to use it. Putting it into another ve­hi­cle that is driven on a reg­u­lar ba­sis will keep it charged and work­ing prop­erly. Most of us don’t have that op­tion, as we al­ready have a bat­tery in the other ve­hi­cle, so we have to place the bat­tery in stor­age.

One of the myths is that you should al­ways leave a bat­tery con­nected in your ve­hi­cle when it’s in stor­age. This is in­cor­rect, but there are a few things you should know be­fore dis­con­nect­ing your bat­tery.

Many ve­hi­cles on the mar­ket have ra­dio se­cu­rity fea­tures and ex­press open and close win­dows, sun­roofs and even doors (on vans). When the bat­tery is dis­con­nected, you may need to re­set the sys­tems be­fore they will op­er­ate cor­rectly. The ra­dio may need an un­lock code. The ve­hi­cle owner’s man­ual will give you in­for­ma­tion about this, or you can stop by the dealer. If you need a ra­dio code and don’t have it, get it from the dealer be­fore dis­con­nect­ing the bat­tery or it could cost money later to have the dealer un­lock the ra­dio. Newer ve­hi­cles use non-volatile mem­ory chips that al­low the bat­tery to be dis­con­nected with­out in­ter­fer­ing with ve­hi­cle op­er­a­tion. Another myth is that your ve­hi­cle will not run as well af­ter the bat­tery is dis­con­nected, al­though there is a grain of truth here. Your en­gine and trans­mis­sion com­puter adapts to wear and in­ac­cu­rate com­po­nent cal­i­bra­tions as your ve­hi­cle ages. When the bat­tery is dis­con­nected on some ve­hi­cles, the com­puter goes back to its orig­i­nal pro­gram pa­ram­e­ters and the ve­hi­cle may run a lit­tle rough or dif­fer­ently when restarted. How­ever, the com­puter will au­to­mat­i­cally adapt quickly as you drive to make the en­gine run the same as be­fore.

Dis­con­nect­ing the bat­tery pre­vents elec­tri­cal drains from the ve­hi­cle’s com­po­nents from killing the bat­tery as it sits. The bat­tery can be stored in or out of the ve­hi­cle, but should be charged ev­ery cou­ple of months dur­ing the stor­age pe­riod.

One myth says you should never store a bat­tery on a con­crete floor. Again, there is a mea­sure of truth here — the con­crete won’t dis­charge the bat­tery, but mois­ture that wicks through it will cre­ate a higher hu­mid­ity area around the bat­tery that will make it dis­charge faster. Plac­ing a piece of wood or card­board be­tween the bat­tery and the con­crete al­lows that mois­ture to evap­o­rate.

Another myth is that you should store a bat­tery in a warm place rather than a cold one. In fact, it’s the op­po­site. Chem­i­cal re­ac­tions oc­cur faster when they are warm, so stor­ing a bat­tery in a warm place will make it dis­charge faster. Even when in op­er­a­tion, ve­hi­cle bat­tery life is shorter in the hot south­ern U.S. than dur­ing cold Cana­dian win­ters due to faster chem­i­cal re­ac­tions. A fully charged bat­tery will not freeze at –40C, so you can store it in a cold place (not the freezer though!) and keep it charged.

As an in­ter­est­ing note, hy­brid ve­hi­cle bat­ter­ies have ex­cel­lent dura­bil­ity but their charg­ing sys­tems only take the bat­ter­ies to about 80 per cent of full charge. The last 20 per cent cre­ates heat in the bat­tery that short­ens its life, so keep­ing it at about 80 per cent max­i­mizes dura­bil­ity. Charg­ing sys­tems on sev­eral of the new­est ve­hi­cles also let the bat­tery charge drop and then only charge it part-way. This is done to re­duce charg­ingsys­tem load on the en­gine and im­prove fuel econ­omy, but may also ex­tend bat­tery life too.

Do keep the top of your bat­tery clean and dry. Dust and dirt hold mois­ture, which cre­ates an elec­tri­cal path be­tween the bat­tery posts and causes it to dis­charge faster.

Keep it cold, keep it charged and dis­con­nect it when stored for sev­eral weeks or longer and you will max­i­mize the life of your ve­hi­cle’s bat­tery. Jim Kerr is a me­chanic, in­struc­tor of au­to­mo­tive tech­nol­ogy, free­lance jour­nal­ist and mem­ber of the Au­to­mo­bile Jour­nal­ists’ As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.