All of our experts feel that parasitic drain is becoming increasingly common. "This causes batteries to live much of their life in a “discharged” state, accelerating sulfation," shares O'Hara.
|(Image courtesy of EnerSys) Side post battery designs can hid corrosion behind the battery cable connections and cause false test results. On both designs, make sure the connections are clean before reinstalling.|
Sulfation is the formation of crystals on the surfaces of the plates and is also an issue for those of you who keep batteries in stock. Remember, they too are subject to normal discharge. Exide's McLaughlin says, "The electrical current is unable to break down the crystals on the plates, and the battery cannot be charged. This is the most common reason for warranty return and speaks to the need for good inventory control, product rotation and boost charge practices along the entire supply chain."
Another common point raised by our experts relates to the use of "memory saver" devices. East Penn's Knauer had this to say, " Vehicles and the people who drive them are relying more on the vehicle’s settings than ever before. Protecting these settings is a simple precaution that doesn't get used enough. The loss of settings can be avoided with the use of a Memory Saver device. If the vehicle retains adequate voltage throughout a battery replacement, memory items such as radio presets and many other settings can often be preserved. However, it’s important to note that since the memory saver keeps power in the system, the operator should be careful that the positive cable end doesn’t contact something that could ground it out."
And that's a common problem, as Clore Automotive's O'Hara pointed out. "The biggest thing we stress when a battery is removed is properly securing the cable ends, especially when a memory saver is used. In those cases, as you know, the cable ends are live. I have seen on iATN where a user posted that he had specific non-conductive “bags” that he used and placed over the cable ends each time a battery was disconnected. This should be taught in the VoTech schools and be made standard practice in the industry. It is brilliant and much needed."
Which leads me to the last, but not least, subject the experts stressed — safety.
"One of the first things we continually communicate to our customers who work around batteries is safety. Even though safety mistakes are hopefully not common, information about proper safety procedures is always important. When working with batteries one should always wear proper safety glasses. No one should ever smoke or have any type of open flame or create sparks by the battery. Always remove rings, watches, necklaces, or any other type of conductive jewelry. Always disconnect the negative terminal first and reconnecting it last. (This avoids sparks if a tool would ground to frame.) Always use appropriate shields when charging and/or load testing the battery", stresses Knauer.
Today, even removing the battery may require a specific process so read up on the procedure before you even open the hood. And learn a little from the experts. Make sure you follow the proper safety procedures when working around batteries, verify a failed battery with direct testing, and insure that the replacement battery has a shot by testing the vehicle for issues in the charging system or electronics - especially parasitic drain. Use the right battery for the application when selecting your replacement and be sure you tell the ECM you updated it if required.