Car batteries die. Deal with it. Despite marketing speak and manufacturer claims, batteries do die with a remarkable penchant for picking the most inopportune moment to do so.
Dealing with it, however, is becoming a whole lot easier thanks to technology taking the stress factor out of the equation.
Car batteries die for a number of reasons and, obviously, even technology cannot circumvent the sudden, catastrophic failure. However, a combination of forethought and mitigation action can prevent or correct a flat battery.
Aside from the he battery is the most important component in any car’s electrical system. It provides the juice to run all the electronics when the engine is – or is not – running and plays an essential role in the proper functionality of the alternator’s voltage regulator.
Unlike outdated electrical systems that used generators and could function without a battery, modern automotive electrical systems need a battery in order to function properly.
Although a vehicle’s alternator is capable of keeping its battery charged under normal circumstances, batteries do go dead for a variety of reasons and there also comes a time in the life of every car battery when it’s just time to move on.
A good car battery will typically read at about 12.4 to 12.6 volts and have enough reserve to power a 25A load for anywhere from nine to 15 hours, at which point the voltage will have dropped below 10.5 volts – not enough to start the car.
Extreme temperatures and wear incurred through the normal cycle of charging and discharging, can reduce the reserve capacity.
The alternator charges the battery, but it must be remembered that unit is not really designed to charge a completely drained battery – and this is where external charging comes in.
Most drivers have faced the situation of having to jump-start a vehicle by attaching charging cables to a host vehicle. This is a quick fix and does no favours to the dead battery unit or the electronics on that vehicle. In fact, it can cause even greater damage.
Trickle charging via a mains wall socket is the safest method – but even this necessitated the disconnection of the car battery (with the resultant shutdown of the computer systems).
Well, at least it used to. Charging Systems Africa has released a new almost pocket size unit from Norway called SmartCharge that allows trickle charging without the need to disconnect the vehicle battery terminals.
“In fact,” says Guido Brouwers, marketing director of Charging Systems Africa, “this unit can be left connected and plugged in for 12 months, making it ideal for people who leave a vehicle at their holiday home or are away for extended periods.”
The intelligent unit ‘interrogates’ the vehicle battery to determine the type and correct voltage and adjusts its charging to suit the battery’s charge status, size and ambient temperature conditions.
The unit will charge the battery to a nearly full state and then automatically shut down for two minutes before rechecking to see if the battery is holding the charge and then continue until it is full when it will automatically shut down.
This cycle will repeat as long as the charging unit remains plugged in.
Enormous demands are placed on batteries with most modern cars offering Stop/Start technology and it is imperative these units are properly maintained – while the old-fashioned distilled water top up is a thing of the past with sealed units, occasional visual checks for signs of corrosion or any other wear are needed.
“Batteries are expensive items and the bad news is, once installed, their lifespan is very much up to you as the vehicle owner,” says Brouwers. “From the very first time you start your car your battery begins to deteriorate. In fact, sometimes this happens while it is still on the shop shelf.”
“Regular use of an intelligent battery charger will ensure the battery is kept in tip-top condition to help avoid the cost, inconvenience and potential personal danger of an unexpected breakdown – plus it can double the life of the battery.”
The SmartCharge is offered in 4A, 6A, 8A and 10A options – the more powerful the unit, the quicker the charge time.
Research by Kwik Fit UK highlighted the extent of ‘i-sapping’ caused by charging devices using the car battery. Three in five (62 percent) UK drivers are charging devices from their vehicle, with satellite navigation, smart phones and tablets all featuring in the top five most energy sapping devices.
Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit says: “Many motorists do not realise the effect devices plugged into their cars can have on a battery. Satnavs, tablets and other gadgets that are designed to make our lives more comfortable can actually have the opposite effect, by cutting short the life of even a new battery and leaving us stuck with a car that will not start.”
Charging Systems Africa will soon be launching another charging unit specifically aimed at off-road enthusiasts – this is a combination solar and mains powered unit that can switch seamlessly between the two energy sources.