15 Tips for Cleaning-Equipment
Battery Life and Charging

Care for batteries is one area you can often improve your return on investment from equipment. Why not work some of these tips onto a battery maintenance schedule or calendar that you post and assign responsibility for?

  • Charge up your new batteries completely before use. New batteries often are only partially charged. Why fill and locate the machine to start work, only to have to recharge batteries fifteen minutes later?
  • Before they reach full potential capacity, new batteries need to be cycled (charged and run down) from 20 to 50 times.
  • A common problem is loose cables. Tight cables prevent arcing, which degrades terminals, and make sure battery transfer is efficient. Forcing the energy to jump through the air is not too efficient.
  • Batteries convert chemical reactions into electricity. That happens in chambers sealed with vents. If vent caps are loose, which we often find when servicing equipment, the chemical process is not contained and not efficient. Vent caps are easily bumped, so put a routine check of them on your schedule.
  • Battery corrosion is dangerous to custodians and surfaces it drops on. Periodically glove and goggle up and clean up your batteries, particularly before transportation.
  • After charging, batteries should be watered. A guideline is that the water/acid mix should be kept ¼” below the bottom of the fill well in the cell cover. This gives room for gas expansions and contractions. Another guideline is to cover the plates by at least 1/8”.
  • The water used is important, but it is most important that water be checked on your schedule. Keep distilled water to fill batteries. Iron contamination from tap water, if present, is particularly harmful, however not as harmful as letting the cells run low on water.
  • Most battery types will last longer if they are not discharged below 80% of their capacity rating. Buy the right replacement batteries for the equipment to avoid excessive charging.
  • Battery chargers should be matched to the battery so that it can be fully charged in an eight-hour timeframe. An undersized charger will not achieve a full charge. An oversized charger will cause heat and gassing problems which could lead to an explosion.
  • Give older batteries more attention. They need to be watered and charged more often, or with a higher amperage set for the end of the charge. See your charger manual for more information.
  • It is normal for the capacity of older batteries to decrease.
  • Avoid storing or charging batteries at temperatures above 120°F to prolong battery life.
  • Deep cycle type batteries are designed to be discharged of most of their capacity. They need to be equalized periodically. Equalizing is an extended, low current charge performed after the normal charge cycle. This extra charge helps keep all cells in balance. Heavily used batteries should be equalized once per week, so put it on your schedule to perform routinely. For manually controlled charges, extend the low-current charge approximately 3 hours. Automatically controlled chargers should be unplugged and then reconnected after charging.
  • Make sure that where multiple batteries are connected in series, parallel or series and parallel, replacement battery(s) should be matched with the same size, age and usage level as the companion batteries. In other words, do not put a new battery in a grouping which has 50 or more cycles. Either match the replacement to the group characteristics, or start a new pack.
  • To read balance and true charge level periodically, use a hydrometer. This is another repeating check to place on your schedule. Imbalances caught early tell you when equalizing is needed, or may let you know a bad cell exists. Bad cells can hurt other batteries in the pack. You can find a bad or weak battery with a voltage check. Perform voltage checks open circuit, both charged and discharged. Load testing often works in finding a bad cell when voltage checks fail.