Thursday, November 13, 2008

THE POWER OF POWER: KEEPING YOUR CAR READY TO REV

With today's highly accessorized automobiles, there is a constant drain on our batteries even when the car is not in use. That, combined with cold weather and regular wear and tear on your battery, you may find many mornings that you go out to the car, crank it, and then hear that dreaded sound of your battery struggling to provide enough power to get your engine going. The longer it takes to get your engine started, the more drain there will be on the battery. Without the benefit of the alternator, it will not take long before your battery loses all power and starting your car will be impossible without a boost.

WHAT FACTORS CONTRIBUTE TO A BATTERY LOSING POWER?

While cold weather is certainly a strong contributor to power loss in batteries, there are many other factors that exist in all kinds of weather and all kinds of situations that could cause you to be suddenly stranded. An inside light may have been left on for an extended period of time. There may be electronic accessories left plugged into charging ports (a.k.a. cigarette lighters). Many cars have electronics and accessories that constantly use power while the car in a parked position. Sometimes, you may even be sitting in the car long after it has stopped listening to the radio, talking on the phone, or waiting for an appointed time to arrive and inadvertently leave your foot rested on the brake pedal, causing a drain on the battery as the brake lights are illuminated.

Something to take into consideration is that, even if your battery is able to start your vehicle every time, a battery that sits without a full charge will tend to reduce the battery's life span. This is especially true of a vehicle that is not used on a daily basis.

WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS SHORT OF KEEPING A SPARE FULLY CHARGED BATTERY IN THE TRUNK?

There are devices that are widely available called battery maintainers that specifically address these kinds of situations. There are various types of battery maintainers. Trickle chargers (a.k.a. Taper chargers), full electronic chargers, and solar panel chargers are the main options you would consider.

TELL ME ABOUT TRICKLE CHARGERS.

A trickle charger is a device that, when plugged in, will put one to two amps of current into your 12V battery. As the battery becomes fully charged, the charge rate reduces or tapers off. A potential problem with this form of battery maintainer is that current continues to flow into the battery even after the battery is fully charged. This can cause the battery to overheat, reducing the life of the battery. Some companies have started to acknowledge this flaw and have engineered measures into the device to prevent overcharging.

SOLAR PANEL MAINTAINERS SOUND ECOFRIENDLY; WHAT ABOUT THEM?

Solar panel maintainers actually harness the energy of the sun and keep your battery charged at optimal level. The obvious requirement for this type of maintainer is that you have access to the sun. This type of device will not work for a car that is parked in a garage, under a carport, or in any other area where access to direct sunlight will be restricted. That also means that nighttime maintenance will be limited to stored energy. If those constraints are not a problem, then this is a great option for battery maintenance, as the energy available from the sun is a sure thing!

These devices include a small solar panel that sits on your dashboard or any other place in your car with sunlight access. Look for models that have both a cigarette lighter charging option and alligator slips that connect directly to your battery. This will prevent problems if you use it in a vehicle whose cigarette lighter adapter only works when the vehicle is turned on.

HOW DO ELECTRONIC MAINTAINERS WORK?

This form of battery maintainer uses electronics that are in the actual unit to monitor the battery's voltage. As the voltage reduces, the maintainer will usually apply a charge of 14 volts to bring the battery to a full charge. It will then reduce the charging voltage to a charge maintenance level of approximately 12.8 tp 13.2 volts. The additional voltage maintained in the charged battery will help the maintainer device to overcome any resistance between the device ant the battery and keep the battery in a fully charged and active state without overheating and the resultant loss of battery life.

WHERE SHOULD I USE A MAINTAINER?

Any battery will discharge while not in use. A lead in a battery that is fully discharged for twelve hours will begin to sulphate. Eventually the sulfates will crystallize, preventing recharge. A battery that discharges completely WILL LOSE LONGEVITY. If you have a boat, motorcycle, classic collector car, an infrequently used car, a recreational vehicle, or a battery powered lawn mower, the use of a maintainer will help your battery to last the seven years or so that it was intended to last. Remember that it takes at least fifteen minutes for the typical alternator to fully charge a battery, so a quick crank every now and then is not going to be sufficient.

These inexpensive devices are easy to use and will pay for themselves over and over in reduced frustration, peace of mind, and the prevention of replacement costs. Everyone in your family should have one for every vehicle they own. I think I just heard someone say, "I just finished my Christmas shopping!" Happy motoring!

Find the best buy and sell autos, auto trader, and read the oldest to newest auto reviews at vehicleride.com.

1 comment:

scissor said...

Straight stairlifts are available with a battery backup option in case of power failures. Most standard straight stairlifts are powered access from the mains. Most curved stairlifts run from rechargeable batteries, which are continually topped up from charging points at the top and the bottom of the stairs.