Batteries are an essential component to each of your vehicles. These devices power both the electronics and the starting systems of your car, boat or motor home. While everyday vehicles can recharge their batteries through the vehicle’s alternator, vehicles that aren’t used regularly require special charging and maintenance equipment to keep their batteries charged and ready for service.
How Does Charging Work?
Most large batteries are built on lead-acid designs; each individual cell consists of lead plates submerged in an acidic solution, also known as the electrolyte. As batteries discharge, the lead plates react with the electrolyte, creating an electric current. When you apply an electric current to these types of batteries, however, the chemical reaction reverses itself. By reversing the chemical reaction, your batteries will return to their fully charged state, ready to power your electrical systems once again.
Why Do Batteries Need Long-term Charging?
Although the reaction between the lead and the electrolytes is accelerated when devices draw power from batteries, this reaction occurs even when you’re not using your batteries. This is known as self-discharge; if your batteries are left uncharged for months, they may be dead when you need to use them. In addition, if your batteries are allowed to self-discharge without being recharged, the electrolytes may form hard crystals on the plates inside of your batteries in a process known as sulfation. These crystals are resistant to electric charges, and their presence impairs the ability of your batteries to hold a charge. If your batteries will be stored for a long time, you will need to use a charger to keep them ready to use and prevent sulfation. However, you can’t simply place your batteries on a charger and ignore them for months. Overcharging your batteries is a risky operation; in addition to simply dying, overcharged batteries can present a real hazard.
Fortunately, you can maintain your batteries safely with the use of specialized chargers called battery maintainers. Using one of these devices is ideal when your batteries will be unused for a lengthy amount of time. Unlike chargers, which are designed to charge your batteries completely, maintainers are designed to supply a small trickle of electricity to your batteries over a long period of time. This trickle charge is enough to counteract self-discharge, but not so large that it threatens to overcharge your batteries. By using a maintainer, you’ll be able to extend the life of your batteries; when properly maintained, batteries can last for more than five years. Without proper maintenance, however, batteries may fail in less than two years.
If you own a boat, motor home or other vehicle that doesn’t get used much, you owe it to yourself to invest in a battery maintainer. These devices will protect you from the dangers of overcharged batteries, ensure that your vehicles are always ready to be used, and keep you from spending a fortune on new batteries.