Winter On the Way - Are Your Batteries Ready?

Batteryman Jet Ski vs Snowmobile Batteryman comments: "Summer or winter, batteries that are not being used should be protected."

Winter is almost here.  The seasonal change from green grass and short-shorts to Jack Frost, scarves, and gloves can bring about many adjustments to daily life.  Out with the roller blades and in with the ice skates.  Flip the switch from leaf blower to snow blower.  It’s time to pack up motorcycles, jet skis, speed boats, etc. and rip the cover off that snowmobile.  Nobody, though, could possibly enjoy getting the entire family bundled up in winter gear for an afternoon of kicking up fresh fallen powder, just to find a dead battery that could take an hour to get charged.  In this transitional time of the year, it is important to consider how to properly maintain the battery in a power sports vehicle during extended periods without use.  First, what causes a battery to lose its charge when not being used?  Then, what can be done to stop it?

Sulfation  or (sulfurization) is a normal process that occurs through daily discharge of a lead acid battery.  “When a battery is being discharged the lead active material on the plates will react with the sulfate from the electrolyte forming a lead sulfate on the plates,” explains Rolls Battery of New England.  This is remedied automatically by charging the battery, which returns the lead sulfate to its original state.  If, however, a battery is left in a discharged state, or is allowed to self-discharge through disuse for long periods of time, this lead sulfate hardens and can be difficult to remove.  This can decrease the performance of a battery, and actually prevent a full charge.

Temperatures greater than room temperature can cause a battery to discharge faster, leading to more sulfation.  Extremely low temperatures (less than 20 degrees Fahrenheit) can cause the electrolyte to freeze, which will also affect performance.

What Can You Do?

Whether you store your battery on board the vehicle or on a shelf in the garage, disconnect the terminal cables to prevent unnecessary discharge.  If the battery is made of “wet” or “flooded” cells, meaning they require regular maintenance by refilling the case, make sure that the electrolyte level is more than 1” above the top of the separators.  Also, be sure the battery is clean and fully charged.  If necessary, move the battery to a location with reasonable and consistent temperatures.  These few steps will slow down discharge of the battery and help stop sulfation.

It is highly suggested to keep unused batteries on a float charge when they are being stored for extended periods of time.  Many chargers designed for lead acid batteries will include a float mode or battery maintenance setting.  This low power, continuous pulse automatically turns on when internal voltage drops below acceptable levels (2.07V per cell on a 12V battery).  When kept on a maintainer, a battery will not become sulfated.  In the case that you do have to deal with a sulfated battery, many of these same chargers have a desulfation mode to help reverse the effects.

The Schumacher SP2 is a great choice for a balance of all these features plus great cost.  It is an 8 stage charger, offering desulfation, soft start, float mode, and maintenance charging.  And Dual Pro chargers by Pro Charging Systems are entirely American Made!  Don’t let battery problems keep you from living life this winter.