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Old 07-26-2007, 09:08 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Battery wont hold a charge

My battery keeps getting drained. My rig is still in the building stage so the only thing that is hooked up to the battery is the motor, electronic choke and my gauges. The gauges are hooked up to the ignition so they turn on only when the truck is started.......................Any idea on whats draining my battery?

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Old 07-26-2007, 09:17 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Charge the battery until you can read 13.8 to 14vdc accross the posts. Disconnect the battery, and let set overnight. Measure voltage again after 10-12hours; should read no lower than 12.5vdc (old, but good battery). If it reads less than 12.5v, it's bad. If it reads 12.5-.6 volts, it's good, and there is something in your wiring, or in the alternator, sucking it down.
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Old 07-26-2007, 09:22 PM   #3 (permalink)
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x2 or just take it in and have it tested. but remember they want to sell you a new battery. so maybe get a second opinion. and if its good you have some sort of wiring problem. which isnt as scary as some people think. its just a big game of process of elimination.
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Old 07-26-2007, 09:32 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I had the battery disconted for a while. Its when i connected the battery to the truck for a few days is when it happened. What could the altenator do to drain it? How could i fix that ?
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Old 07-27-2007, 08:18 AM   #5 (permalink)
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[QUOTE=BumpyDodge;7057165]Your info's incorrect. 12.3 volts is perfectly normal voltage for a brand new battery. If you don't believe me - talk to any battery manufacturer.

No, your wrong with regard to a fully charged battery. 12.3v is a discharged battery. What I said is correct for a fully charged battery. Any battery that reads 12.3 is basically fully discharged. It takes a long time (weeks?) for a fully charged battery, as denoted by a voltage measurement of 12.5, or above, to self-discharge (not connected to a load) to a point below 12.5v.
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Old 07-27-2007, 11:44 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I sell batteries for a living so

12.6=fully charged
12.4=75% charged
12.2=50% charged
12.0=25% charged and the cutoff for starting most vehicles under good conditions
11.8=fully discharged

There are some variations amongst battery manufacturers and chemistry types, but within .1 volt is the norm. If you have an AGM battery such as an Optima or the clones it will likely read a little higher when fully charged.

If you're getting new batteries that are at 12.3 volts they might work, but you're getting taken for a fool. Those are the ones that have been sitting on a shelf at Costco for 4 months and have self discharged to that level. When they have discharged that low you can count on them being sulfated and that means you have a less-than-new battery off the shelf. 1% per day in a hot climate is about how much self discharge you will see. Colder climates will self discharge much slower. It is important to remember that this doesn't mean that a battery will be at 80% after 20 days. It would be 1% of 100%, 1% or 99%, etc. I don't have my calculator handy so I'm not going to figure it out for you.

You didn't mention how old said battery is or how you're charging it so I will give you a few tips.

1. In your a warm climate I think 5 years would be a very respectable battery life for a lead acid battery. We statistically see about 6 up here in the frigid north while our data shows that batteries in places like the high desert of Nevada might only get 2 years. Cold lowers the activity in a battery which is both a good and a bad thing. Heat will temporarily make your battery have a higher output, but is ultimately damning to it.

2. If this battery has sat around for a long time it may well be sulfated. It's a natural phenomenon. In fact, when you discharge a battery at all (like when starting the rig) it will sulfate the plates. It doesn't become a problem until it sits and that sulfation becomes rock hard, effectively killing that section of the plate. You CAN get rid of sulfation sometimes. The key is a high voltage charge (charger output ~17 volts) with a very low current (`1 amp) for up to 24 hours. There are also charges that use a pulsing style charge that can help break this up. Deltran Battery Tenders come to mind. If the battery gets excessively hot or is not making progress after 24 hours it's time to get out the checkbook.

3. It takes a lot longer to charge a battery than most people think. Remember, you have to replace all the amp hours that have been taken out of it and then some. For a fully discharged battery a bulk charge followed by a proper absorbtion charge (and most battery chargers SUCK at that part) can take up to 7 hours with a 10 amp charger. If you remove it too soon because your voltmeter is reading high enough you are likely just getting the surface charge. One turn of the key and that is gone.

4. The battery may be stratified. This happens when the electrolyte doesn't have a consistent specific gravity from top to bottom within the cell. It is normally a problem you see with deep cycles, not starting batteries, but this is also fixable with proper charging technique. To remedy this problem I would recommend that you charge the battery fully. Then leave it on a moderate voltage (~15.6) and a moderate current (~5 amps) for 4-6 hours. You should see a gentle bubbling within the cells. This is the acid remixing with the water. You are stirring the pot without actually stirring the pot. Remember...gentle bubbling...and excessive heat is bad. You may have to add water to the electrolyte when this is done. I don't recommend it more than twice a year for deep cycles. In applications like a forklift every 2-3 months is often appropriate.

Ok, enough with that crap. My gut feelings is that you need a new battery. I may or may not be correct as we don't have a lot of information. Bring it in somewhere and get it tested. If they use a conductance tester it should be ok to test as long as it is at 7 volts or higher. If they are going to use a carbon pile load tester (as I like to do...quick, easy, and accurate) it will need to be fully charged and having rested for 24 hours after charging is best.

Be careful where you bring it to. Some people are just going to try and sell you a new battery. However, I know we have thousands of dollars invested in test equipment and are not out to get anyone. If we were we would just use a $5 hydrometer and lie since no one really knows how they work anymore anyway. Ask them to explain how they are testing to you and watch them.

For a carbon pile load tester.....

1. They will check the charge in the battery. 12.5+ is the best though you can get a decent idea from a battery as low as 12.4

2. They should clean the posts for you

3. They will load the battery down. Some places will use the test load, but I prefer to use the cold cranking amps meter as that is what is printed on the battery. There is no math involved and it will make sense to the customer

4. As the battery is loaded down to its cold cranking output number for 15 seconds they will watch the voltage. It should not drop below 9.6 volts on a nice 70 degree day. There is some interpolation required for colder days, but it won't be an issue in California.

5. After they let off they should count the seconds of recovery time. I like to see the battery pop back to ~12.4 volts after 15 seconds. Slower or lower than that and it starts to be suspect.

If at any time during the test the battery drops below 9.6 volts (it will usually fall off FAST) the battery is no good.

If it is unable to achieve its rated cold cranking amps it is weak. It may still start your rig, but it is not doing what it is rated to do. It might last another year, it might die tomorrow. There is no real good way to know.

If the battery seemed marginal they should retest it. It is not going to perform as well as a fully charged battery, but you still should not see that big drop off in voltage.

If you do end up buying a new battery don't let them "top it off" on a charger real quick before giving it to you. You don't want to buy a battery that is being damaged from the get-go! If it is not fully charged as it sits on the shelf it is time to go elsewhere.

I hope that helps some. I'd be more than happy to help you out any other way possible.
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Old 07-27-2007, 01:53 PM   #7 (permalink)
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You're still missing the point: The down and dirty way to check a battery is to fully charge it (13.8-14.0v AT THE TIME OF CHARGING), then let it set overnight without any load, and recheck. If the voltage as dropped to below 12.5, the battery is leaking internally, and won't hold a charge (standard lead-acid battery typically found in a truck). And, yes your chart is correct, for what it's worth. But we're talking about checking a battery without sophisticated load-checking equipment. I sailed arround the world having to rely exclusively on my batteries, and my ability to keep them properly charged; knowing when to charge, and at what rates so as not to "cook" them, and knowing when to do absorption charges to rid the plates of sulfides. I would never allow a lead-acid battery to discharge to the 12.0v level.
I went back and actually read your post. I find it informative, and accurate (at least based on my own knowledge of the subject). Your little chart is what to expect from a new lead-acid battery; I had that little chart taped to the inside of my daily log book. I, however, had a sophisticated regulator, and matching high-amp alternator that allowed for bulk charging, and an occasional absorption charge. By the way, my 3huge batteries lasted over 5 years in the tropics, being discharged (down to ~12.3)/recharged daily (14.8v).
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Last edited by Bubba_Jeep; 07-27-2007 at 02:10 PM.
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Old 07-27-2007, 03:01 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Proper care and no abuse will make batteries last like that. to you for not being that guy who comes and bitches to me after his batteries only last two years due to lack of maintenance.

I also agree that a 13.8-14 volt surface charge hot off the charger is a pretty good indicator of a fully charged battery and if it falls then it has failed most of the time. Occassionally we find an exception where we are undoing the abuse of the owner, but that admittedly doesn't happen often.

[hijack] Just out of curiousity, what size batteries were you using and how were you charging them? [/hijack]
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Old 07-27-2007, 04:13 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I had 3ea 4D lead-acids, ~200AH ea. I'd keep two online, and one in reserve, rotating weekly. My boat was 44', and had most conveniences of a house, with lots of daily current draw.
Near the 50% discharge level (12.2 v), I'd fire up the auxiliary engine (normally, once a day for 45-60 minutes, had to "charge" the refer's holding plates, too), normally recharge to 14v, in a 3-step fashion. My regulator, as I recall, was made by Cruising Equip co., and was called a Tri-Cycle. It would bulk charge, then reduce the charge rate to 25% of the battery capacity, dropping again to ~4% of battery capacity at a battery voltage level of 14.5; it had a "conditioning" mode that I'd select about once a month, that would bring the batteries to 16v. Each battery was fixed with a thermistor to keep the charger apprised of battery temp. I'd occasionally use a hydrometer to check condition, and DAILY check water level in each battery (learned that lesson the hard way). In the five years that I cruised, I did kill one battery. The battery off switch was bypassed by the engine mfg's wiring harness, constantly charging the "reserve" battery; it boiled the water below the plates, and I could not rejuvenate it; however, the battery was ~6years old at that time. After modifying the harness, never had that problem again.
Car batteries, as you know, are "another animal". They seldom reach full charge, due to the design of the regulator, and for sure are never "conditioned". And, I'd wager, most owners seldom check water levels. My experience has been, if you let the water fall below the top of plates, the battery is history. Possibly a conditioning after topping off would rejuvenate it, if the plates haven't been exposed for too long of period.
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Last edited by Bubba_Jeep; 07-27-2007 at 04:23 PM.
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Old 07-27-2007, 05:05 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Now I REALLY have to dig. I had a customer looking for 4D deep cycles the other day and we couldn't track them down through any of our vendors. We can get 8D's in both wet and AGM deep cycles, but not 4D's. Where did your batteries come from?

You're quite right about the regulators in cars never really fully recharging batteries. They won't overcharge a battery and their charging algorithm works well in taking off the sulfides, but they never really do get up there to a full charge. Thankfully it really doesn't matter anyway in that application. You're also spot on about people checking water levels. You wouldn't believe the number of deep cycles even that I get in because they won't work...pop the covers and they aren't even half full. Depending on the guy's attitude I may or may not warranty it (I am under NO obligation to do so, mind you). remember, always be nice to your battery supplier.

again for just plain impressing me with your knowledge. It reinstills faith that not everyone is a dumbass.
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