Lead-acid batteries are low cost and effective, making them great for automotive use. A regular maintenance schedule is important for equipment that uses lead-acid batteries, like vehicles or backup power supplies. However, an overlooked maintenance aspect is battery maintenance. The most common use of lead-acid batteries is in cars. Here’s an overview of common vehicle battery types, basic care and keeping of lead-acid batteries, and what kind of maintenance you may need to do for optimum battery performance.
Types of Lead-Acid Batteries: Wet or Dry
Most vehicle batteries are the lead-acid type, which means that they are made of a lead-based grid system and a sulfuric acid-based electrolyte substance. Lead-acid batteries are either wet or dry. The wet, or flooded, type of battery uses a liquid electrolyte solution, whereas a dry battery may use powder, gel or a fiberglass mat instead of free-flowing liquid. Some wet batteries need to be watered periodically whereas others are designed to be virtually maintenance-free.
One advantage of using a dry battery is that you can mount it in any direction and it doesn’t leak under normal usage. For car factory vehicle batteries, you won’t have to worry about how or where to mount the battery.
How To Check A Lead-Acid Battery
It’s best to catch any leaks or corrosion as early as possible, so you should periodically inspect your car’s lead-acid battery, even if it is designated maintenance-free. When you go to inspect your battery, you may find that it’s very dirty and dusty, which makes it harder to see potential problems. Although you should avoid getting any cleaning solution inside the battery itself, it is all right to use a solution of baking soda and water on a soft cloth to clean the battery. Remember to gently rinse the solution away and dry the battery.
To perform your battery check, start by checking for fluid on or around the battery, as well as corrosion at the cable connection points and terminals. Be especially aware of any frayed-looking cables, because they can be dangerous. If you do discover a leak, replace the battery or have a professional repair it if possible. Because you will be working around acid, be sure to use appropriate protective equipment (gloves, eye protection and long sleeves) when inspecting or cleaning a lead-acid battery. If you have a wet battery that requires watering, remember to use only distilled water (never tap water) and to add water only when the battery is fully charged. If you are not sure what type of battery the vehicle or equipment uses or whether you need to add water, consult the owner’s manual.
A Few Battery-Related Dos and Don’ts
Although lead-acid battery maintenance is not too complicated, there are a few things you should keep in mind to keep battery performance at its peak.
- Do check the battery as part of a regular maintenance schedule.
- Don’t neglect leaking or cracked batteries. Get them fixed right away.
- Do keep batteries clean and dry.
- Don’t use anything but distilled water to water a battery that needs it.
- Do seek a professional’s advice if you aren’t sure what type of battery you have (especially if you don’t know whether you should add water or not).
Lead-acid battery technology has been around for more than a century, and it’s what keeps vehicles up and running today. Take good care of your vehicle’s battery, and it will always be ready when you need it.
Wirtz Manufacturing is a global leader in equipment design and technology for the lead acid battery market. Contact us for a quote today.