Battery 101: The Slow Trickle Charge

The odds are pretty good you’ve at least heard of a trickle charger, and can figure out what it does from context clues. The question most charger newbies have is, “Why use a trickle charger?” The simplest answer: trickle chargers are great for maintaining a battery as opposed to just blasting it with a fast charge and moving on.

While regular chargers are of course effective, they can actually shorten the life of your battery over time if not used properly. Trickle chargers won’t give you a quick burst of power, but they will help you maintain the charge in your battery when it’s being stored. Let’s break it down a bit.

Why a stored battery dies

All batteries have a self-discharge rate. It doesn’t matter if you fully charge the battery before you store it or you’ve simply parked the car in your driveway for a minute. As soon as the battery is no longer in use it will self-discharge.

Different batteries will discharge at a different rate, but regardless of the rate of discharge, over time your battery will die. Most people don’t have to worry about the rate of discharge because as soon as they start their car, the alternator recharges the battery and all is right with the world.

The trouble begins when you let the battery sit. If your battery is getting on in years it can take as little as a day or two of sitting before your battery calls it quits from self-discharge alone. The longer the battery sits, the more likely you are to come back to a dead battery.

How to store a battery

There is more than one way to store a batteryalthough some are clearly better than others.

For instance, if you don’t have access to a trickle charger, but you know you’ll be letting your boat or motorcycle sit for the season, you may want to remove the battery from the item it’s powering and then hook it up to a charger to fully charge.

From there you’ll want to check in on it and charge it up as needed to maintain a full charge. Check out this post on how to store your battery for more details. There are quite a few challenges with this method but it can work. Want to avoid the complications of over or undercharging? That’s where trickle chargers come in.

How trickle chargers can save your battery life

Just like a regular charger, trickle chargers use electricity to charge up the battery. A trickle charger just does so at a slower rate, typically at the same rate as the batteries self-discharge.

Most trickle chargers come equipped with a float, or an automatic shut off that will keep the battery from overcharging. (There are some models that don’t have this feature so it’s important to keep an eye on it to keep the battery from overcharging.)

Keeping your battery charged at a slow and steady rate results in a better charge without reducing the life of your battery like a regular charger does.

There is a lot more to maintaining your batterythan just making sure it’s charged. How you charge it and having a regular maintenance routine will keep your battery working at peak levels for the entirety of its life cycle.

Golf Cart Etiquette Everyone Should Know

It’s summertime and everyone is headed to one of two places: the beach of the golf course. Whether you are going to the course, the beach, or just to the neighborhood pool, golf carts are the luxury transportation of choice. Before you jump into the cart, make sure you understand the etiquette required to be a good golf cart driver, whether you’re on or off the golf course.

Here are our top 4 basic golf cart rules and standards:

  1. Golf carts are not four wheelers. Stay out of the mud and stick to the roads and sidewalks. Off roading like you’re part of the X-Games will only result in injury to you and your golf cart.
  2. Stay away from high water areas. Just because you can drive your car through a slightly flooded roadway after a heavy rain doesn’t mean your golf cart will make it too. Anything more than a general puddle should be avoided.
  3. Follow the rules of the road. Just like any other vehicle you must obey the law while driving your golf cart. While you don’t have to be a licensed driver, most cities require any golf cart driver to be at least 14 years of age.
  4. Stay on the cart path unless otherwise posted. Consistent use of golf carts on the turf can do serious damage over time. There will be occasions where courses will allow carts on the grass but only at a 90 degree angle or between certain holes. So unless you see a sign posted that allows carts on the grass, keep it on the pathway to preserve the course for future golfers.

It’s also a good idea to be thoughtful to the other cart drivers around you by following these basic rules of etiquette:

  • Pay attention to golfers who may not be using a golf cart. Just like when you are in your car, pedestrians (walkers on the course) have the right of way.
  • When stopped at a hole, pull the cart over to the side of the cart path to make room for other cart drivers who may need to get around you.
  • When you have finished at a hole, move on to the next one before marking your scorecard. This allows anyone waiting on the hole to start playing instead of having to wait even longer for you to finish.
  • If you need to back up for any reason, make sure you look behind you instead of just assuming there is no one there. This is definitely not the time for bumper cars.
  • Don’t take your cart inside hazard boundary lines. These areas can easily be damaged by the cart wheels so it’s best just to avoid it unless you are on a clearly marked pathway.

Carting around the neighborhood:

  • Just because golf carts don’t go very fast doesn’t mean that you can’t get hurt or even hurt others. Safety is important, so use common sense!
  • If you are driving on the sidewalk make sure to watch out for kids. Especially if you’re out during the day, since schools are out. Take turns, make room, and stay aware of your surroundings.
  • Don’t let children go out driving alone. This should be a no brainer, but unfortunately there have been many serious accidents that have caused this to become a rule that bears repeating. Supervising kids while they use the golf cart doesn’t just keep them safe, it also keeps your neighbors happy.
  • Maintain your golf cart. Nothing spoils a fun summer afternoon than being stranded with a broken down cart.

Having a golf cart at your disposal is a fun and convenient way to get around. However, not following the rules of etiquette when driving this fun vehicle can certainly ruin someone else’s day or even end in an accident. Simply following these tips and tricks can ensure your day on the cart is the best one possible.

Jump-Starting Your Lawnmower: Good or Bad Move?

Batteries are both lifesaving resources when you’re in a hurry – or sometimes frustrating reminders that you aren’t hard wired to an electrical source. Lawnmowers are one of those tools that are typically dependent on battery power. The electrical energy gets the engine going in gas-powered models, or your entire mower is solely electrical by design.

You might find yourself with a dead battery at some point this year. Wondering if you can jump-start the battery is a common reaction. Take a look at lawnmower batteries and if a jump-start is healthy for the power source. Technology continues to improve your landscaping world.

Applicable for Emergency Situations

Most experts agree that your lawnmower battery won’t experience significant damage when you jump-start it on an irregular basis. This process shouldn’t be a once-weekly situation, however. Batteries are designed to take on slow, standard and rapid charges. Applying a lot of voltage all at once should be your last-resort option.

Remember that your battery will go through some decline over time, such as:

  • Expansion-and-contraction damage
  • Sulfation
  • Oxidation

All of these slow processes will occur to a battery that’s never been jump-started before. If you continually jump-start a battery, you’re placing unnecessary strain on the internal components. When you jump-start the battery one time during an entire season, you won’t see much difference in its longevity or performance value.

Proper Jump-Start Steps

If you’re familiar with jump-starting a car, performing this same maneuver on a lawnmower isn’t much different. Start out by attaching standard, jumper cables between a 12-volt car battery and the mower battery. Follow these steps:

  • Connect the red clamp onto the car battery’s positive terminal
  • Attach the opposite, red clamp to the positive terminal on the mower battery
  • Repeat the same steps for the black or ground clamp

Keep in mind that it’s always better to connect the mower’s black clamp to the machine’s frame instead of the ground terminal. Any electrical issues will simply dissipate into the metal frame.

Do not turn on the car if the battery is connected to it. The vehicle’s electrical system is too strong for the mower’s battery. It will simply trickle the charge from the battery as a standalone resource.

Better Alternatives

Connecting a car battery to your mower’s power source isn’t completely foolproof. Differences in amperage and other values can influence the success of your jump-start. Battery experts have better ideas for your power problems. Jump-starting isn’t your only choice.

Consider an external battery that comes with jumper cables. Also known as a jump pack, these batteries hold a charge that comes from a hard-wired connection. They’re designed to work with 12-volt batteries so there’s a reduced risk of damaging your mower battery.

Trickle chargers are another type of tool that can be useful for those unexpected battery problems. Connect a spare, mower battery to the trickle charger. Allow it to charge up over several days. If your on-board battery wears down, you have an instant swap as you head out to the lawn.

The Push-Mower Battery

As you learn how to charge a mower battery, these power sources normally come from riding lawnmowers. Push mowers have slightly different batteries. The manufacturer will normally want a lightweight product so adding a full-size battery to the design isn’t always the plan.

Jump-starting a push-mower battery may not be possible for these reasons, such as:

  • Significantly different voltage specifications
  • Varying physical sizes

In fact, some of these batteries may be confined to a particular housing. They’re designed to be compatible with other machines in your garage, such as string trimmers. To jump-start any battery, you need easy access to the positive and negative terminals. Do not attempt to jump-start a battery that’s completely covered in a protective housing.

Solve your power issues by reaching out to our Northeast Battery team today. These experts understand the science behind your mower and its battery power. With a few suggestions, your lawnmower will have constant power without any problems.

Do Trickle Chargers Work for Marine Batteries?

Boat enthusiasts understand that they won’t necessarily use their vessels each day of the week. Weeks or months might go by before another ride on the water is possible.

Because of this irregular use, your boat’s battery may not be fully charged when you pull out the vessel for a day on the water. Consider the use of trickle chargers for your marine battery. These devices are well suited for long-term use.

The Science Behind Trickle Chargers

Trickle chargers are vastly different than standard models. The difference is written right into the item’s name. Regular chargers offer a safe amount of electricity for rapid charging. It might take these chargers several hours to complete the powering process.

In contrast, trickle chargers allow a small amount of electricity to flow into the battery. By reducing the power amount, you’re able to slowly charge a battery over several days.

This slow process is perfect for these applications, including:

  • Winter storage
  • On-and-off days during the summer
  • Transport periods

These situations are usually plagued by dead batteries. You use up the saved charge by running the battery down or not using it at all. Trickle chargers take that frustration out of the equation.

Going Portable

There are trickle chargers that can be permanently attached to your boat. However, they can be difficult to attach in such small quarters. As an alternative, choose portable chargers.

Depending on your power needs, the charger’s size will vary. Remove the battery from your vessel if you’d like to charge it when the boat is docked. The battery can sit on the charger for hours on end, which slowly gives it power while preserving its lifespan.

Keep in mind that portable chargers are vulnerable to theft. Keep an eye on the device or hide it away during the powering process.

Proper Connections

Your trickle charger has the same setup as a standard type. Look for clamp connectors on the trickle charger with black and red tips. Match the black clamp to the negative side of your battery. The red clamp attaches to the positive side.

Most modern chargers have an indicator bar on the housing. You’ll know when the connectors are properly attached when you’re given the green light on the display. If improper connections are made, you might see these notifications, such as:

  • Charge malfunction
  • Battery problem

Every charger has unique wording to their warning statements so keep this fact in mind as you safely charge your battery.

Matching the Amperage Values

If you’re familiar with boat batteries, you already know that each product has a certain amperage value. The amperage is the current available for power draws on the battery.

Most marine batteries are designed with two amps as their maximum value. Your charger should have a corresponding value that’s below this number. You don’t want two amps as your charging power because that amount equates to a fast charge.

Trickle chargers have a much lower, amperage value. It might be around one amp or less. Charging takes longer, but that’s the goal at this point.

The Heat Issue

Trickle chargers definitely work for marine batteries because they don’t generate excess heat. During a standard charge, the battery heats up. It’s certainly safe to touch, but these issues occur within the battery, including:

  • Internal materials slowly break down
  • Charge and operational times fluctuate
  • Shorter lifespan than a new battery

Switch to a trickle charger, and you’ll notice that the battery doesn’t heat up as much as it normally does with a standard charger. The marine battery will last longer as a result.

Solar Alternatives

Most trickle chargers plug into a wall for their power source. Think about solar alternatives. Your battery doesn’t require a large amount of amperage so solar energy is sufficient enough to supply the trickle charger throughout its processes. Stay sustainable with this environmentally friendly choice.

Contact Northeast Battery with any questions about your marine batteries. Our staff can match your vessel to the proper, power sources. A day out on the water shouldn’t be interrupted by a power outage.