What You Need to Know to Maintain Commercial Fleet Batteries

Taking care of automotive batteries is important no matter what you’re driving. When keeping the fleet on the road is your business, it’s not just important, it’s imperative. That’s why it’s so important to understand that just because most automotive batteries perform similar functionality, they are not all created equal.

Here’s what you need to know about taking care of your commercial truck battery.

Routine maintenance

The most important thing we could tell anyone about taking care of their battery is to make it a part of your routine maintenance program.

Sure you want to check the oil and make sure the brakes are holding up, but the battery is important too. Preventative maintenance is the best way to make sure your battery won’t fail you on the side of the highway.

Try keeping track of warranties as well as repairs or frequent replacements that could indicate a larger mechanical issue.

Replace batteries as needed

Waiting for the battery to die as an indicator for replacement is… not a good plan. If you notice your battery is not up to par, try performing voltage tests. If it’s not toward the end of the battery’s life cycle and it’s already failing, the odds are pretty high that there is an electrical issue that is draining the battery.

If you are nearing the end of the life cycle and you are getting indicators that the battery is becoming sluggish, don’t try to push it for more time. A few things to look for when the battery is about to go are:

  • Check Engine Light
  • Slow Engine Crank (it takes longer than normal to start the engine)
  • The battery electrolyte levels are low

Pick the right battery

As we mentioned earlier, not all batteries are created equal. They each have their role to play and are not always interchangeable. So stop ordering discount replacement batteries in bulk and start getting the right battery for your equipment.

There are two main factors to look at when choosing a battery: rating and type. The rating will help you understand the CCA (cold cranking amps – the amount of current that can be delivered in cold temperatures) and the RC (the reserve capacity – how much power can be stored once charged). If you are having difficulty starting the engine in minor cold weather conditions you may want to check the ratings.

Batteries Are More Than Just their Ratings

Don’t overlook the other factors that may come into play, such as the level of vibration in your trucks. Many fleet managers have decided to upgrade their batteries to AGM (absorbed glass mat) from flooded cell. Some of the benefits are:

  • Perform better in higher vibration applications
  • Better shelf life
  • Less maintenance
  • Non-hazardous

Know How To Charge

Before you start charging you should always check the instructions. Even if you’ve done this a thousand times, it never hurts to refresh your memory.

A lot of commercial batteries have threaded stud terminals that require special charging posts to clamp to. The posts allow for a flush connection to the terminal. Connecting directly to the threaded stud will not provide the lead-to-lead contact needed to get a good charge and correct readings.

You will also want to make sure that you are using a voltage-limited charger if you have AGM batteries. A voltage-limited charger will help keep you from overcharging the battery and shortening its lifespan, or worse.

Pro-Tips For Troubleshooting Battery Issues

Trouble starting – Check the cables. When the battery is fully charged, the likely culprit is loose cables.

Parasitic loads – Test everything to identify the issue. In larger rigs, it’s not uncommon to have things like microwaves or televisions pulling more than their fair share.

Corrosion – Inspect the terminals, especially if this is a frequent issue. Clean the battery thoroughly and safely and look for any leaking that might be causing a problem.

Underperforming alternator – Test the voltage and current from the alternator. If you have a perfectly good battery that is discharging too fast it could indicate a problem