One of the biggest concerns of any vehicle owner is the battery. We cannot go anywhere without it because we could not start the engine.
So, let us discover why batteries go dead after a while.
How does a battery work?
- The electrolyte solution (the sulphuric acid) contains charged ions, made up of sulphate (negatively charged) and hydrogen (positively charged).
- Placing an electrical load – starter motor, ECU, headlights, etc. – causes the ions in the sulphate to move to the battery’s negative plates.
- The ions react with the plates’ active material to release electrons.
- These excess electrons move through the negative side of the battery to any device attached.
- The electrons travel back into the battery through the positive side.
- The movement of electrons is the battery’s direct current, measured in Ampere (A).
The electrons then attach themselves to the positive plates.
How does a battery discharge?
- At the same time, the sulfuric acid breaks down.
- The electrolyte becomes less acid and more water.
- Lead sulphate coats the battery plates in each battery cell.
- The coated plates have less surface area to produce electrical energy.
- The production of current reduces over time.
- If discharging continues, more lead sulphate is deposited on the plates.
- Eventually, the chemical process that produces current stops.
- A battery may not recover despite how long it is charged if there’s heavy sulfation.
- All batteries self-discharge over their lifetime, even if they are not attached to any circuit or load.
- Sulfation occurs as long as the battery’s state of charge is below 100%.
- The rate depends on battery type and ambient temperature.
- Sulfation occurs if the battery is overcharged, undercharged or left discharged for just a few days.
- Smaller lead acid batteries like those in motorcycles sulphate faster.
- Using or storing batteries above 24 oC (75 oF) accelerates self-discharge and increases sulfation.
- The discharge and sulfation rate doubles with the increase of every 10 o
Why does it self-discharge?
- Short trips within 25 to 30 km may not build enough charge.
- Occasional use i.e. once or twice a week.
- Parasitic discharge i.e. motorcycle’s electronics that do not shut down fully.
- Problems in the bike’s electrical system.
- Problems with the charging coil (stator).
- Charging system did not charge battery effectively.
What does all this mean?
85% of batteries do not last up to 4 years, and the best case was just below 3 years. It must be charged sufficiently to prevent it from dropping below 12.4 Volts.
What can we do?
Maintenance free batteries are not exactly maintenance free. The term only applies to not needing us to top up battery water every once in a while.
The best smart chargers in the market will evaluate the battery’s state before carrying out the appropriate charging strategy/strategies. These chargers supply certain Amps to reverse sulfation, while charging the battery to full capacity, and finally maintaining it with a trickle charge.