Winter Woes: The automotive battery is dead, click, click, click. All 12 volt DC automotive batteries are a lead/acid mixture with internal vertical plates of lead and sponge lead, and enclosed in a plastic composition encasement. There are two lead protrusions, (1) the positive and (2) the negative electric contacts.
Inside the battery the electrical current flows from positive (+) to negative (-) and the connections on the outside of the battery are for the flow of electricity through the various automotive circuits with a flow of negative (-) to positive (+). The negative electricity (-) is directly connected to the starter motor; which is the basic ground. This is my Ford. Other manufacturers may be the reverse of this circuitry.
All of this you probably know, or could care less about. You will be concerned this winter when you turn the ignition key, and the starter motor just goes click. No start. Yet, if you are changing a battery with a new one, connecting the cables is important: the battery has a + and – symbols imprinted on the plastic case. Usually the cables are colored coded. You do not want to reverse the cables.
So with the temperature below zero and the snow blowing about, you trudge into the garage, or the house, and retrieve the battery charger. Re-read the directions.
There are several manufacturers of battery chargers, some offering a “starter jump”. Others of less cost that offer 4 amperes charge which will take you an hour or more to bring the battery charge up to 12 volts, or ideally 13.5 volts for a quick turn over of the starter motor that spins the engine while also causing the spark plugs, or other ignition sources to fire up the vehicle from the battery. The alternator, which is also rotating is producing electricity to charge the battery. Both battery and alternator provide necessary voltage, however the battery is what spins the engine for starting. The battery is the prime source of electricity. The alternator provides charging of the battery. Other battery circuitry provides for lights, horn and accessories. We are concerned only with the starting circuit.
Therefore you must keep the battery fully charged. Alternators that die, or have a loose driving fan belt may cause your battery to be on a lower charge and your driving lights will be dimmer. Worst case scenario is the engine dies, lights go out, power steering fails and you are stuck in the middle of the on going traffic. Click, click, again.
Besides driving with an old battery that is past its prime is the cold winter temperatures. The electric charge diminishes in the cold so you might consider a heating (115 AC Volt) pad, or a wrap for the battery. Remember to disconnect the pad or wrap before going anywhere. Extension cords are usually a necessity and it is recommended to use a 12-gauge 3-plug extension cord for this heater pad or belt wrap. You can also purchase engine block heaters when ordering a new car. Installing a block heater by an unskilled mechanic usually leaks. An external sticky heat pad on the oil pan is helpful as the motor oil in the winter becomes thicker and resists spinning the engine; if you are still using a straight weight oil-say 30 singular weight normally used in the summer time change your oil. Lightweight oils such as 10-20-30 or 5-10-30 are good for cold weather. Some good people in Canada use straight 5-weight oil in the winter.
NEVER try to charge a frozen battery.
All batteries have a life span of 3 years no matter what the sales ticket says. The 5-year battery has more plates and may last longer but the addition of more plates offers you a stronger residual electrical source for winches, extra lights etc. All battery sponge lead plates “sulfate” reducing the electric flow inside the battery. You can, with some chargers reverse this flow after charging, and for 24 hours de-sulfate the battery making it last longer and retain the 13.5 volt ideal charge by the alternator. 84% of dead and returned batteries die of sulfating; de-sulfating may give your battery like new life. In addition you need to unscrew the caps on the battery (some batteries are sealed) and look to see if the sulfuric acid liquid covers the plates. If not you must, before charging, add distilled water-not tap water (which has bleach in it). Just cover the plates, there is no need to fill to the top, that dilutes the sulfuric acid.
I recommend the VECTOR, Smart Battery Charger that also tests the alternator, reverses the sulfating problem, and of course measures the battery full charge cycle. These are sold through automotive parts stores such as Advance Auto Parts, etc. The $150.00 cost (or less) is well worth it for a top performing battery and/or alternator. Read the directions. Charge your battery BEFORE the winter woes catch you off guard.
Considering most people now live in an apartment complex, or some community that does not allow your personal maintenance on your vehicle, the automotive parts stores all offer a battery/ alternator test, and installation service for free.
If purchasing an alternator, purchase the largest ampere alternator you can find that will fit your vehicle. The “regulator” will adjust current flow for you.
Ensure the mechanic who installs a new battery cleans the inside of the connectors and the battery posts with a “ battery wire brush” for best contact. Corrosion, usually observed by a white puffed discharge around the battery posts will diminish your electricity flow. This may be cleaned off with baking soda and water mixture. Use rubber gloves and eye protection. If you are doing the installation your self, DO NOT smoke, use your cell phone, or have any flame near the battery, as the hydrogen gas emitted is explosive. Always wear gloves and eye protection. If you get battery acid in your eyes they will sting and the more you get the likely hood of eye damage is real. Use plenty of clean water to wash the open eyes and seek medical help.
Regarding cell phones: DO NOT use, texting,when working around batteries and filling the vehicle with gasoline. There is a small potential spark in the circuitry.
God Bless you all, and God Bless America. Live long and prosper.
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