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Got Juice? Five Facts About Battery Chargers

Posted March 28, 2022 4:00 AM by dstrohl
Pathfinder Tags: Battery chargers Tools

I considered calling this piece “I’ve been charging my batteries wrong and four other facts about battery chargers.” In fact, a lot of this is going to come off as common sense for those who have taken the time to read the manual for their battery charger.

1. There’s a reason for the range of amp-selection choices

Your charger, like mine, probably has several different settings to choose from. As seen below, mine has 2 A, to use for smaller batteries, like those used in motorcycles and lawn tractors, and in certain other instances; 12 A, “Fast Charge” for automobile starting batteries and marine/deep-cycle being charged with no special urgency; 30 A, “Rapid Charge” for attempting to get a car or boat started in a hurry; and an 80 A “Starting Mode” designed to work as a stand-in for another car when jump starting. I used the latter a couple times driving my ’64 Rambler through the subzero Michigan winter of 2013-'14 and I can vouch for its efficacy. The Charge It devices have similar settings: 10 A for charging deep-cycle batteries, 40 A for “Maintenance-free Automotive or Marine Cranking” units, plus a “high-amperage” starting mode.

2. Desulfation increases battery life

Other chargers I’ve had in the past had indicators for a special “Desulfation Mode” and while this one doesn’t, it does boast a secret blinky code disclosing that it has entered desulfation (a process that can last up to 10 hours!). What is sulfation, you might ask, and why must we reverse it? Sulfation occurs as a natural process of the battery’s chemical reactions. As the battery discharges, the sulfur derived from the sulfuric-acid electrolyte binds to the lead plates. This is normally reversed during charging, but chronic under-charging (often a result of lots of short trips) or long-term discharge (i.e. the car wouldn't start and you just left it to sit after running down the battery) can result in that bond becoming semi-permanent.

Reversing the process comes from a kind of controlled overcharging that is only possible for hobbyists like me thanks to modern microprocessor-controlled battery chargers. You can see why in the 1920s, battery service stations were very much a thing: the sulfuric acid inside the case, the hydrogen gas produced during charging (still a risk—so watch out for sparks) and the serious electrical equipment involved made it a far more complicated hazardous undertaking back then.

Read the remaining three facts here.

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#1

Re: Got Juice? Five Facts About Battery Chargers

04/02/2022 9:31 PM

The term ‘Desulfation’ back in junior high school in our automotive industrial arts class, we covered this.

The U.S. educational system really needs to bring back Industrial Arts (shop classes such as Auto mechanics, Machine Shop, Wood Working, Graphics Arts/Drafting) in our high schools…

I'm sure we’d have a lot less Tide pod challenges.

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#2
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Re: Got Juice? Five Facts About Battery Chargers

04/05/2022 6:44 PM

Industrial Arts! I haven't heard that term in years!

I had no idea that schools no longer had shop classes! In Jr High, we had to take a wood working class along with music, cooking and sewing. Each class lasted a quarter and we were actually given a grade. I enjoyed the wood working class a lot.

In high school, we were not required to take shop classes. I chose to take an electronics class vs metals, wood or auto shop. And yes, there was also a drafting class too! There was a stigma about taking shop classes - the classes for the dummies to take! But I did enjoy the electronics class and I learned a lot from it. Maybe it's why I chose electronics engineering in college?

Yes, our kids definitely need these courses.

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Re: Got Juice? Five Facts About Battery Chargers

04/05/2022 7:13 PM

Two my friends of mine took Home Ec. classes. At first everyone laughed at them. They told me they did it because they'd be the only boys those classes... they were pretty popular with the girls...

I would have like taking the Home Ec class, becasue I liked cooking... but I like the Automotive class better. We received brand new Oldsmobile 98 that was damaged.

I was one of the ones that was selected to work on it engine, as well as the body.

What we did with the body is we cut the back seat et al out and shorted and made it into a 2 door. Afterword's myself and a friend of our were take to take the engine, take it all apart and reassembly it. Turned out to be the goofiest looking car. But it was a blast.

We also had an Electronics Class, but it was more of a club... the classes were at 6:00 am... I couldn't make it because at that time, I was just finishing milking the cows. I was pretty disappointed.

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Re: Got Juice? Five Facts About Battery Chargers

05/11/2022 3:20 AM

We definitely need more shop classes in our schools! The kids of today are missing out!

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Re: Got Juice? Five Facts About Battery Chargers

05/11/2022 5:49 AM

It served me well, my first car wasn’t really trouble and maintenance free.

11:00 pm, and your car stalls in the middle of nowhere… initially, what a bad feeling…

you have a McGovern moment to get home… and do get home, What a great feeling of relief… and somewhat pride…

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#3

Re: Got Juice? Five Facts About Battery Chargers

04/05/2022 6:51 PM

I'm not sure if Schumacher chargers are the best, but they're the ones I've used for many, many years. In fact, my dad had one when I was a kid (the kind with the mechanical meter and a 6V/12V switch).

Back in the late 00's, I bought a Schumacher automatic charger/starter. It worked great until one day when I tried to charge a battery in the sunlight. Yes, it was a hot day and the charger was in direct sunlight, so it got hot. When I came back to check on the status, the charger was dead. I took it apart and found a burned component on the main board. It's still in pieces!

I bought one of those rolling charger/starter boxes. It has an automatic mode, which is what I use most of the time. It also has a 150A starter mode - works fantastic! And it has a 20A and 2A charge mode too. Schumacher again!

I did buy a replacement for the first Schumacher auto charger/starter. It has the same form as the other one, but the graphics are different - and the price went up. It's smaller and easier to carry, so I use it when the rolling one is too much hassle - doesn't happen often, because I just roll the unit out of the garage and to the car - sometimes I'll even carry it, so i don't damage the other cars in the driveway.

I think the rolling charger doesn't have desulfication. I know the smaller handheld one does.

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#4

Re: Got Juice? Five Facts About Battery Chargers

04/05/2022 6:59 PM

I also have a trickle charger that I rarely use. The reason is that I worry about something going wrong and burning down my garage and all the stuff inside - as well as catching our house on fire!

Back about 25 years ago, my house caught on fire. It was caused by a Bosch battery charger - the one for cordless tools. I think it was a 9.8V NiCad battery in the charger. Funny thing - the firemen thought the fire was caused by the water heater (which sat up on a drywalled table). When looking at where the damage was the worst, it was right above the work table that my Bosch charger was on. Still, they said it was caused by the water heater.

About four years later, I was setting up our new retail store. I had my trusty Bosch cordless drill with me and the battery was on the charger. I heard a strange popping noise and I could smell burning plastic. After a minute or so of looking around, I noticed sparks coming from the charger/battery. I saw some smoke coming from the unit and I quickly unplugged it and grabbed the battery to pull it from the charger. I burned my fingers - man was it hot! Then it hit me - the fire in my garage was caused by the Bosch charger/battery!

I don't like charging things unattended unless it's in an area where fire isn't a threat. Like on my driveway or on the patio (concrete). Otherwise, I just keep things unplugged. I'm not sure if it's irrational ... for me, I had the bad experience and I'm going to play it extra safe.

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#7

Re: Got Juice? Five Facts About Battery Chargers

05/11/2022 3:33 AM

Funny, but true story. When we were taking electronics class in high school, we would go into the resistor bin and pull out those 1 ohm 1/4 watt resistors. We'd wire them up to our power stations, then flip the switch and crank up the power. I forget what the output was, but it was enough to get those resistors smoking, then they'd turn red hot and pop (crack in half). They were so hot, we couldn't remove them from the power supply, so we'd cover them us as our teacher would walk around trying to find out who was burning resistors. Yes, I still remember the smell of burning resistors!

We would also grab these cool 200V capacitors - electrolytics. We would plug them into our power supply, throw the DC switch and crank up the juice. I'm thinking it would get to 100V, but I don't remember - most likely not, because there would've been some horrible shocked kids, but maybe. Anyway, we'd very carefully remove the capacitor from the power supply, then we'd walk up to someone and zap them!

On the educational side, we did get to work on some great projects. Freshman year, we did a lot of circuit stuff - we would work on this plywood board and install electrical parts - household AC parts. We would run wires thru conduit, make hooks and wire outlets, switches and light sockets. The last project was a three way switch - we had to do it per code, not just find a way to make it work. To this day, I know how to make hooks, how to strip wires and which tools to use - I do a lot of home electrical work with the power still on.

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