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- Jul 27, 2022

Tips to take care of your machine’s battery


The Allways Hire Business Toolbox is a series of articles on topics that are important to our customers and their businesses. Our Equipment Maintenance Series recognises that as well as hiring our machines, you have your own fleet too. These articles are full of tips to help you take care of your equipment.

In the first article in this series we talked to Steve Neithe from The Battery Doctor (06 878 2828) to get some top tips on how to look after your batteries. Steve sees lots of customers with dead or flat batteries and helps them recharge or bring them back to life, so he’s a great source of knowledge for what causes common problems you may see. Read on for his top battery maintenance tips.

Q: The first question we get from many of our customers is how long does a battery last? If they’re having problems with their trucks or diggers then they want to know if it’s due to the battery age or could be a wider issue.

Steve: That’s a hard one to start off with. While with a car battery you are going to get an average of 5 years plus, it’s a different story on something that works in extreme conditions. Batteries hate vibrations, dirt, water, and that sort of stuff. So I’d be thinking maybe 3 or 4 years. If you can do anything more than that you are doing good.

Keep your battery and the terminals clean, mud and water can prematurely discharge the battery.

Q: So the obvious follow up question is what can you do to extend that battery life? How can you get more years of power out of it?

Steve: The first thing is maintenance. Spending a bit of time on your battery regularly is a good investment to extend its life. Keep it clean – both the battery and the terminals. Mud and water can prematurely discharge the battery.

Secondly it’s important to keep the battery cool – they hate the heat. The hotter your battery gets the faster it’s going to deteriorate and then you’re going to spot the difference when the weather goes cool and your battery just hasn’t got it any more.

Thirdly, watch out for machines that sit idle. Batteries have a good shelf life until they’re used, but once they start being used they benefit from being used regularly. If you have an off-season where you’re not using your machine, make a point of firing it up once a month and driving it around a bit and putting it through its paces before you put it away again. That should keep the battery happy and get rid of excess chemicals storing up in the battery while it’s sitting idle. Disconnecting the battery when it’s not in use can slow down any deterioration, but you really need to run it regularly if you want to preserve the battery.

Jump starting batteries.

Q: We often get asked about jump starting batteries on customer’s machines when they’ve gone dead. Are there any top tips you can share for how to do this?

Steve: It does depend on what you’re jump starting and where you are jump starting it from. In most cases – with modern jumper leads – you have spike protection so you don’t need to be too worried about back feeds or anything like that. The way I tell people to do it is to connect the red lead on the vehicle you’re using for the jump start, then connect the second red lead onto the flat battery. Then you put the black lead on the battery of the running vehicle and then – if you were jump starting a car we’d put the other black lead on a good solid earth of the engine, and that way a spike can’t be sent backwards through the leads. But most leads are spike protected these days so it is pretty unlikely. I always put the negative (black lead) on last and it’s the first one I take off.

Charging batteries. If you have an old charger, you can’t leave them unattended for as long as you like.

Q: And finally, Steve – any tips for charging batteries that our customers could learn from? How long should they be charging their batteries for and should they be fully charging them every time?

Steve: How long you charge for really depends on the charger. If you are talking like an old, old charger that will just keep charging forever, you can’t leave them unattended for as long as you like. The newer chargers have the capacity to turn themselves off and do what’s called a float. So ours will charge a battery and the light will turn blue when it’s charging then turn green which is floating, so then when it drops down the voltage for any reason, it will just trickle it back up again.

Not charging batteries up fully doesn’t really hurt them. If they’re going flat and having to be charged regularly that’s going to shorten their life anyway. But if you just put enough in there that it gets the machine going, and then the machine starts feeding the battery, that shouldn’t be too bad. But the machine will never have the capability of filling the battery right up.

In an emergency state you might put it on charge, say “Right it’s running, right let’s use it,” then when you are finished using the machine, you probably should hook the battery back up again, and until the charger says that it is charged.