Battery Maintenance & Safety

By Yuasa Inc.


SULFATION AND FREEZING

Two of the biggest battery killers - sulfation and freezing - aren't a problem if the battery is properly maintained and water level is kept where it should be.

Sulfation

This happens because of 1) continuous discharging, or 2) low electrolyte levels.

Let's back up just a minute: we said earlier that discharge turns the lead plates into lead sulfate. This lead sulfate is actually a crystal. If the discharge continues uninterrupted, the sulfate crystals grow and blossom into sulfation - and a problem.

Much the same happens if the fluid level is too low, which exposes the plates to air. Then the active lead material oxidizes and sulfates, and it doesn't take long before it won't hold a charge. (Low electrolyte levels cause another problem, too: acid in the electrolyte becomes more concentrated, causing material to corrode and fall to the bottom. In sufficient quantity, it will short out the battery.)

Keeping a battery charged, pulling the battery cable during storage, and keeping electrolyte levels up eliminate the problem. For added protection, YUASA"s YuMicron, YuMicron CX and GRT batteries are treated with a special chemical formula called "Sulfate Stop." This dramatically reduces sulfate crystal buildup on plates. The result: longer battery life.

How good is Sulfate Stop?

We simulated a constant discharge condition on two batteries with a 10-watt bulb. Even after being totally drained for a week, the battery with Sulfate Stop made a 90% recovery.

The untreated battery: useless.

Freezing

It shouldn't bother you - unless a battery is inadequately charged. Looking one more time at the discharge process, remember that electrolyte acid becomes water as discharge occurs. Now, it takes Arctic temperatures to freeze acid. But water...as we all know, freezing starts at 32 F. A sign of this is mossing - little red lines on the plates - but it's tough to see unless you've got great eyes. Freezing can also crack the case and buckle the plates, which means the battery is shot.

A fully charged battery can be stored at sub-freezing temperatures with no damage. As the chart shows, it takes - 75 F to freeze electrolyte in a charged battery. But as just a couple degrees below freezing, at +27 F, a discharged battery's electrolyte turns to ice. That's a difference of more than 100 F between the low temperatures a charged and discharged battery can stand.

At temperatures such as these, incidentally, the self-discharge rate of a battery is so low that a recharge usually isn't needed for months. But to stay on the safe side, test.

Electrolyte Freezing Points

  Specific Gravity of Electrolyte

Freezing Point (degrees F)

1.265

-75 F

1.225

-35 F

1.200

-17 F

1.150

+5 F

1.100

+18 F

1.050

+27 F

 

CHARGING A NEW BATTERY

The MOST IMPORTANT thing to remember about charging a new battery is to actually do it!

How many times have you seen somebody ready to throw a new battery into a bike and ride off - without charging? "The bike will charge it," they figure.

Wrong. The battery will be damaged for life.

A battery out of the box, with the electrolyte added but uncharged, is at 80% capacity tops. If it's installed and used that way - without an initial booster charge first - it'll never hold more than that 80% charge. The bike won't charge it higher. Neither will pulling the battery off later and trying to charge it to full capacity. The battery's capacity has been immediately and permanently cut by 20%, and there's nothing you can do about it. Insist on that booster charge.

The rule of thumb is to charge a new battery for three to five hours at a rate equal to 1/10 of its rated capacity. But there are a lot of exceptions to that rule, as this table shows:

 

Hours to Charge Battery 100%*

State of Charge

12N10

12N12

12N14

YB18

YB16

Y50

YTX9*

YTX12*

YTX14*

YTX20*

Approximate Charge times using a "trickle" (0.25 amp) Charger

75%

13

15

18

23

24

25

10

13

15

23

50%

25

30

35

45

48

50

20

25

30

45

25%

38

45

53

68

71

75

30

38

45

68

0%

50

60

70

90

95

100

40

50

60

90

Approximate Charge times using a 1 amp taper Charger

75%

6

7

8

10

10

11

6

6

7

10

50%

11

13

14

18

19

20

9

11

13

18

25%

15

18

20

26

27

28

13

15

18

26

0%

20

23

27

34

35

37

16

20

23

34

Approximate Charge times using a 1 amp Constant current Charger

75%

3

4

4

6

6

6

3

3

4

6

50%

6

8

9

11

12

13

5

6

8

11

25%

9

11

13

17

18

19

8

9

11

17

0%

13

15

18

23

24

25

10

13

15

23

*These figures are based on using a trickle or taper charger.

If you're careful about monitoring and you're using a digital voltmeter (or multimeter), it's possible to bring that new battery to more than a full charge. This is what you do: periodically pull the battery off the charger and give it time to stabilize. Then check the voltage. The voltage will continue to climb - for YUASA batteries, up to 16v or 17v - and then will start to drop. When it does that, you've reached max.

Quick Charges

What about quick charging? The quick answer is: don't. We don't recommend it, and here's why: only the surface area of the battery plates can be quick charged. A lower current charges the battery more uniformly. That means better performance. Also, charging rates above 2 or 2.5 amperes increase the chance of overheating, which can mean battery damage.

AVAILABLE TYPES OF CHARGERS

There are five basic types of battery chargers. With all of them, hook the positive charger lead to the positve battery terminal, and the negative to the negative. Some chargers on the market deliver a low charging voltage that can't fully charge the battery; avoid them if you're buying a charger. A 12 volt, 1 amp. charger will meet most needs.

Of course, too much of a charge can be a problem, too - it can "cook" a battery. For small engine starting batteries, don't use a charge greater than 2 to 2.5 amps for maintenance purposes. A badly discharged battery with very high internal resistance may never accept a charge from a standard charger. It would then require special charging equipment.

ALWAYS OBSERVE PROPER SAFETY PRECAUTIONS WHEN CHARGING BATTERIES!

Trickle Charger: 

This is the charger a consumer - as opposed to a battery retailer or garage - will usually have. It charges the battery at a fixed rate. Different ampere-hour batteries have different charge rates. For most motorcycle and other small engine starting batteries, charge them at 1/10 of the rated ampere-hour values.

Battery voltage increases with the amount of charge. Charging voltage should not exceed 14v to 15v for lead-antimony batteries, or 15v to 16v for maintenance free, low maintenance and sealed types.

Find charging time for a completely discharged battery by multiplying the ampere-hour rating by 1.3.

Test the battery during charging, and continue charging until all cells are gassing. Use either a voltmeter (or multimeter) or hydrometer. The specific gravity of the electrolyte in all cells in a fully-charged battery should come to at least 1.265 in a conventional battery and 1.280 in a YuMicron battery with Sulfate Stop.

During charging, check the electrolyte level periodically and add water - preferably distilled - to keep the electrolyte level up to the line. If the battery becomes hot to the touch, stop charging, Resume after it has cooled.

Note that permanently sealed batteries - Yuasa's Maintenance-Free battery, for example - generally can be tested only with a voltmeter or multimeter. These batteries are fully charged when the voltage peaks and then begins to fall - as high as 17v, for example, on the Maintenance-Free battery.

Do not hook a battery to a trickle charger and leave it unchecked for longer than overnight. After about eight hours maximum, careful monitoring is required. Caps need to be replaced tightly after charging's done.

Taper charger:

Similar to the trickle charger, the taper charger charges at a fixed voltage. As the battery's voltage increases with the amount of charge, the current drops accordingly.

A drawback of both the taper and trickle chargers is speed...they don't have it. It can take days to bring a discharged battery up to 100%. Here, too, check batteries for overheating as they charge.

Constant Current Charger:

A professional-quality charger, the constant-current makes charging simple. It maintains a constant supply of current to the battery at all levels of charging. You select the charging current. As the battery voltage increases with the amount of charge, this charger automatically increases the charging voltage to maintain the current output.

Pulse Charger:

This is the state of the art in charger technology. The pulse charger monitors the voltage constantly during charging and standby modes.

When battery voltage reaches a specified low level, the pulse charger then delivers a full battery charge. Then when the battery gets to the specified high voltage, it automatically drops the charge.

High Rate Charger:

Not to for use with small engine starting batteries. They force a high current into the battery, which can lead to overheating and plate damage.

 

Battery Voltage

BATTERY VOLTAGE READING USING A VOLTMETER

Status of Charge

Maintenance Free

CX/YuMicron

Convertional

100%

13.0v

12.7v

12.6v

75%

12.8v

12.5v

12.4v

50%

12.5v

12.2v

12.1v

25%

12.2v

12.0v

11.9v

0%

12.0v or less

11.9v or less

11.8v or less

 
Specific Gravity

SPECIFIC GRAVITY READING USING A HYDROMETER

Electrolyte Temperature

80 deg. Fahrenheit

40 deg. Fahrenheit

State of Charge

CX YuMicron

Convertional

CX YuMicron

Conventional

100%

1.27/1.28

1.26/1.27

1.28/1.29

1.27/1.28

75%

1.22/1.23

1.21/1.22

1.23/1.24

1.22/1.23

50%

1.17/1.18

1.16/1.17

1.18/1.19

1.17/1.18

25%

1.13/1.14

1.12/1.13

1.14/1.15

1.13/1.14

0%

1.11/or less

1.10/or less

1.12/or less

1.11/or less

 

MONTHLY MAINTENANCE AND STORAGE

Perform Monthly Maintenance

A battery only requires a little monthly maintenance to perform perfectly. Keep the battery charged to 100%, recharging when the lights dim, the starter sounds weak, or the battery hasn't been used in more than two weeks. Other than that, follow this simple checklist every month:

Finish up by testing the battery with either a hydrometer or voltmeter. If you make monthly maintenance on your battery part of your routine, your battery is guaranteed to live a long life.

Storing Your Battery

If the vehicle is in storage or used infrequently, disconnect the battery cable to eliminate drain from electrical equipment. Charge the battery every two weeks.

For extended storage, remove the battery from the vehicle and charge to 100%. Charge the battery every month if stored at temperatures below 60 F. If stored in a warm area (above 60 F), charge every two weeks. Make sure batteries are stored out of reach of children.

 

SELF-DISCHARGING

Self-discharge goes on all the time. It's a battery fact of life that they get weaker from "just sitting". How rapidly a battery self-discharges depends on battery type. A lead-calcium battery discharges at a much slower rate than a conventional battery. Lead calcium discharges at 1/300 volt per day. Conventional lead-antimony batteries discharge at 1/100 volt per day.

What Adds To Rate of Self-Discharge?

As outside temperature rises, so does the rate of discharge. A battery stored at 95 F will discharge twice as fast as a battery stored at 75 F, and a temperature of 130 F is deadly to a battery. In some parts of the country, garages and storage building easily reach that temperature in the summer.

Accessories like clocks and computer memory will discharge the battery even when the ignition is off. And remember that the battery is self-discharging on its own at the same time the accessories are drawing on the battery.

Short trips (under 15 or 20 miles) will also add to the drain on your battery because the charging system doesn't have time to make up for losses from normal starting and self-discharging.

Some people believe that letting the battery sit on concrete causes it to discharge faster. This is absolutely not true. The battery discharges at the same rate whether it is on concrete, stones, macadam, sand, or dirt.

 

SAFETY

Proper Clothing

Working With Acid

ANTIDOTES: For acid on the skin, flush with water. If acid is swallowed drink large quantities of milk or water, followed by milk of magnesia, vegetable oil or beaten eggs. Do not induce vomiting. Call a poison control center or doctor immediately. For acid in the eyes, flush for several minutes with water and seek immediate medical attention.

Charging Safety