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How quickly does battery electrolyte evaporate?; Lead-acid battery maintenance?
Topic Started: Mar 13 2017, 08:54 AM (332 Views)
BillHoo
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Had some trouble starting up 00 Contour. Checked battery and found low electrolyte. It's a 6 year old Sears Die Hard. Made a solution of epsome salt and distilled water to see if I can keep this battery going for a bit longer.

This is the first time I've done any maintenance on this particular battery. The caps are weird and I didn't have have a screwdriver wide enough to unscrew them. This weekend, I thought to use the tip of a crowbar as it is wider than my widest flat tip screwdriver. Came of pretty easily. I like how the diehards have a gasket seal around the caps that are screwed down flush to the chassis of the battery.

After filling to the bottom of the caps, I closed it up and put a battery tender on it to charge and condition overnight.

Started up just fine.

While at it, I figured to check out our other cars. 00 Altima was good. I'd topped it off in September when it was having trouble holding a charge. Just used plain distilled water.

Wife's 09 Honda Civic which we got used in August with alleged "new battery" from the dealer. I think the date on the battery was 2015 August - All cells were down a little below the top of the plates. I put in a quart of plain distilled water and put it on the Battery Tender last night - 15 degrees this morning, started up at 5:30 AM no problem.

89 Geo checked that one yesterday. All cells were just below the top of the plates. One of the plates looked a bit rough or cyrstalized. I just added plain distilled water to the top of each cell. Started up fine this morning. I might hook it up to the battery tender tonight to ensure it's well charged up.

I think when I lived in NJ, I never checked the batteries more than once every couple years and seldom saw dry batteries.

Seems here in VA I've had to check the cells at least every 6 months. Is that normal?
Edited by BillHoo, Mar 13 2017, 08:56 AM.
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ZXTjato
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bass heads

I wonder if this is what kills batteries here in Arizona. I go through car batteries like toilet paper. Had 3 in 5 years. I still have them and I wonder if they will work after some maintenance. Just top them off with distilled water or this salt mix? :dunno
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BillHoo
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I'm actually quite skeptical of the use of Epsom salt to desulphate the battery. I think I read a post somewhere from a battery researcher who said it doesn't technically work for extending the life of the battery, but it helps an already dying battery take on a charge better (whatever that means) so you may be able to revive it one more time.

This battery (the Contour) had been flaky all during the Fall. I would charge it up and it would work OK for a week and then I'd have to jump it and charge it again. It would then work for another week.

Last week after a charge, it was only good for one start before it was dead.

I was getting ready to just buy another battery, but figure, let's tinker - IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE!!!

So I was able to open it up and found the cells were dry. I just put a little, maybe 3 tablespoons of Epsom salts into a quart of distilled water. Charged it up and it started.

Let's see if it holds a charge for more than a week....

But yes, I do suspect the hot summers of the last few years to take a toll on the electrolyte levels and general health of the battery. I'll just have to remember to check the levels more often to see how quickly they go down.
Edited by BillHoo, Mar 13 2017, 10:34 AM.
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monzanut
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Drip under Pressure

Got curious, so found this article on battery charging/acid issues, granted, just because somebody wrote it doesn't mean its true, but some interesting things discussed in there.
http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/water_loss_acid_stratification_and_surface_charge
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BillHoo
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ZXTjato
Mar 13 2017, 09:41 AM
I wonder if this is what kills batteries here in Arizona. I go through car batteries like toilet paper. Had 3 in 5 years. I still have them and I wonder if they will work after some maintenance. Just top them off with distilled water or this salt mix? :dunno
I'd give it a try (top off with distilled water). If you want to try the Epsom Salt, there are some YouTube videos on how to do it. Some warm up the distilled water and ad epsome salt until no more dissolves. I thought that was excessive, so I only used a few tablespoons per quart.

Sounds like you have more than one dead battery. If you have a multi-meter, you can do a side by side experiment for us!

Measure voltage, resistence before maintenance treatment. Battery A gets distilled water only. Battery B gets water and Epsom salts (be sure to log the ratio of salt to water).

Let it sit for a while, then measure voltage and resistence.

Then charge them for equal amounts of time and again log.

If you have kids in school, have them do all the work and they can make this their science fair entry.

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WiscoMetro
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Seeking the Science of MPG

BillHoo
 
I'm actually quite skeptical of the use of Epsom salt to desulphate the battery

You're right to be skeptical. That doesn't desulfate the battery. It adds additional sulfate ions to the solution to carry charge.

My 95's battery turned 6 in January and has given me no issues, even when it got below zero.
Edited by WiscoMetro, Mar 13 2017, 12:38 PM.
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t3ragtop
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Turbo3 and Twincam Tweaker

if you really want a "no maintenance" battery buy an agm type, absorbed glass mat. they impregnate a glass mat with gel type electrolyte and then pack it into the battery using a bladder at the top of the case. as the battery heats any gassing that takes place stays inside while the bladder cushions the pressure. the topside of the battery is vented to atmosphere to deal with internal pressure but the electrolyte isn't vented to atmosphere so it all stays inside the battery.

my mercedes requires an agm battery of pretty high cranking power and i like to run optima agm batteries in my metros. agm batteries don't build up crud on their posts like typical lead acid batteries, they deal with heat a lot better, and they last way longer than lead acid batteries that require frequent service to maintain electrolyte levels.

the most common cause of low electrolyte levels in lead acid batteries is boiling/ out gassing of electrolyte from high charging currents. high engine bay temps kill them fairly efficiently as well which is how i got steered to the agm type battery. turbocharged engines generally heat engine bays better (although the twincam engines do a fine job, too. ;) )

the drawback on the agm type battery is cost. you can buy a lead acid battery at walmart for $60 but i end up buying a new one every 2 years. i paid about $180 for my red top optima but the last one i had lasted 10 years and was still going strong when some miscreant decided that he needed my battery and lifted it from in front of my garage while i was working on my car.

so, from a money point of view, 3 $60 batteries to get 6 years or one $180 battery to get to 6 years would be a wash. if you get another 2 years from the agm battery your expenditure decreases by 25%. but you get those 6 to 8 years with zero maintenance and zero battery induced corrosion. ;)
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monzanut
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Drip under Pressure

Thats what they said in the article. "AGM does not suffer from acid stratification and is less sensitive to sulfation if undercharged than the flooded version. AGM is a bit more expensive than the flooded version but the battery should last longer." I might be causing evil on my battery because I only drive 4 miles to work every day, for those trips my lights, fog lights and stereo are on. I probably don't get enough charge time since the belt squeals just briefly when I start it even though the belt it tight.
Isn't the Optima a gel cell battery, not an AGM?
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t3ragtop
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Turbo3 and Twincam Tweaker

my understanding is that the optima battery is built using a long, thin lead plate mated to a long, thin impregnated glass mat that is coiled up and dropped into a cylinder in the case. each coil produces about 2 volts. their 6 volt batteries have 3 cylinders and their 12 volt batteries have 6 cylinders.

so, in my understanding, they are agm constructed batteries and not true gel cell type. whatever they are, i like them well enough that i continue to buy them, ;)
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BillHoo
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Sounds good. I'll look into the Optima for my Altima when it's due for a new battery.
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92blumetro
jack of all trades, master of two

that's all I use-optima red or yellow top,in my personal vehicles, and in the work vehicles when replacements are needed. they aren't cheap, but the overall life is much better than a regular lead acid battery.
the red top in the wifes truck lasted just over 9 years-it was starting to get weak (slower cranking issues) so I installed a new yellow top, put the weaker red top in the vert- it starts the smaller engine just fine.
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BillHoo
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http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/car-batteries/buying-guide
"While nearly all of today’s car batteries are maintenance free, we recommend having your battery load tested by a mechanic annually once it is two years old if you live in a warmer climate, or four years old if you live in a colder climate."
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monzanut
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Drip under Pressure

I load test mine every winter when it's -10 deg out, turn the key, and if it starts, battery is fine. :P
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BillHoo
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Hmmm. This article claims COSTCO/Kirkland brand batteries are as good as Optima.

http://www.carsdirect.com/car-maintenance/the-7-best-car-batteries-for-your-vehicle
"Kirkland Signature: This range of car batteries is perhaps one of the most affordable batteries. You sacrifice nothing with this battery, as it has excellent cold amp rankings and great performance. The battery is offered through Costco and the specs match Optima batteries. This is one of your best choices, as the performance and quality is that of a high performance battery, but the price is much less."

Brady Williams • 4 years ago
AutoCraft, AC Delco, Optima and the majority of DieHard, Everstart and Kirkland are all made by Johnson Controls.
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Dave Algonquin Brady Williams • 2 years ago
I don't disagree, but that doesn't mean they're all made to the same specs.
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Bill Holt Dave Algonquin • a year ago
That's what I've read. The 'Big 3' deliver products to the varying specifications of the end label. 'Good, better, best' type of stuff, to be sure. Where's the line to be drawn, though? I've heard crap about Optima, which I've also heard praised, and you ain't gettin' one of them for much under $200.
Edited by BillHoo, Mar 14 2017, 10:41 AM.
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WiscoMetro
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Seeking the Science of MPG

"we recommend having your battery load tested by a mechanic annually once it is two years old if you live in a warmer climate, or four years old if you live in a colder climate."

No :rasp ... My Battery was tested over a year ago.
Posted Image
No start temp 18°F...
Started January 2016 down to -6°F(Never got colder)
Started January 2017 down to -2°F(Never got colder)

Not to mention I often spend time sitting in my car listening to the radio with the engine off.

My battery has never given me any issues. Getting it tested is only a chance for them to sell you a new one.

If the battery ever fails to start: Put it in neutral, turn key to on, push it up to 10 MPH, hop in, put it in second and dump the clutch. And then make buying a new battery a priority.
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