Battery replacements are costly and battery-related failures waste time, resources, and can affect a company’s profit and reputation. CTEK Training Manager Tony Zeal explains how commercial vehicle workshops can protect against this.
CTEK estimates that as many as one in three commercial vehicles entering the workshop has a battery requiring attention, meaning it needs charging or replacing. Indeed, figures released by the RAC list battery related problems as the most common cause for RAC business call-outs.
Whether it is a light commercial vehicle or a heavy goods vehicle, in-cab functions, including heating, cooling, refrigerator, and media system, as well as power for tools and equipment (tail lifts etc.), are supplied by either the starter or secondary service batteries. Batteries are working harder than ever before, so make sure you look after the beating heart of any commercial vehicle. By regularly charging and maintaining commercial vehicle batteries, you can extend battery life by up to three times.
Don’t rely on the alternator
Commercial vehicles making frequent stops are more susceptible to battery failure. Every time the vehicle is started, amperage is drawn from each battery and, if the next stop is a short distance away, the alternator won’t have the time or capability to fully charge the battery. In one day, a commercial vehicle could stop and restart in excess of 30 times. The charge within the battery will become lower and lower, placing it at risk of sulphation or failure. It’s a myth that the alternator can bring the battery up to maximum capacity, and the short journeys often undertaken means that the alternator is working flat out all of the time, with no hope of even coming close to charging the battery.
It’s all about 12.4V
Workshops need to ensure that batteries are kept above 12.4V at all times, to protect against the risk of sulphation – the biggest killer of vehicle batteries. This occurs when the battery charge drops below 12.4V and the electrolyte solution begins to break down, converting into lead sulphate crystals that coat the battery plates, reducing the battery’s ability to accept and hold a charge.
Balance is key
One way to maintain batteries in a 24V series is to charge each 12V battery individually. The reason for this is that, over time, the two batteries become ‘out of balance’, with one battery at the front of the circuit absorbing all the loads placed on it, so the second battery has a slightly easier life. This leads to an imbalance between the two batteries, meaning they are not performing well together.
The individual testing of each battery to establish a clear picture of battery health and the use of two 12V chargers (like the CTEK PRO25S) will restore battery balance and bring each battery back to its full capacity.
Battery management programme
Testing a battery or charging a battery is still viewed as ‘fault finding’. If it’s only carried out when a fault is reported or the vehicle fails to start, then this is too late. A battery management programme will:
- Improve fleet reliability
- Reduce vehicle downtime
- Identify battery problems early
- Reduce battery failures and non-starts in cold weather
- Reduce the number of batteries being replaced