Batteries are one of the most overlooked components in our vehicles. We often forget about them until they fail. We change our oil every 3,000 miles, our coolant every couple of years, and while we don’t need to replace our batteries that often, there are steps you can take to properly maintain them. When it comes to absorbed glass mat (AGM) batteries offered by OPTIMA, we talked to Jim McIlvaine, eCare Manager for OPTIMA Batteries, and got his input on the subject.
Let’s start by looking at charging an AGM battery. The first recommendation by McIlvaine is to use a newer charger. “Many newer battery chargers, like the OPTIMA Digital 1200, have microprocessors that collect information from the battery and adjust the current and voltage accordingly,” McIlvaine explained.
But, keeping a battery charged is not your only concern, Sulfation needs to be considered as well. Sulfation is the formation of sulfate crystals that occurs when a battery discharges. Some chargers have a desulfation mode, which can help reduce this effect. Also, it is always best to charge a nattery slowly with a low amperage.
Although an alternator is designed to replace voltage to a battery, “Alternators are not chargers,” McIlvaine reminded us. “Don’t rely on your alternator to do the work of a charger. An alternator is meant to maintain a battery, not charge it.” If you are charging an AGM battery, a charger with an AGM-specific setting will work best. If an AGM-specific setting isn’t available, as long as the battery is not deeply discharged, regular or deep-cycle settings should work fine.
Deeply-Discharged Battery Resuscitation:
An AGM battery may become so discharged that a modern battery charger may not recognize it as a good battery. “Many older chargers will see a battery that’s at 10.5 volts or less, and assume it is defective,” McIlvaine explained. It is entirely possible however that an AGM battery in the same state may be fine.
The best way to recover a deeply-discharged AGM battery is with a charger that features AGM specific functions, such as the OPTIMA Digital 1200 charger that we mentioned earlier. These chargers are designed with AGM batteries in mind, and are set to recover them from deep discharges.
The other option for recovering one of these deeply-discharged batteries is a DIY option. For this to work, you will need another good battery to connect in parallel (positive to positive and negative to negative) to the drained AGM battery. Once they are connected, hook the good battery up to the charger. “The charger will ‘see’ the voltage of the good battery and start providing a charge,” McIlvaine said, After the batteries have been connected for about an hour, check to see if the AGM is slightly warm to the touch – this is normal during charging. Now check that the AGM is above 10.5 volts, and if it is, you can remove the other battery and continue charging it on its own.
“Even when your vehicle is turned off, there still may be a drain on the battery,” McIlvaine told us. “This is especially true of newer vehicles equipped with computers, alarm systems, and clocks that continue to run even when the vehicle is off.” Over time, these draws will kill your battery while in storage.
To prevent a battery from being drained while not in use, make sure that it is at full charge, and then disconnect the negative terminal on the battery. Another storage option is to use a battery maintainer which keeps the battery at a full charge at all times. OPTIMA has a Digital 400 Performance Maintainer that automatically maximizes battery life and performance, recovers deeply-discharged batteries, and keeps batteries healthy during storage. Simply hook the maintainer to the battery, turn it on and walk away.
Hopefully this battery maintenance help from Optima will help you extend the life of your battery, and have you and your car on the road for much longer.