Many believe that a battery is junk once it has been totally discharged, but that’s absolutely not true, argues Larry Rambeaux, sales application engineer at Purkeys Electric.
“Flooded-cell batteries can be recharged and tested,” he says. “If they pass the tests, they are good to go back onto a truck.”
Using an established procedure, all batteries pulled from in-service trucks can be tested. Then it can be determined if they can be returned to service, returned for warranty, scrapped, or set aside for trucks the fleet is selling off.
Rambeaux recommends designating an area as a “battery room” and limiting access to that area except for the technician on shift in charge of batteries. Otherwise, it’s too easy for a technician looking for a battery to take one from the wrong pile and put it back on a truck. When it fails a few weeks later, the obvious reaction would be, “‘those recharges failed us again, we need to quit doing this. All they’re doing is costing us money.’ That wouldn’t happen if the sorting and charging program is done properly,” he says.
Step 1: Triage
Technician places all removed batteries on Pallet 1 to be sorted by the assigned battery person. Batteries are sorted by physical condition, age, and manufacturer. Once inspected, clean all terminals with a battery brush and install proper lead adapters.
All batteries that pass the initial inspection should be recharged. Damaged batteries are set aside for scrap or warranty.
Step 2: Charging and testing
Once charged, all batteries should be load tested and assigned to one of three pallets:
- Pallet 2: Batteries that pass the load test and are placed on 24-hour hold before being load-tested again.
- Pallet 3: Batteries that fail the load test and are under warranty awaiting processing.
- Pallet 4: Batteries that fail the load test and are not under warranty. Designated as scrap.
Step 3: Sorting and Matching
Good used batteries (batteries that test well after 24 hours) should be put together in matched sets using the following criteria to go back on a tractor. Sort by:
- Age (should be within 6 months)
- CCA (should be within 50 CCA)
That 24-hour hold before retesting is critical. Rambeaux says about 10% of them will have some internal problem, such as a low-grade short that will cause a loss of charge.
“It you let them sit for 24 hours, those problems will show up,” he says. “Those are the batteries that give recharge programs a bad name.”
It’s also an opportunity to cull some of the oddball batteries from the system, such as the ones you acquired on a road service. Even if they test good, they won’t have any warranty. You won’t want to put it back on an over-the-road truck, so Rambeaux suggests using them for trade trucks, or maybe yard or local trucks.
This article first appeared as a sidebar to "How to Get the Most from Your Batteries" in the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.