When the hood is up and you’re neck deep in the engine compartment, you want to find as few issues to resolve as possible. To minimize this amount, it is best to follow the proactive way of maintaining your truck, which can even begin with the battery.

“Today’s economy is forcing companies to watch their expenses very closely and cut costs where necessary,” says Brad Bisaillon, director of strategic accounts, North America and Europe, for Trojan Battery.

To keep your batteries in tip-top shape and running smooth, you need to take steps to guarantee they are running at their peak performance level.

Taking the proper steps

The first step, according to Bisaillon, is ensuring that your truck is outfitted with the right alternator to effectively charge the battery. If not, it could lead to frequent battery replacements. By upgrading a truck’s alternator and using a high-performance 500-cycle vs. 250-cycle battery, a fleet could extend the amount of time between battery replacements.

“Energy in needs to exceed energy out,” he says. “Batteries need adequate overcharge and must be provided the opportunity to charge sufficiently.”

Fleet operators must also ensure that their trucks are outfitted with a battery that has the proper capacity to handle the combined electrical loads. This is a simple fix to effectively power these demands. By reducing or managing the use of inverters to lower the depth of discharge, you can prolong the life of the battery, according to Bisaillon.

“Products are available on the market that will disable an inverter at a preset voltage level, whereas others will become disabled based on a pre-programmed timer that doesn’t reset until completing full charge cycle,” he says. While they may require a slightly larger up-front investment, they will pay for themselves in the long run.

Simple maintenance

After selecting and installing the right battery and pairing it with the correct alternator and inverter, the next step is keeping an eye on it.

“Proper battery maintenance is very important,” says Megan Vincent, marketing supervisor at Phillips Industries. “A corroded terminal can cause many problems. Just a few minutes of preventive maintenance can save all the headaches.”

One of most important — and simple — tasks is regularly inspecting your batteries by checking the terminals and posts for corrosion and residue buildup.

“Buildup of corrosion can result in lower voltage from the battery over time,” says Vincent.

If and when you find any buildup, removing it will keep your battery performing better. It’s important to use the proper tools and procedures when doing so. Vincent suggests starting by removing terminals — negative terminal first — and using a proper brush to clean residue and corrosion.

“You may also want to use a battery cleaner to neutralize acid, and for added protection, use a felt protective washer with corrosion inhibitors before reattaching the terminals, positive first,” she says.

The chart gives examples of common appliances and technology used by drivers and how much current they draw from the batteries, assuming a 400-amp-hour battery bank.

The chart gives examples of common appliances and technology used by drivers and how much current they draw from the batteries, assuming a 400-amp-hour battery bank.

Keeping it charged

According to Maria Orlando-Krick, marketing manager at EnerSys, proper charging of the battery is the single most important action in ensuring that the battery will last for its intended life. Sulfation, the formation of small sulfate crystals that can convert to a stable crystalline that deposits on the negative plates during prolonged charge deprivation, can cause batteries to eventually fail.

“Proper charging will break up the internal sulfation that builds up in the battery and extend its service life,” says Orlando-Krick, who suggest using a battery charger when necessary.

When storing a battery, she also recommends fully charging the battery first.

“Most conventional batteries that are only partially charged when put into storage could experience permanent damage and may not recover to their full capacity, even if they are charged prior to reinstallation,” she adds.

About the author
Stephane Babcock

Stephane Babcock

Former Managing Editor

Stephane Babcock is the former managing editor of Heavy Duty Trucking.

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