In my first article on batteries, I stated that a battery was a device that changed chemical energy into electrical energy. Your battery also stores this electrical energy for starting and running your car or truck. So it’s safe to say that the battery is the heart of the electrical system.
Clean, tight and solid connections are critical to not only battery performance, but to the overall well being of your car. I also mentioned that it was important to be sure that any replacement battery is up to the task. Let’s see how we chose the correct battery for our application.
If you have the original battery, you can read the ratings label and buy accordingly. Another source of battery size is the owner’s manual, or you can rely on your dealer’s service department for the correct choice. Not all batteries are created equal.
Let’s talk about the common ratings. CCA or CA refers to “Cold Cranking Amps” or “Cranking Amps” respectively. For example, if your vehicle requires a battery rated for 750 CCA, and you install an inexpensive “Price Leader” battery with 600 CCA, you have just bought yourself some potential problems.
Keeping costs in line is very important to most of us, but an under capacity battery can spell trouble for you and your car. That trouble can get expensive, and quickly erode the price advantage of an undersize battery.
Here’s how it works. The battery is the single source of energy for your vehicle’s entire electrical system. Everything runs off the battery. Sometimes people confuse that fact, and think the alternator and charging system runs the car, but not true. The alternator has only one function. Its only job is to keep the battery full. When you start and run the car, you take electrical energy out of the battery. The alternator is designed to replace that energy. The alternator is not designed to “Fill Up” an empty (dead) battery, but rather to keep a fully charged battery “Full”.
Here are 2 tips that may save you money, and keep you safe!
If you find yourself with a dead battery, and decide to “Jump Start” your vehicle, remember what I just said about the alternator’s job. It’s not designed to fill up that empty battery. In most cases it will do just that, but in the process, it will overwork and overheat, shortening its life, and even possibly failing right on the spot. That can get expensive.
The best solution to a dead battery is to remove it or disconnect it from the vehicle, and have it fully charged. Then test it, and if defective, replace it. Okay, I know in the real world that’s not always possible, but it sure is the best way to fly if given a choice. A battery that has a defective cell can also damage the alternator by causing it to work overtime.
Remember, it takes a lot of horsepower to drive the alternator, so a bad battery, causing the alternator to work hard, can also affect fuel economy. That’s especially true with smaller displacement engines.
If you are faced with a having to use jumper cables to start a vehicle with a dead battery, follow these simple directions to avoid damage and possible injuries. Remember, an automotive lead acid battery in a low state of charge is normally giving off hydrogen fumes that are dangerous, so here is the correct method of hooking up the cables…
1. Make sure the vehicles involved are not touching each other, and be sure to identify negative and positive on both vehicles
2. Hook up the positive (Red) cable from the positive battery post on the donor car to the positive battery post on the receiving car
3. Next hook up negative (Black) cable to the donor car’s negative battery post, and then to the “Engine Block” on the receiving car
4. DO NOT make the last connection to the dead battery
5. Let the donor car run for a few minutes to stabilize and then attempt to start the affected vehicle
Let’s always be safe! If you have some gloves available, wear them. At the very least, wash your hands well when finished. Also wear eye protection; even sunglasses will do in a pinch!
Lead acid batteries can explode due to the gases that can escape through the battery’s vent cap or port. Never smoke or have any kind of ignition source when working around the battery.
If you follow these simple rules, you can save time and money by avoiding damage to your vehicle, or injuring yourself.