Battery water

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Battery water

Post by George.. on Thu Feb 18, 2016 12:35 pm

Hi all, I am always topping up the leisure battery in my Gatcombe with distilled water, is this normal? It holds its charge o/k.
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Re: Battery water

Post by dbroada on Thu Feb 18, 2016 12:58 pm

not really

until somebody with genuine knowledge comes along that sounds to me like you are overcharging the battery. Could it be a voltage regulator not working correctly?

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Re: Battery water

Post by Gromit on Thu Feb 18, 2016 1:01 pm

Sounds like that to me too.

Can't remember the last time I topped ours up. It always lasts until the next habitation service.

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Re: Battery water

Post by Paulmold on Thu Feb 18, 2016 1:03 pm

My current leisure battery is a sealed one but previously I only ever topped up perhaps once a year so I also think overcharging is occuring but I wouldn't know where to start looking.

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Re: Battery water

Post by George.. on Thu Feb 18, 2016 1:31 pm

Thanks for the swift replies, if it is as you say how do I correct the charging ?
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Re: Battery water

Post by dbroada on Thu Feb 18, 2016 1:49 pm

That is the problem, the people around at the moment don't know - but I am sure somebody who does will come along soon.

Do you have a multimeter that you can check the charging voltage with? I use something like this. You need to be able to measure voltages over 12vDC and a current of 10A.

meter

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Re: Battery water

Post by brodco on Thu Feb 18, 2016 2:05 pm

Hi  wave

Losing water can be a sign of overcharging but it can also be a sign of a failing battery (depending on the failure mode of which there are many). Can you actually see any bubbles when the battery is charging?

Assuming it’s overcharging the next question is “is it the alternator or the EHU supply” If it’s only the leisure battery that’s affected it suggests EHU.

My suggestion:

Get hold of a meter and check the starter battery voltage after a run (with the engine still running). If it’s much over 14V there’s it’s likely to be a faulty regulator.

Then check the leisure battery voltage when the van has been on EHU for a few hours. It should be around 13.6V to 13.8V. If you have an intelligent charger you may get up to 15V or so for a while but it should drop back eventually.

Problem is !  the fault may be intermittent so it’s worth investing in a couple of these:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Battery-Electric-Cigarette-Lighter-Voltmeter/dp/B00B58VNZW/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1455803390&sr=8-5&keywords=battery+monitor+12+volt

They are discussed on several other threads. If you can’t detect any over voltage it’s probably the battery on the way out.

George.. wrote:Thanks for the swift replies, if it is as you say  how do I correct the charging ?

If it’s the alternator it’ll need a new regulator which will probably mean a new alternator because not many people seem to mend them anymore. If it’s the mains charger it will have to be repaired or replaced. If neither the battery probably needs replacing but don’t do that until you’ve checked the system (or had it checked) brcause you risk overcharging the new battery.



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Re: Battery water

Post by George.. on Thu Feb 18, 2016 3:08 pm

Thanks again Brod, have just sent for one of the little cig. Lighter volt readers, will then check engine battery for overcharging. The Zig charger display for the leisure battery only ever goes as high as 13.5 but I believe they only charge to 85%.
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Re: Battery water

Post by brodco on Thu Feb 18, 2016 5:17 pm

Hi  wave

George.. wrote: The Zig charger display for the leisure battery  only ever goes as high as 13.5 but I believe they only charge to 85%.

Now there’s a subject about which we could debate the pros and cons for hours (probably will). hugegrins

It’s certainly true that you need to go into a controlled overcharge to fully charge the battery but fixed voltage has been used for years. Most lead acid batteries on the planet probably still are charged by fixed voltage! After all most batteries are probably charged by an alternator which is essentially a fixed voltage device.

Just to qualify that statement, some modern alternators have the equivalent of an “intelligent charging regulator” but I suspect most of us still have the old fixed output type and there is very little difference charging from one of these or charging from a Zig power supply.

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Re: Battery water

Post by Peter Brown on Thu Feb 18, 2016 7:11 pm

George.. wrote:Hi all, I am always topping up the leisure battery in my Gatcombe with distilled water, is this normal? It holds its charge o/k.
George

How often is always and how much are you putting in? What is the make, model and size of your battery? Do you leave the van on hook up with the charger on permanently? What is the output voltage of the van charger? What is the output voltage of the alternator.

It is perfectly normal for unsealed lead acid cells to lose electrolyte whilst being charged, that is why it is very risky to leave them on permanent charge without attention as the plates in the cells will warp and the battery fail when the electrolyte level drops.

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Re: Battery water

Post by bikeralw on Thu Feb 18, 2016 7:47 pm

I replaced my alternator recently. The symptoms were no charge at all, the regulator/rectifier being built-in meant the whole unit needed to be replaced.
 I was told by the motor factors from where I purchased a replacement that they almost always fail safe, ie, no charge. By the way, if you do need to replace the alternator and do it yourself, bear in mind the old one has an exchange value, in my case it knocked £50 off the new unit.
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Re: Battery water

Post by roli on Thu Feb 18, 2016 9:52 pm

OK its not the leisure battery its the Ford Auxilliary Battery but its been checked for water levels today after suspicion of its efficiency being 8 years old next weekend.
It has never been topped up since we bought the van new (but did need it I asssure you!!) but after 8 years!!!

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Re: Battery water

Post by brodco on Fri Feb 19, 2016 12:55 pm

Hi   wave

brodco wrote:Now there’s a subject about which we could debate the pros and cons for hours (probably will). hugegrins I

Told you so!  hugegrins  hugegrins  hugegrins

Peter Brown wrote:It is perfectly normal for unsealed lead acid cells to lose electrolyte whilst being charged, that is why it is very risky to leave them on permanent charge without attention as the plates in the cells will warp and the battery fail when the electrolyte level drops.

Yes but with a good battery and a reasonable charger it should be a very slow process (as illustrated by “roli”s post).  It only really becomes a problem with very high charge rates or when the battery is held for long periods in a high state of charge.
roli wrote:OK its not the leisure battery its the Ford Auxilliary Battery but its been checked for water levels today after suspicion of its efficiency being 8 years old next weekend. It has never been topped up since we bought the van new (but did need it I asssure you!!) but after 8 years!!!

The point is that when the battery is charged from a constant voltage it’s the characteristics of the battery that decide the charge rate not the charging device. When the battery terminal voltage comes up to the charger voltage charging all but stops and the charge rate drops to a very low level (in the milliamp range). The battery is effectively self regulating, only drawing sufficient current to make up for the losses. That's why you can leave the charger on for long periods.

Providing you don’t use too high a voltage (forcing the battery to a high state of charge) you’re not putting enough energy in to cause any significant gassing. Of course it makes sense to check the water level every now and again just as you would with any flooded lead acid battery.

Richardstubbs made an interesting comment about telephone exchanges here (currently 3rd from the bottom):
http://www.autosleeper-ownersforum.com/t16802-new-leisure-battery-required#137723

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Re: Battery water

Post by -mojo- on Fri Feb 19, 2016 2:38 pm

brodco wrote:
Peter Brown wrote:It is perfectly normal for unsealed lead acid cells to lose electrolyte whilst being charged, that is why it is very risky to leave them on permanent charge without attention as the plates in the cells will warp and the battery fail when the electrolyte level drops.

Yes but with a good battery and a reasonable charger it should be a very slow process (as illustrated by “roli”s post).  It only really becomes a problem with very high charge rates or when the battery is held for long periods in a high state of charge.

Peter makes a valid point for some combinations of battery and charger, but it is very heavily dependent on both. I have two batteries here from my old Flair - both original Ford batteries dating from 1999. They have sat in my utility room on a CTEK charger since around 2009 when they were removed from the van, and they were checked for fluid level and topped up slightly then. Recently I checked the levels again and neither needed topping up, having spent at least 6 years on charge.

I guess that there is a significant element of luck about how batteries will fare with that treatment - in particular I suspect that a difference of just millivolts in the charger's float charge "target" voltage can make a significant difference to the battery life. The downside is that they are probably not being kept anywhere near fully charged by my specific make/model of CTEK, but that's not an issue for me (I just want to store them in usable condition in case they are needed in future).
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Re: Battery water

Post by Peter Brown on Fri Feb 19, 2016 2:41 pm

brodco wrote:

Yes but with a good battery and a reasonable charger it should be a very slow process (as illustrated by “roli”s post).  It only really becomes a problem with very high charge rates or when the battery is held for long periods in a high state of charge.

When the battery installation is not in use (van in storage) the charge voltage must be reduced (possibly by an intelligent charger) within 48hrs of reaching a full charge or the extra energy will turn into heat and cause the battery to gas.

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Re: Battery water

Post by brodco on Sun Feb 21, 2016 1:07 pm

Hi  wave

-mojo- wrote: They have sat in my utility room on a CTEK charger since around 2009 when they were removed from the van, and they were checked for fluid level and topped up slightly then. Recently I checked the levels again and neither needed topping up, having spent at least 6 years on charge.

That was the point I was trying to make.

-mojo- wrote:I guess that there is a significant element of luck about how batteries will fare with that treatment

I like to call it a "risk factor" but yes more sensible people would probably call it luck.

I think also it's a good idea put put the whole thing in context because the battery is beginning to fail from the day it's made. Even when it's on float the plates are corroding away, it's probably shedding some lead that's building up in the bottom and, depending on the charge level and temperature you keep it at, depositing some lead sulphate on the plates.

Once you start using it as a battery and actually discharging it you're finished!  Hopefully though, by not discharging it too far and keeping it on float when it's not in use it'll be years before it becomes unusable.

-mojo- wrote: in particular I suspect that a difference of just millivolts in the charger's float charge "target" voltage can make a significant difference to the battery life.

Agreed but that shouldn't be a problem for modern chargers. Deciding the exact voltage to use is probably more of a challenge.  I'd read about failing Zigs on this forum so I decided to remove mine and do a referb job on it before it failed. The output voltage was 13.76V so it was only out by 40mV after some 18 years (and I don't know how accurately it was set in the first place).

Incidentally I did a quick search and found a voltage reference chip with an accuracy of  500 microvolts (i.e half a millivolt).  Base your charger on one of these - add a bit of temperature compensation - and off you go. up!


-mojo- wrote:The downside is that they are probably not being kept anywhere near fully charged by my specific make/model of CTEK, but that's not an issue for me (I just want to store them in usable condition in case they are needed in future).

I have to say that I've been impressed by CTEK products in general (not something I often say because I'm a fussy old git!). I've got the 10A charger that has selectable  modes for different battery types, a power supply mode that works well and a temperature sensor so it can correct for temperature changes in float mode.

I wonder If we've answered the original question yet. hugegrins

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Battery water.

Post by George.. on Fri Mar 04, 2016 11:00 am

Hi Brod
Received my volt reader today, how do they do it at £1.72 including air postage from China. Checked both batteries both 12-12.5 off charge engine off. 14-14.3 on charge engine running. So as the battery is at least 5 years old, was on van when I bought it second hand, it is probably getting to its end although it still holds its charge.
Thanks for all the replies.
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