Supplying batteries since 1952

AUTO TRADE JOURNAL ISSUE 4

Written on August 21, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Manbat – Real World Battery Advice

Overview
For many years the battery market remained relatively static when it came to the technology that was incorporated into the typical car battery. While the major manufacturers obviously invested in improving the performance of their batteries, they were generally lead-acid batteries designed to cater for large current discharge when starting the engine and subject to continuous charging while the vehicle was running.

As far as the workshop was concerned, providing the battery was maintained properly – topped up with de-ionised water, kept from excessive discharge and regularly charged etc. – it would provide a reliable source of power until at some point it inevitably needed to be replaced.

Replacement was a simple and straightforward and only complicated by the fact that in more recent years a supply current had to be maintained in the system to ensure the power to the ECU and related equipment wasn’t lost.

However, the introduction of Start-Stop vehicles has driven a major change in battery technology. Start-Stop engines have become the preferred route for most of the vehicle manufacturers to enable them to reduce the emissions and fuel consumption of their vehicles and achieve the European Union requirement for fleet average vehicle emissions.

The traditional lead-acid ‘starter’ battery is not suitable for this type of engine and therefore cannot be used. Instead it requires a battery that can deliver the starting power of a traditional automotive battery with the cyclic (charge, discharge, charge etc.) capacity of a specialist mobility battery. The result is the absorbent glass mat (AGM) battery, which was first developed by VARTA® for whom Manbat is the UK’s largest supply partner.

Dealing With AGM Batteries
With a Start-Stop vehicle fitted with an AGM battery, technicians cannot just replace the battery in the way that they have done with a traditional battery, where the greatest challenge was simply to ensure a supply feed was maintained.

Instead as the battery is intricately linked to the vehicle’s on-board electronics via a battery management system (BMS) or intelligent battery sensor (IBS), it has to be integrated into the system and paired with the BMS/IBS, which requires specialist equipment. Without the equipment to assist the technician and introduce the battery into the system, the vehicle will at best illuminate error messages on the dash or fail to charge the battery, at worst, simply not start at all.

To prevent these error messages and other installation related problems, quality Start-Stop batteries should be the first thought when being replaced, as these will have the necessary 2D codes to ensure the battery is a ‘match’ for the vehicle and be ‘accepted’ by the BMS/ECU.

Training is particularly important because the number of potential faults in a Start-Stop system is far greater than for a traditional electrical system. Because the engine is switched off as frequently as possible and only restarts when the vehicle pulls away or when the battery’s state of charge drops to a predetermined level, the BMS is extremely complicated. Therefore the correct testing procedure and fault diagnosis is vital. This is also complicated by the fitting challenges mentioned above.

As with every aspect of the trade, fitting the correct battery for the application is paramount. For entry-level or smaller Start-Stop vehicles for example, an AGM battery might not be the appropriate replacement as the original fitment could be an enhanced flooded battery (EFB). Although these batteries have similar characteristics to AGM batteries, they are not the same and the two should not be interchanged. Likewise, just installing a larger capacity lead-acid battery is no solution for Start-Stop battery replacement.

Another complication comes because there is little guarantee that the battery in a Start-Stop vehicle will be found under the bonnet! Therefore, technicians need to have access to reliable technical data such as TecRMI, to pinpoint the exact location of the battery whether that’s in the boot floor or, as it is in at least one application, beneath the front passenger seat!

Waste Managemen
When it comes to responsible disposal, workshops have to understand their environmental responsibilities and ensure batteries are disposed of legally, but they should also be aware that they could benefit finically from responsible battery disposal as batteries have a ‘scrap’ value.

Manbat is a member of the ECOBAT group, which includes specialist waste battery businesses and lead smelter ECOBAT Technologies, one of the world’s leading suppliers of lead. Annually ECOBAT converts millions of tons of lead waste into high quality lead ingots, strip, wire and shot through its efficient smelters across the globe. Among its many customers are a number of major battery manufacturers and some of these brands are subsequently distributed nationally through Manbat’s comprehensive branch network, which in Ireland includes National Autoparts for Numax and Europa Battery Distributors for Lucas.

The combination of new battery sales and distribution, together with waste battery collection, recycling and the reintroduction of lead into the manufacturing process, means that the ECOBAT group, and therefore Manbat, is able to be exceptionally environmentally aware and is currently the only global company offering a closed recycling loop for lead-acid batteries.

Selling Points
Manbat always recommends that workshops choose a quality battery when undertaking replacement, but this is even more important when working on Start-Stop vehicles for the reasons previously discussed. It also recommends the use of an application guide such as the Lucas Battery Catalogue, to ensure the correct specification battery is selected.

Only when a vehicle has been fitted with additional electrical equipment or when the vehicle has been modified to cope with extreme conditions, such as mountain rescue or other emergency vehicles, does the battery need to be upgraded. In this instance the enhanced performance of an AGM battery could be an advantage even though the vehicle doesn’t utilise a Start-Stop system.

Other Opportunities
AGM batteries may be suitable for leisure purposes where a deep discharge product is required, but leisure specific batteries like Manbat’s Numax XV range dominate this sector and provide a far more suitable solution for the majority of leisure battery requirements.

However, with their obvious battery knowledge, workshops as well as factors and retailers are in the ideal position to develop their battery sales beyond the automotive ‘distress purchase’ boundaries and benefit from the ‘aspirational purchase’ opportunities the leisure, marine and golf sectors provide.

Manbat – Effective Battery Management That Saves Money

Of all the components that come together to make up the vehicles that travel the length and breadth of the country on a daily basis, the battery is arguably the least understood and the most commonly overlooked. As a general rule, providing the battery starts the vehicle, the common assumption, even among experienced technicians, is that it’s ‘okay’.

However, the evidence from surveys carried out by both the AA and Which? point to the fact that this is a dangerous assumption because they found that battery failure is in fact the number one cause of vehicle breakdown in the UK. Far from being confined to the open road, battery failure can even occur in the workshop during the vehicle’s service or repair!

As part of its on-going commitment to its customers to provide them with more than simply a replacement battery service, Manbat, the UK’s largest automotive and commercial vehicle battery distributor and leading battery management specialist Rozone, have joined forces to raise awareness of the problem and point out the benefits that efficient battery management can bring to motorists, fleet operators and workshops alike.

“A great way to look at it,” says Manbat’s Myles Pemberton “is to consider a vehicle entering the workshop with a flat tyre. There is no way that the vehicle would leave the workshop in the same condition as it arrived because for one thing it is a sales opportunity, but more to the point, it’s an obvious visual problem!

“Batteries, however, pose an altogether different challenge as they look the same whether fully charged or completely discharged, there is not the visual fall back there is with a tyre or indeed for many other components. The vast majority of roadside battery failures could be prevented through correct management of the vehicle’s batteries.

“By taking a couple of minutes to check the battery’s state of charge for example, a technician is able to assess its condition and take the necessary remedial action, which could simply be to fully charge the battery, make an adjustment to the system or rectify a more serious fault. Either way, they could ultimately prevent a costly roadside breakdown.

The Startling Facts
• Two out of three vehicles entering the workshop have a battery that require attention, whether it just needs charging or complete replacement
• Up to 80% of battery failures are a result of poor maintenance or ‘sulphation’, which is caused by sustained low battery voltage (12.4-volts or less) over prolonged periods and results in the build up of crystals on the lead plates in the battery and reduces its performance and service life
• Batteries lose 0.1-volts every month, which increases two-fold during winter
• An alternator will often not fully recover the power taken from the battery, through everyday use
• Regular mains charging will increase and prolong the “serviceable” life of the average battery by two years or more

How Can Manbat Help?
Manbat will work alongside its customers to not only identify and supply the most suitable battery from its portfolio of VARTA®, Lucas or Numax, but will also determine the best battery management programme to support the purchase.

Manbat customers using these programmes are achieving significant increases in battery efficiencies and the subsequent reduction in costs that are associated with battery and electrical system failures.

Battery Management At A Glance
• Extends service life of vehicle batteries
• Increases workshop efficiencies – minimising costs through accurate pro-active diagnosis and remedial action
• Reduces battery and associated electrical system costs by up to 50%
• Minimises ‘non-starts’ and ‘breakdown’ defects
• Reduces unnecessary premature battery replacement costs
• Bespoke ‘end-to-end’ programmes designed for the needs of individual workshops

Conclusion
“Replacement batteries represent a significant cost to the motorist, so workshops want to ensure that they supply a quality product that’s up to the job. However, without an on-going battery management programme in place, they are not protecting their investment or ensuring they get the best return on it.

“By contrast, customers initiating a battery management programme are not only supplying the high quality products their customers need, but are working in the most pro-active way possible and ensuring they maximise the long-term efficiency and cost-effectiveness of their batteries.”

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