Written on November 21, 2013 at 5:32 pm
Manbat – Battery Maintenance & Fitment
The batteries in the majority of the country’s commercial vehicle (CV) fleet are generally not in great condition as they are almost completely ignored until they present the driver with a problem, be it through not starting or being left stranded. This is a cost that many operators cannot afford and one that almost all could avoid.
As statistics from ADAC, the German breakdown organisation, reveal, this is not a problem that is isolated to the UK as 30% of their CV breakdowns were caused by some sort of electrical failure and almost a quarter of these were down to the battery. So what can the operator do to improve their lot?
Batteries registering less than 12.5-volts will be working well below their optimum performance and put the operator at risk of an electrical failure. As simple as it sounds, regularly charging the vehicle’s batteries will reduce the risk of failure to a minimum and increase their operating life in the process. However, taking the trouble to equalise the batteries on those vehicles fitted with more than one battery will improve the situation further.
The lifespan of the individual batteries in a multi battery application will vary, so they will rarely be replaced together. Therefore to avoid the remaining battery having a negative effect on the new battery, operators must try to avoid simply fitting a new battery without first fully charging both. This is because although the most logical view is that the vehicle’s electrical system will charge the remaining battery, most of these systems are not sophisticated enough to monitor the state of charge of the individual batteries, so will simply ‘see’ them as a whole, which could prematurely bring the new battery down.
Due to the nature of their daily use, some vehicles such as multi drop delivery vehicles fitted with a tail-lift, are particularly prone to battery failure. For these vehicles a very useful and cost effective addition to prevent the battery discharging to the point where it will not start the vehicle, is to fit a battery protection unit. The idea behind such a unit is to ensure that despite any power drain – deliberate or accidental – there is always sufficient power left in the battery to start the vehicle and therefore avoid the need for an expensive recovery.
These devices, such as the Numax ‘connect + protect’® battery brain, fit directly onto the positive side of the battery, between the terminal and the positive lead, where they monitor the condition of the battery and ensure that it still has enough power to start the engine. If the power falls below this level, the battery brain will isolate the battery from any power drain and will only be reactivated by the vehicle operator when they activate the reconnection button, which means that they can still start the engine.
Another simple but effective precaution is to ensure that the correct battery specified for the vehicle is in fact fitted. As many operators look at batteries as a distress purchase and something that needs to be dealt with urgently, it is remarkably common for the wrong specification battery to be fitted during the course of a vehicle’s life. This generally happens because the pressure to get the vehicle back on the road quickly is so great that an ‘anything in stock will do’ attitude can result.
Cases of incorrectly specified batteries like this are rarely replaced with the correct version at a later date, which makes subsequent like for like replacement a flawed practice. The correct procedure therefore is to consult a battery specification guide such as the Lucas or Numax battery catalogues, which list the correct battery for the application. They also include schematics of the battery orientation, the layout of its terminals and importantly, their dimensions, as there have been instances where the batteries fitted to commercial vehicles have physically been too big for the battery tray and have fallen through them and on to the road as they’ve been in use.