Written on November 26, 2015 at 9:56 am
CV Battery Maintenance & Fitment
In common with the passenger vehicle sector, statistics from across Europe confirm that battery related problems are regularly the reason behind commercial vehicle (CV) breakdowns.
The fact is, batteries in the majority of the country’s CV fleets 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 isolated to the UK, as 30% of CV breakdowns in Germany 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?
“Therefore the lessons to learn are two-fold,” says Myles Pemberton, marketing manager for Manbat, the UK’s largest automotive battery distributor. “First is that batteries are an excellent profit opportunity for both wholesalers and workshops and second, fleet and owner operators still need to understand the importance of maintaining their vehicle’s batteries.
“Naturally, not all battery related callouts will require the purchase of a new battery, but many will. It is therefore very important that wholesalers have access to the good quality batteries their customers need and that they can be certain that their supplier will have sufficient stock to fulfil their requirements, particularly when the weather gets extreme.
“Although some might opt for a ‘whatever will do’ approach to battery replacement, a more responsible – and I might add, more profitable – approach is to supply a quality product that will prove reliable over the longer term.
“Although fleet operators never want to have to replace their batteries, they’d be far happier to pay 50% more for something that will last three years or more, rather than pay a bit less and have to replace them a year later! So by supplying a quality product, wholesalers can help their workshop customers to make more profit, while delivering a greater level of customer satisfaction to the operator.
“When it comes to operators understanding how they can get the best from their batteries, workshops are ideally placed to help and advise them.
“Simple examples such as explaining that 80% of battery failures are a result of poor charge maintenance and that the alternator will often not fully recharge the battery on a vehicle used for short distance, multi drop work. However, regular mains charging can increase the serviceable life of a battery by two years or more!
“In a 12-volt system, 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.
“Despite looking like a simple plastic box, batteries are complex and need care, which is why it is important to highlight the issues to operators and point out the opportunities to help wholesalers and installers develop their battery business.”
Although far more prevalent in passenger cars, micro-hybrid technology is beginning to make an appearance in the commercial sector, albeit mainly at the LCV end of the market in vans fitted with a Start-Stop function.
“The battery in these LCVs is central to their electrical systems,” Pemberton continued, “and is therefore constantly governed by a battery management module, which monitors its voltage, current, temperature and operating time.
“This information is processed to determine the battery’s state of charge, starting capacity, electrical consumption, energy reserve and optimum charging voltage, to ensure the system applies the correct charging regime and keeps it in the best possible condition.
“Fitting the battery for which the system was designed is therefore crucial, but so also is the process of ‘validation’ to ensure the battery and battery management module are diagnostically ‘connected’ and able to communicate with one another correctly.
“Failure to validate the battery can cause issues with the Start-Stop functionality, shutdown of non-essential electrical systems and even the premature failure of the battery.
“To ensure workshops correctly undertake the process, we have introduced the Manbat ‘Connect + Reset’® battery validation tool, which provides them with a simple, effective and inexpensive way to install a Start-Stop battery with confidence.
“It is also worth stating that even some vehicles without a Start-Stop function now require battery validation when a replacement is fitted and here too the ‘Connect + Reset’ tool provides the solution.”