Maintenance and Charger Settings for Flooded Batteries
Record keeping is extremely important. Keep a log. Start when your batteries are new, right out of the box and continue throughout the life of your batteries. Number and label your batteries and cells. Record the specific gravity readings of each cell every three months.
Monitor electrolyte level for correct acid volume at least once a month and equalize as required. Triggers for equalization are when cell specific gravity varies from highest to lowest cell by +/- 0.015 or equalize at least once every six months. (desulphating not only removes sulphate but also mixes electrolyte)
Battery cells should be refilled to the original acid level, about ¼ - ½" below the bottom of the vent well. Use only distilled water or deionised water to refill your batteries. Don't take chances, water with naturally occurring chemicals or iron can reduce or damage your batteries for life.
While checking your batteries check all connections as well. Re-torque connections and test for (or feel for, if you think you won't burn yourself) temperature differences within your wiring. Checking connections and wiring for warmth and heat is best done after the system has been under significant load. If there's a warm or hot wire or connection you're losing power there. Upgrade the wire, clean the connections and re-torque bolts and connections.
The rate of charge a lead acid battery can accept is limited by the speed of the chemical reactions. Increasing charge current beyond the capacity of the battery to accept a charge will reach a point where the additional energy will start electrolysis of the electrolyte which is manifested as gas bubbles.
Maximum charge rate changes within a battery depending on its state of charge.
Don't stop charging your battery because the charge rate is tapering off. Trust only your hydrometer (a good one) or leave the batteries on float charge for at least three or four hours. Prove it to yourself, if you take your batteries off charge when you think they're charged, leave them for a couple of hours and put them on charge again. If your charger immediately goes to float you're properly charged. If they weren't fully charged when you left them you'll find them taking a considerable charge again. This is due to the surface charge effect, the charge hasn't penetrated deep into your battery plates yet; keep charging! Use your hydrometer to decide when to stop charging. If the specific gravity has not gone up in the last hour, your charge is complete.
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