Batteries 101: Looking after lead acid batteries

Posted by Andy Hill on

A vrla battery with low voltage alert attached

If you own your own golf cart, a small pallet jack or even if you’re in charge of looking after a fleet of cleaning machines, then you should know how important looking after the lead acid battery inside them is. The main power source can cause a lot of problems can leave the carts stranded if they fail unexpectedly. We’ve looked at a few of the main questions people ask about both lead acid batteries and VRLA batteries.

What are "wet" and what are "AGM" batteries?

A wet battery, or flooded, lead acid battery, is a type of deep cycle battery that will need to be periodically topped up with deionized water. They tend to be used in larger applications but can be found in the majority of industrial machines that require a battery supply.

AGM, or valve regulated lead acid (VRLA) batteries, are ideal for smaller mobile applications as they are both leakproof and maintenance-free. Their sulfuric acid is immobilized by a gel (Absorbent Glass Matt) so they don’t need to be filled with water. They tend to be found in smaller, more light use applications.

Do you ever add acid to a battery?

No, you should never have to add acid to a battery. A battery should be filled with deionized water should be added to achieve the recommended levels. A battery electrolyte indicator is the ideal way to tell if a battery needs water or not.

What does deep cycle mean?

Deep cycle means using the battery in an application that will typically discharge 60% to 70% or more of the battery capacity. A car battery is known as an SLI battery, which stands for starting, lighting and ignition. The internal plates of SLI batteries are designed to deliver maximum power for a short duration. So when you start a car, you’d typically discharges the battery be around 1% to 3%.

When an SLI battery is used in a deep cycle application, life in a golf buggy, the battery life will be shortened proportionally to how deeply it is cycled on a regular basis.

So, can I use car batteries on my Golf buggy?

The short answer is yes. A car battery will work, but not for long. This type of SLI battery is not designed for sustained discharge, like driving round a golf course. Irreparable damage will be caused to the battery in a short amount of time. The damage will greatly affect the ability to recharge, making the battery useless.

What are common mistakes made by lead acid battery owners?

Undercharging: This is not allowing the charger to restore the battery to full charge after use. If the battery is continually operated in this partial state of charge, it can cause sulfation. This also occurs if the battery is stored for a long time without cycling or charging. Undercharging will also cause stratification, both resulting in premature battery failure. If you have a fleet of batteries or machines to look after, then rotating machines, or batteries, using a battery management system, is the best way to prevent a battery from dying early. A battery management system not only organizes the batteries, it can give you access to a wide range of battery room data which can help you right size your fleet.

Overcharging: Continuous charging causes increased corrosion of the positive plates, excessive water consumption, and in some cases, increasing the temperatures within a lead acid battery. Deep cycle batteries should be charged after each discharge of more than 50% of the batteries rated capacity, and/or after prolonged storage of 30 days or more. A battery life monitor stops this and can give you battery data that can help optimize your fleet further.

Maintenance: Maintaining batteries can be laborious, and sometimes even dangerous without the proper equipment. Because of this, people often place battery maintenance at the bottom of the list. Investment in the good maintenance, monitoring and management products solves these problems. The cost saving of the right products can be huge in comparison to the cost of having to replace failed batteries or not achieving their maximum potential.

Hopefully that answers a couple of questions for you but if you need any more help, you’re not sure what products can help you the most or if you think we might have missed a question, get in touch below or on our social media channels.


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  • Hi and thank you very much for the information. I’m currently sailing around the world, on a small sailboat with electric propulsion. No diesel engine. I have 400amps @ 48v of VRLA batteries. 8 × 200amps @ 12v. I have used a battery charger in the past but now only use 400w solar and 493w wind generator. I’m in the Caribbean so have lots of sun and wind the temperature is approximately 30 degrees C. I try to keep my batteries above 70% charge using a Victron battery monitor. I’m re-charging at approximately 1.5% a day, the usual voltage showing is 49-52v. I would love LiFePo4 batteries but can’t at the moment. Is charging my batteries in this way OK or will I damage them?

    Les Robinson on

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