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It's dead Jim..

Posted by tomplum 7-8 (My Page) on
Fri, Nov 5, 10 at 19:41

Two years ago to the month, I hooked up a HD L&G Wally Mart battery to my generator along w/ a Battery Tender Jr. In the last several months, the battery is now open under load. Had a nice surface charge though....
Is it bad policy to leave it on the battery tender forever? It (the battery tender) seems to be working fine.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: It's dead Jim..

After 20 years in the motorcycle business I've formed certain beliefs about batteries and charging systems based on experience and technical knowledge... some may agree and some may not but my customers unanimously enjoyed long service life from premium quality lead acid batteries so here goes...

I don't waste my time with low cost batteries from the least expensive manufacturer because they have the poorest quality control. WalMart batteries are the first to avoid regardless of the anecdotal statements that "they work great for me".

I always load test a new lead acid battery BEFORE I buy it. You would not believe how many new(?) batteries fail a load test. If you're looking to make a couple trips back to the battery store buy a cheap battery and don't have it load tested... then watch that defective battery suck the diodes right down the B+ wire.

Lead acid batteries used in machines that don't get regular use MUST NOT BE subjected to cold. Cold kills lead acid batteries. Keep your L&G tractor or motorcycle in an unheated shed all winter? Take out the battery and keep it where it will not get cold.

Use a quality, regulated battery charger to charge the battery at LOW AMPERAGE for 12 hours every month during non-use. Have the battery load tested before you re-install it in the spring.

Cheap battery tenders are the same waste of money as a cheap battery. I have always been, and continue to be, reluctant to leave a cheap electric device plugged in to an outlet and left unattended. Do it, and you're begging to review your home owner's insurance policy sooner or later. There is no magic bullet or $10 gizmo to get you long battery life out of a cheap battery.

The absolute highest quality L&G batteries made in the USA (not Mexico where Johnson Controls, ESB, and the other big brands are made) are manufactured by DEKA (East Penn Manufacturing Company) http://www.dekabatteries.com/default.aspx?pageid=503 under a variety of brand names. They make the L&G batteries for CarQuest and some Batteries Plus stores (depending on location) among others.

DEKA batteries are available in higher CCAs then all other brands and have flat tops so they fit under ANY OEM hold down, like Toro. I have never had a DEKA battery fail prematurely or fail to start a L&G tractor in cold weather. Their QC is extraordinary and finding their batteries is well worth the trouble.

Lead acid batteries and charging systems are the two most misunderstood and not understood thing that most people have and everyone knows what they know but don't know what they don't know... follow my advice and you'll be buying a new DEKA battery for your garden tractor every 7 years or so. That's how long they last me.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

  • Posted by baymee LehighValleyPA (My Page) on
    Sat, Nov 6, 10 at 6:02

I'm fortunate to live near DEKA (at least when I need a battery) but yes, I've never had a bad DEKA. They made the Sears Die Hard for many years and they just got some big contract for government work. (I think)


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RE: It's dead Jim..

I like the DEKA (East Penn) batteries because the corrosion problems with the battery cables are usually non existant.

Batteries with the removable water caps usually develop corrosion on the battery wires. Additionally, battery crud develops around the battery and causes the battery box area to corrode.

My observation is the Craftsman batteries delivered with new Craftsman tractors are manufactured by East Penn. The Craftsman batteries sold in the Sears Lawn & Garden area are usually equipped with the water caps and are made by a different manufacturer.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

While we seem to be lauding Deka here....let me add my experience with Deka. In all fairness, Deka brand was the only battery that was used in the venue I will describe. There might be others that would show similar results, but Deka is the only one I was familiar with under the circumstances.

The company I worked for (at that time), had always used only Deka brand batteries in its fleet of highway trucks and dock forklifts (with IC engines).
I have been involved directly with the forklift maintenance on a daily basis since 1993 when I was assigned to that detail permanently, so I have over 17 years of data (both documented and anecdotal) to use in comparing the Deka battery to others.
We bought a Deka, sealed, maintenance free battery back in those days.

In 2004, the company I worked for was bought, and absorbed into, another company in the same business.
One of the first (of many) changes affecting my work process was that we were required to obtain our batteries from a different source.
The batteries from that point on were not a Deka, sealed, maintenance free type. The battery we were required to use was made by Exide and was everything that the Deka WAS NOT.

During the long run of using the Deka battery, we NEVER had corrosion of the battery cable end terminals, battery hold down angles, or the battery trays. I don't recall ever having to replace a battery cable end terminal, hold down angle or bolts at any time when we were using Deka.
And the average life expectancy of the Deka battery was about 36 months. In our operations, a forklift engine might be cranked to life more than 500 times per 24 hours (the typical number of daily cranks is about 140).

After the switch to "non Deka, non sealed, maintenance required" batteries, things began unraveling quickly.
Every forklift with the non-Deka battery needed the positive cable end terminal replaced within a year of installing the battery. We had to begin using NoCoRode felt washers and Battery Cote spray, but this had to be repeated at about 90 day intervals to be effective.
We also began having the hold down angles and bolts destroyed by corrosion.
"No start" events (due to corroded end terminals) became quite common during the first year with the "cheap batteries" but improved a lot after we began servicing the battery posts every 90 days.

The laughable point (to me) is that the company that bought us cites "the lower cost per unit battery purchased" as the reason for using the cheap battery.
And of course they ignore all attempts from the peons to inform them of the REAL costs incurred BECAUSE of using the "cheap battery".

In closing, I have this to add.
The average life expectancy of one of the "cheap batteries" in our forklift fleet is about 1 year to 16 months.
After the switch from Deka, I remember some of our forklifts still having a Deka battery (installed just prior to the change up) while other forklifts were already on their THIRD cheap battery.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

The bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of low price is gone.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

  • Posted by baymee LehighValleyPA (My Page) on
    Sat, Nov 6, 10 at 14:37

Stopped at NAPA for an oil filter for my JD and we got to talking about batteries. Our local NAPA buys only DEKA batteries, labeled as NAPA. Maybe it's more than just my local dealer that uses them.

DEKA just got a contract to make batteries for an electric car, to answer my question previously.

My battery had needed a boost last Winter but worked all through the Summer. The old battery was a DEKA and was installed exactly 8 years ago and is being replaced with another DEKA.

I must add that there was some corrosion around the positive terminal, under the clamp and under the battery. The last time I cleaned everything was about 4 years ago.

So, if you're looking for DEKA batteries, ask your NAPA dealer if they are re-branded DEKA batteries.

As an aside, a guy at work had a failed battery after being only 6 months old. He took it back to his Auto zone where he bought it and was told that the battery had no warranty but that he could bring it up with the manager the next day. The next day the manager was apologetic and gave him a new battery and offered to install it. Turns out it had a 6 year warranty.

I stopped buying things from the chains a few years back when I realized that their brakes may have a lifetime warranty, but I don't feel like replacing them every year. Now everything comes from NAPA.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

DEKA OEMs for numerous brands and manufacturers like Husqvarna (Sears-Craftsman-Dixon) EAST of the Mississippi.

Due to freight cost considerations Johnson Controls seems to OEM a lot WEST of the Mississippi.

In the SW the only reliable source for DEKA L&G batteries I've found is CarQuest and they don't even know who makes their batteries and like most stores will give you 5 different answers if you ask them 5 days in a row.

I take the time to seek out a DEKA regardless of what the clerk at the store says he knows.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

So the verdict seems to be a simply a krap battery. I had questioned the logic of leaving it on the tender indefinitely. The generator gets run 4 times a year for sure to keep things happy there. The Tender seems to be performing as it should. I have used a local supplier since this, but had used many of the Exide/ Walmart boxes before and have seen them last for much longer. This was the 350/ 275 cca version.

For all those in the battery know, for an upcoming project -I am planning to add an AGM battery to a truck to complete a dual battery system w/ switch. Any advise/ brands with this? Thanks for the feedback so far.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

  • Posted by baymee LehighValleyPA (My Page) on
    Sat, Nov 6, 10 at 18:07

I'm sure if anybody called DEKA (East Penn Manufacturing in Lyons Station, PA) their OTC sales dept. would UPS you a battery. Not sure if it's worth the cost though, unless you buy a Second. They are 1st quality, but may have a blemish in the casing.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

I don't believe you can ship a lead acid battery by any ground transportation other than trucking company.

SLA (sealed lead acid) batteries are another story.

Besides, can you imagine what UPS will charge you to ship a L&G battery to Zone 7... you'd get browned on for sure.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

When I popped the cover on the old battery, the water level was a tad low on the positive end. Par for the course I know. What I don't know is if that contribured to the demise...

I hear ya on shipping. I gave the kids my FEX packing slips incase they wanted to ship anything my way. One day I recieved this huge portrait. She didn't check any boxes on the slip, just dropped it at the terminal. So it went priority overnight...


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RE: It's dead Jim..

  • Posted by baymee LehighValleyPA (My Page) on
    Sat, Nov 6, 10 at 23:03

They'd ship the battery dry with a container of acid, but you're right, I didn't think about that.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

Some time back, i sent in a treatise on why and how the lead-acid batteries fail eventually. Mainly, it has to do with the shedding of the lead in the plates inside the battery. When the lead builds up in the bottom of the battery, it shorts out the internals, and it is off to the battery shop for a new one.
Cheap batteries have shorter plates than better ones, so they shed their lead, and it builds up faster in the short cells. And causes a failure. Better batteries have deeper cells, so it takes longer to short out.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

I don't think you can ship acid by UPS either anymore.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

I don't think anyone answered your question, although it was a lively discussion of battery brands.
To answer "Is it bad policy to leave it on the battery tender forever?", here is a quote from the manual for Delran battery maintainer:

The Battery Tender® Junior and Plus Chargers are completely automatic and may be left connected to both AC power and to the battery that it is charging for long periods of time. However, it is prudent to periodically check both the battery and the charger for normal operation during these extended charging periods.

I know of garden tractor owners who leave a battery maintainer on during the whole winter and are happy with the results. If they can leave it on for 4-6 months with no attention, I guess "extended charging periods" are much longer.

I appreciate people sharing their long years of experience. I'm not so careful at all. I just park the little mower and big tractor outside, disconnect the terminals, and the batteries are fine the next spring. Except for the mice nests. I probably do not get optimum life from the batteries, but then, there are too many other things to maintain to take best care of everything. (chagrin)

If your battery is dead, get another and don't worry. Stuff fails, and it is still less expensive than hiring for all the yardwork. (Although the idea is getting attractive as I age.)


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RE: It's dead Jim..

Seems to me the OP's question was answered.

Questionable battery? Get it load tested. If it fails buy a new one.

To your points...

Ah, the disclaimer... "it is prudent to periodically check both the battery and the charger for normal operation during these extended charging periods" or in plain English, if our stuff don't work it's up to you to discover it.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

I guess visiting the Deltran site might have been a good idea. Or, take the one out of the package I have in the shop... Got lots of good info for review plus Rusty's explanation seems to make sense also. Thanks to everyone. Probably the luck of the draw on the battery. Hopefully the local brand I've been using will be a good performer for years to come. I like deka too- may have to see what the Napa people have to say. The water was a touch below the top of the plates on the positive side- which means I was not doing my job. I just love the comments people tell me about batteries. The battery has to be good- the charger says so. or my voltmeter shows 12 volts. These both were true in this case. This battery seemed to be completely open on a load test however.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

Wet cell batteries aren't black magic. Wet Cell batteries are chemistry and physics and not open to discussion or opinion, regardless of what the battery store guy/gal says. If you want to know, the info is out there to read... but it is tedious.

A good 12v lead acid battery should show 12.7 VDC (static) or higher, not 12 volts. Less than 12.7 VDC and you have a/or weak cell(s).

You can also use a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity of the electrolyte.

If the electrolyte level goes down and exposes cell plates then they sulfate and shed lead which falls to the bottom of the cell cavity and can (electrically) short the cell. A cell can also fail and go open.

A load test IS the definitive test.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

  • Posted by baymee LehighValleyPA (My Page) on
    Sun, Nov 7, 10 at 18:57

Is a load test done at the local Auto Zone or can some test be done at home?


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RE: It's dead Jim..

A load test is done by a load tester...

Load testers are usually expensive and AutoZone has them. So does Sears but WalMart battery departments don't (unless there's also a tire and battery place in the store).

There are now reasonably priced load testers available but it makes more sense to go to the battery store. If your old battery fails you'll be bringing a new battery home and you're already at the battery store.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

  • Posted by baymee LehighValleyPA (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 8, 10 at 5:45

Any recommendations on a reasonably priced load tester for a small shop like mine?

Removing batteries and transporting them is one job I'd pass on. Never mind the crud on them.


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It can be cheep cheap

As is this exemplar from Harbor Freight Tools (click link).

Here is a link that might be useful: Cheep cheap


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Or it can be cutting edge state of the art

As is this SOC tester system (click link).

Here is a link that might be useful: High tech, high performance, high price


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RE: It's dead Jim..

  • Posted by baymee LehighValleyPA (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 8, 10 at 16:12

I've never bought cheap tools, so Harbor Freight is out, except for their impact sockets. Can't beat them.

I did a little Googling before work today and saw the second recommendation. You have to fill out a form to get pricing. I'm figuring $200 or less range might be worthwhile.

Any happy pro users in that area?


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RE: It's dead Jim..

This is the one I'd buy just to keep my Fluke company and it costs about what a quality piece of tech gear should...

http://www.grainger.com/Grainger/OTC-Battery-Tester-1JYR1?Pid=search


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RE: It's dead Jim..

Actually Baymee- I don't know any reason why one would NEED an expensive load tester for L&G. Clamp it on a fully charged battery, hit the switch and done. I have one that, in appearance looks like the HF - but a little nicer. Actually, I also killed somehow an even nicer one- but that was years ago. Who knows, maybe it was left inna snowbank or something. Plus I have an Actron and they both work well. Neither one was lots of $$. I can get you model #s if you'd like. They work well for basic automotive use as well.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

The Harbor Freight Unit is all that is required for the back yard small engine mechanic . Bay , I have need for a replacement for my Canada Post Rural Route (Chevy Tracker)
Fleet Unit Battery. Would you say stay away from Auto Zone and go to Napa for a Good Deka Battery ? I have both Stores easily located within Michigan a few Miles away . Please advise ...Thanx E .


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RE: It's dead Jim..

Not all Napas have the DEKA OEM Napa batteries... since batteries are heavy DEKA OEMs for many companies EAST of the Mississippi while Johnson Controls manufacturers many brands stocked west of the Mississippi EVEN WITHIN THE SAME COMPANY.

You have to know how to identify a DEKA battery cause if you ask the counter drone most times you won't get the correct answer.

One give away to a DEKA battery are flush mounted or no vent caps. If there are two vent caps and they stick up it is not a DEKA battery but that is not always true.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

  • Posted by baymee LehighValleyPA (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 9, 10 at 6:24

I would use the tester for my business as well as my own battery. I'm leery of the accuracy of any electronic equipment from HF, not to say that Grainger is better, but it does inspire more confidence. I'd hate to tell a customer that his battery is going bad when it isn't.

My NAPA battery has flat caps as lurker says.

If I could get a Deka battery, I would. But I wouldn't walk away from Auto Zone if I needed a battery. Aside from the hassle of replacing them, it's not a big job.


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RE:: It's dead Jim..

  • Posted by baymee LehighValleyPA (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 9, 10 at 7:12

I remember when I worked at the bus company, they had a battery tester that actually placed a load on the battery. How does this electronic tester place any serious load on the battery? Any links as to how this is done?


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RE: It's dead Jim..

Don't mention Grainger in the same paragraph as HF...

HF makes their bones selling facsimiles of quality tools and that's OK if you are aware of what you're getting.

Grainger sells NOTHING but brand name products and usually from the companies that designed and patented them.

I have seen that SPX OTC load tester work and it does. I first saw it at the local CarQuest that carries the DEKA L&G batteries.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

***"......they had a battery tester that actually placed a load on the battery"***
That type of load tester utilizes a "carbon pile" to impose an actual resistive load on the battery. Some load testers (lower end, lower capacity) use iron wire resistance coils (similar to the heating coils in a furnace or clothes dryer). After doing the math using the CCA rating of the battery, you would "dial up" the load knob to apply the specified load to the battery while watching the voltage scale drop during a specified time span (usually 10 seconds). We often called this tester a "portable heater" and rightly so because the carbon pile would get very hot during a test (especially so if the battery was in good shape). Most early versions of carbon pile testers required an arbitrary cool down interval between tests. Some later model testers had to be plugged in to a 120VAC source which ran a cooling fan to cool the pile.

A load test reveals the condition of a battery because when a specific load is applied to a battery having a specific "potential capacity" for a specified time span..........the voltage value of the battery will drop to a known level.
A carbon pile tester might logically be called a "manual load tester" in that the resistive load of the adjustable carbon pile is a genuine, real time, 100% load (just as the starter imposes the same type of load).

Digital load testers also impose a resistive load on the battery, but a much smaller one.
But this load is sufficient to evaluate the battery potential BECAUSE of the extremely sensitive voltage measuring and time measuring circuitry feeding data into an array of integrated circuits that process the data and create a display showing the results to the user.
The data feed and processing takes place at "millisecond speed", and it is the extreme sensitivity and extreme speed of processing that make digital load testing feasible at all.

EG: A carbon pile test might proceed like this.
A resistive load of 500 Amp is imposed on a battery for 10 seconds to cause a 6 volt drop (on a 12 volt battery).

A digital load test by contrast might proceed like this.
A resistive load of .5 Amp is imposed on a battery for .01 seconds to cause a .006 volt drop (on a 12 volt battery).

That is a rough description of how/why they work.
I'm pretty sure that different manufacturers of the DLTs have proprietary secrets of design, but basically it works because it can literally "split a hair" 100 times to arrive at the same (or even more accurate) conclusion that a big ole dinosaur carbon pile and a stop watch can.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

Yea, what mownie said...


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RE: It's dead Jim..

Ok Guys will try to validate the Deka availability next week when I'am cross border shopping , since I know the Owner of the Napa Store rather well .


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RE: It's dead Jim..

My experience is that the workers and owners at auto parts stores have no idea who OEMs what they sell. Worst thing is that they offer a guess or just plain BS the customer.

Seems that almost EVERYONE in retail has forgotten the three most important words ever said in retail... I don't know so they can't follow up with the next four most important words... but I'll find out.

Let us know how it works out for you.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

Lurker , I most certainly Shall ...Thanx !


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RE: It's dead Jim..

  • Posted by baymee LehighValleyPA (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 9, 10 at 15:42

Very interesting, Mownie.


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RE:: It's dead Jim..

  • Posted by baymee LehighValleyPA (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 9, 10 at 15:46

Here's a good reason to test a battery. I have a riding mower in the shop that has a Duralast battery installed 6 months ago.

I noticed a delay and sluggish start last week. Yesterday, it delayed and spun the starter at medium speed. 30W oil, temp at 50. Not suspecting the valves.

I brought it inside and hooked up my NAPA trickle charger and within 1 minute it was showing fully charged.

This would be a perfect opportunity to use a load tester.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

Put that battery on a load tester and it will fail.

Like I said earlier in this thread... "You would not believe how many new(?) batteries fail a load test".

You are preaching to the professional mechanics choir... we pros have known about load testing for more decades than, well a long time, while DIYer's storage battery battery problems were solved OR NOT using VMs and now DVMs.

This all goes back to the first commandment of doing anything... you need the knowledge and the tools. One without the other doesn't get it fixed. An Electrical Engineer with a Simpson 260 can only tell that his car battery has X many volts static. He knows how to design and build a wet cell battery but the best VM he has on the bench will not load test his car battery so off he goes to the auto repair place where they have... yup, a load tester.

Baymee, you seem relatively new at owning a service shop so here's some free advice from someone who has made a very nice living owning two...

NEVER be reluctant to invest in quality tools and test equipment (within reason) because doing it saves time and gets things done right which makes you money and saves your customers money.

Oh yea, take the time to really learn how to use test equipment... it really is worth the time investment.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

  • Posted by baymee LehighValleyPA (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 9, 10 at 19:22

Thanks lurker. I always accept advice graciously or try to. I'm in my 8th year of a part-time business, mostly units without batteries. But, I've been doing mechanical work since 1970....just never thought much about a tester.

And do I have my original tools? Sure do. Snap-on.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

Since 70... that makes you a journeyman.

Snap-On for sure. I've got a pair of Klein pliers stamped 1950.

You know, battery load testers are the last diagnostic tools lots of shops think about and I've always wondered why when it is such a definitive diagnostic tool. You can tell your customer, YES, you need a battery or no you don't and be sure.

When you take the plunge from part time shop to full time shop you'll work harder than you ever did for anyone else and you'll make less money, but the boss will be a really nice guy.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

  • Posted by baymee LehighValleyPA (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 9, 10 at 21:40

I'm adding your recommended load tester to my tool set. I'm curious to see what it says about my current battery situation on this rider.

Full time shop? Don't think so. I keep it going so I can play during retirement in a few years.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

I manage an Autozone store and of course we sell Duralast batteries. They are made by Johnson Controls (JCI). Heres and excerpt from Consumer reports that may or may not be correct...

"Most auto batteries are made by just three manufacturers, Delphi, Exide, and Johnson Controls Industries. Each makes batteries sold under several different brand names. Delphi makes ACDelco and some EverStart (Wal-Mart) models. Exide makes Champion, Exide, Napa, and some EverStart batteries. Johnson Controls makes Diehard (Sears), Duralast (AutoZone), Interstate, Kirkland (Costco), Motorcraft (Ford), and some EverStarts."

Just for the record...all batteries sold at Autozone do have a warranty. That includes L&G and Marine. Don't let an ignorant or uncaring employee snowball you. Autozone is just like any other store...the stores with quality, caring employees is great...stores where the management hires anyone with a pulse should be avoided.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

  • Posted by baymee LehighValleyPA (My Page) on
    Sun, Nov 14, 10 at 16:38

I bought lurker's suggested load tester and have been busy using it on my supply of used batteries.

The battery for which I bought the tester, that showed fully charged but was slow to turn the starter, turned out to be good. Go figure.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

But now you KNOW... right?


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RE: It's dead Jim..

New toys are always fun Baymee. It would be interesting to compare the tester to another tester in use for a comparison. I'm not familiar with that specific tester, but I know I clamp mine on and I get a 9 V reading on the meter, it will be tough to crank an OP twin. Obviously, you could be dealing witha tired starter or a funky terminal / ground etc.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

So far two different types of battery testers have been discussed. First the resistance type including the good carbon pile units as well as the hand held 'toaster' from HF and other outlets. These are fine when used within their rated limits and with a couple of calculations.

The second type is the small handheld tester that measure the condunctance of the battery and displays the result of internal calculations. These are smaller, lighter and don't present the fire hazard of the resistance testers.

For more information on conductance testing, and good fireside reading, here is a link to the first patent:

http://www.google.com/patents?id=HXM9AAAAEBAJ&pg=PA11&lpg=PA11&dq=3873911&source=bl&ots=ii9lyGRLNg&sig=U8FCQlMTNJnaSdnNctsvYv_EuVo&hl=en&ei=F9bqTOC4FIOjnQflh-SGDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q&f=false

Cheers!


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RE: It's dead Jim..

Maybe I missed it, but I don't think anyone mentioned that to test the battery it has to be fully charged first.

I know this is true of the carbon pile testers. Not sure about the others.


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RE: It's dead Jim..

A wet cell battery with (a) bad cells can't reach a full charge... it can get pretty warm to the touch though.


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