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How a Battery Works

Find out how batteries work, charge and more.

Checking your battery.
Batteries are probably the biggest single cause for non starting, especially in colder weather. Batteries are less efficient the colder they get so the start of cold weather usually shows up any inefficiencies with the battery. Some of the time the problem seems to point to other things, i.e. the engine still turns over but doesn't fire up. Sometimes this can be due to the engine management system which only turns on the power to the coils if there is enough ampage left in the battery. If the power is too low then the ignition system is not powered up which leaves any power left in the battery to turning over the engine. Without the drain of having to power an ignition the engine turns over quite quickly and you could be forgiven for thinking that the fault lies elsewhere. Check you battery first. It's the most likely cause of non-starting faults and it is free and easy to check.

Most common faults:

Low fluid level. Most batteries these days are sealed 'maintenance free' batteries but if your battery has removable covers then you can inspect the level of the electrolyte fluid inside the cells. The inside of the battery is divided up into several cavities and you will need to inspect each one. When you look down into a cell you will see metal plates (Side on from the top). The level of electrolyte fluid should be higher than the plate for that cell to work. It will only take one cell to be low on fluid for your battery to show a fault. This fluid is dangerous and consists mainly of Sulphuric acid which is highly corrosive and should be treated with care. Luckily you do not need to add sulphuric acid to top up. Simply use distilled water (de-ionised) and top up the cell until the fluid is a couple of millimetres above the plate. Repeat for all cells.

Poor charging from alternator. This is really up to a trained mechanic to diagnose and cure but you can test this yourself. A simple way to test if your alternator is charging is to start your car and put all your lights on full beam. When you rev your engine you should just be able to see the lights going brighter and then dimmer when you stop revving. If the car stalls when you put your lights on then the problem is probably with the alternator. Alternately if you have a test meter you can test the voltage to the battery. This voltage should be higher than 12V. Usually around 13-15V. Don't forget that alternators can overcharge aswell as undercharge which can produce the same type of non-starting faults by damaging the battery. This is usually accompanied with the smell of rotten eggs as the fluid in your battery begins to boil. Most of the time your alternator can be reconditioned rather then replaced.

Incorrect battery fitted. Some mechanics will tell you that you need the exact battery for you car right down to the model, type etc. This is not true. You need the same size battery with the same amp/hour ratings. Of course the easiest way to make sure that you meet these criteria is to buy the exact battery for your car as quoted by the manufacturer (Replacing like with like) However if for some reason the battery has been replaced with a sub standard battery for your car then the above symptoms can arise and obviously replacing like with like will only perpetuate the problem. You can find out the required rating for your car's battery be contacting the manufacturer or dealer.

Jump-starting: The best way to start your car if the battery is flat is with Jumper cables. These are heavy duty cables which carry the current being produced from a healthy car to your battery so that it can start your car. Connect the jumper cables one at a time being careful not to touch any metal parts of your car (or the other lead). Connect positive to positive and negative to negative. The healthy car should then rev the engine and allow about 10 seconds before your first attempt. Usually you should be able to start the engine within a short time but if the turning of the engine seems slow then wait longer before tries. As you try to turn the engine over the healthy car should be revving the engine (Not excessively, just around 2,000-3,000 rpm). I there is nobody to help or no-one has jump leads then you can phone a Taxi and request for one with jump leads.

Jump-starting: The best way to start your car if the battery is flat is with Jumper cables. These are heavy duty cables which carry the current being produced from a healthy car to your battery so that it can start your car. Connect the jumper cables one at a time being careful not to touch any metal parts of your car (or the other lead). Connect positive to positive and negative to negative. The healthy car should then rev the engine and allow about 10 seconds before your first attempt. Usually you should be able to start the engine within a short time but if the turning of the engine seems slow then wait longer before tries. As you try to turn the engine over the healthy car should be revving the engine (Not excessively, just around 2,000-3,000 rpm). I there is nobody to help or no-one has jump leads then you can phone a Taxi and request for one with jump leads.

Bump starting: This can only be done with manual transmission and not an automatic.

Step 1. Get a few healthy lads to give you a push.
Step 2. Turn on the cars ignition and put the car into second gear.
Step 3. Make sure your handbrake is off and remove your foot off the foot brake.
Step 4. Making sure that your foot is on the clutch ask you helpers to start pushing.
Step 5. As the car reaches the fastest speed that you expect it to reach quickly lift your clutch pedal and press the accelerator slightly.
Step 6. If the car does not start then repeat these steps until exhausted. Then call a mechanic.

Jump Start a Battery

How do I jump start my vehicle?

To save your eyes, please wear glasses or safety goggles in the event of a car or deep cycle battery explosion. If done incorrectly, jumping a dead battery can be dangerous and financially risky. These procedures are ONLY for vehicles are that are both negatively grounded and the electrical system voltages are the SAME. In other words, 12-volt to 12-volt and NOT 12-volt to six volt systems. These procedures would also apply to using fully charged jump starters. Jump starters need to be periodically recharged. Please follow the jump stater manufacturer's recommendations or recharge every three months. NEVER jump a frozen battery and ALWAYS connect POSITIVE to POSITIVE and NEGATIVE (-) to the ENGINE BLOCK or FRAME away from the dead starting battery. Reverse this rule to disconnect. The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that of the 275 million vehicles that will traveling in the U.S. during the Summer of 2003, 7.4 million (or 2.7%) will break down. Of that number, 1.3 million (or 17.7%) will require a battery jump to start their engine. The German automobile association (ADAC) estimates that their battery related service calls has increased from 21.7% per year in 1999 to 29.9% in 2004.

In cold weather, good quality jumper cables (or booster cables) with at least eight-gauge wire are necessary to provide enough current to the disabled vehicle to start the engine. Larger diameter, smaller gauge number wire is better because there is less voltage loss. Please check the owner's manual for BOTH vehicles or jump starter BEFORE attempting to jump-start. Please follow the manufacturers' procedures, for example, some vehicles should not be running during a jump-start of a disabled one. However, starting the disabled vehicle with the good vehicle running can prevent having both vehicles disabled and provides a higher voltage to the starting motor of the disabled vehicle. Avoid the booster cable clamps touching each other or the POSITIVE clamp touching anything but the POSITIVE (+) post of the battery, because momentarily touching the block or frame can short the battery and cause extensive and costly damage. - Jump start steps


1. If below freezing, insure that the electrolyte is NOT frozen in the dead battery. If frozen, do NOT jump or boost the battery if the case is cracked or until the battery has been full thawed out, recharged, tested. When electrolyte freezes, it expands and damage the plates or plate separators, which can cause the plates to warp and short out or the case to crack. When the battery is frozen, the best solution is to substitute a fully charged battery for frozen one or tow the vehicle to a heated garage. With any completely dead (or flat) battery, cell reversal can occur. The electrolyte in a dead battery will freeze at approximately 20°F (-6.7°C). The freezing point of a battery is determined by the State of Charge and the higher it is, the lower the freezing temperature. If the battery has been sitting for several months and frozen, then the battery has probably sulfated as well. If the battery has been sitting for several hours and frozen, then the problem is either an excessive parasitic load like leaving the headlights on or a faulty charging system.

2. Without the vehicles touching, turn off all accessories, heaters and lights on both vehicles, especially electronic appliances, such as a radio or audio system and insure there is plenty of battery ventilation. This is to reduce the electrical load on the good battery and the charging system.

3. Start the vehicle with the good battery and let it run for at least two or three minutes at medium RPM to recharge it. Check the POSITIVE (+) and NEGATIVE (-) terminal markings on both batteries before proceeding.

4. Connect the POSITIVE booster cable (or jump starter) clamp (usually RED) to the POSITIVE (+) terminal post on the dead battery [Step 1 in the diagram above]. Connect the POSITIVE clamp on the other end of the booster cable to the POSITIVE (+) terminal post on the good starting battery [Step 2]. If the POSITIVE (+) battery terminal post is not accessible, the POSITIVE connection on the starter motor solenoid from the POSITIVE (+) terminal post of the battery could be used.

5. Connect the NEGATIVE booster cable clamp (usually BLACK) to the NEGATIVE (-) terminal on the good battery [Step 3]. Connect the NEGATIVE booster cable (or jump starter) clamp on the other end of the jumper cable to a clean, unpainted area on the engine block or frame on the disabled vehicle [Step 4] and at least 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm) away from the battery. This arrangement is used because some sparking will occur and you want to keep sparks as far away from the battery as practical in order to prevent a battery explosion.

6. If using jumper cables, let the good vehicle continue to run at medium RPM for five minutes or more to allow the dead battery to receive some recharge and warm its electrolyte. If there is a bad cable connection, do not wiggle the cable clamps connected to the battery terminals because sparks will occur and a battery explosion might occur. To check connections, first disconnect the NEGATIVE clamp from the engine block or frame on the disabled vehicle, check the other connections, and then reconnect the engine block or frame connection last.

7. If using jumper cables, some vehicle manufacturers recommend that you turn off the engine of the good vehicle to protect its charging system prior to starting the disabled vehicle. Check the owner's manual; otherwise, leave the engine running so you can avoid being stranded should you not be able to restart the good vehicle and increase the voltage to the disabled vehicle's starter motor.

8. If using jumper cables, start the disabled vehicle and allow it to run at high idle. If the vehicle does not start the first time within 30 seconds, recheck the connections, wait a few minutes to allow the starter motor to cool, and try again.

9. Disconnect the jumper (or jump starter) cables in the REVERSE order, starting with the NEGATIVE clamp on the engine block or frame of the disabled vehicle to minimize the possibility of an explosion. Allow the engine on the disabled car to run until the engine come to full operating temperature before driving and continue to run until you reach your final destination, because stopping the engine might require another jump start. Also, keep all unnecessary electrical accessories off to relieve the load on the charging system and allow it to add charge to the battery.

10. As soon as possible and at room temperature, fully recharge the dead battery with an external "smart" or "automatic" battery charger matched to the battery type, remove the surface charge and load test the battery and charging system to determine if any latent or permanent damage has occurred as a result of the deep discharge. This is especially important if you had a frozen battery or jump started a sealed wet Maintenance Free (Ca/Ca) battery. A vehicle's charging system is not designed to recharge a dead battery and could overheat and be damaged (bad diodes or burned stator) doing so or the battery could be undercharged and loose CCA performance or amp hour capacity.

In the event that the jumper (or jump starter) cables were REVERSED and there is no power to all or part of the vehicle, test the fusible links, fuses, circuit breakers, battery, charging system and emissions computer and, if bad, reset or replace. Their locations and values should be shown in the vehicle's Owner's Manual. If replacing the faulty parts do not repair the electrical system, having it repaired by a good auto electric repair shop is highly recommended.


Common battery elements definitions.

All you have to know about battery.

Active Material - Chemically active compounds in a cell or battery that convert from one composition to another while producing current (electrical energy) or accepting current from an external circuit.

Battery Polarity - A battery has two poles or posts. The positive battery post is usually marked POS, P, or + and is larger than the negative post which is usually marked NEG, N, or -. The polarity of the charger and the battery must always match to avoid damage to the battery and charger.

Cell - The basic electrochemical current-producing unit in a battery consisting of a set of positive plates, negative plates, electrolyte, separators and casing. There are six cells in a 12-volt lead-acid battery.

Cold Cranking Amps - Cold Cranking Amps is a rating used in the battery industry to define a battery's ability to start an engine in cold temperatures. The rating is the number of amps a new, fully charged battery can deliver at 0° Farenheit for 30 seconds, while maintaining a voltage of at least 7.2 volts, for a 12 volt battery. The higher the CCA rating, the greater the starting power of the battery.

Container - The polypropylene or hard rubber case which holds the plates, straps and electrolyte.

Cover - The lid for the case/container.

Electrolyte - A solution of sulfuric acid and water which conducts current through the movement of ions (charged particles in the electrolyte solution) between positive and negative plates. It supplies sulfate ions for reaction with the active material of both positive and negative plates.

Grids - A lead alloy framework that supports the active material of a battery plate and conducts current.

Ground - The reference potential of a circuit. In automotive use, the result of attaching one battery cable to the body or frame which is used as a path for completing a circuit in lieu of a direct wire from a component. Today, over 99% of autos use the negative terminal of the battery as the ground.

Intercell Connections - Connections between the straps of two cells, positive of one cell to the negative of the next.

Open Circuit Voltage (O.C.V.) - The voltage of a battery when it is not delivering or receiving power. It is 2.11 volts for a fully charged battery cell.

Container - The polypropylene or hard rubber case which holds the plates, straps and electrolyte.

Plates - Flat, typically rectangular components that contain the active material and a mechanical support structure called a grid, which also has an electrical function, carrying electrons to and from the active material. Plates are either positive or negative, depending on the active material they hold.

Reserve Capacity (RC) - Reserve Capacity, (RC) is a battery industry rating, defining a battery's ability to power a vehicle with an inoperative alternator or fan belt. The rating is the number of minutes a battery at 80 degrees F can be discharged at 25 amps and maintain a voltage of 10.5 volts for a 12 volt battery. The higher the reserve rating, the longer your vehicle can operate should your alternator or fan belt fail.

Separators - Porous plastic, electrically insulating sheets which allow transfer of ions between plates, but prevent physical contact between plates and resulting electronic conduction.

State of Charge - Use this chart to determine the State of Charge for a Deep Cycle Battery.

State of Charges State of Gravity Voltage - 12 Volts Battery
100 1.265 12.7
75 1.225 12.4
50 1.190 12.2
25 1.155 12.1

Straps - Lead alloy castings that connect a number of same polarity plates together in a cell and carry current.

Terminals - The electrical connection from the battery to the external circuit. Each terminal is connected to either the first (positive) or last strap (negative) in the series connection of cells in a battery. .

Vents - Components that allow gasses to exit the battery while retaining the electrolyte within the case. Can be permanently fixed to the cover or removable, depending on battery design.

Safety & Handling

Safety and handling aspect of car battery

Never lay tools or other metal parts on top of a battery. - Jump start steps

Lead Acid Batteries
• Typically Lead-Antimony.
• Made up of plates, lead, lead oxide with 35% sulfuric acid and 65% water solution.
• The solution is called electrolyte, which causes a chemical reaction that produces electrons.

Hazards associated with industrial batteries:
• Hydrogen gas
A by-product of the battery's charging process. Lighter than air. Flammable in nature. Explosive mixture at 4 – 74% by volume of air. Can not taste or see the gas vapors. You can smell the acid in the battery if it heats up.
• Sulfuric acid
Ph <2 (typically Sulfuric Acid). Corrosive material. Burns to skin. Burns to eyes. Never open the battery caps with your face directly over the battery.
• Shock
Electrical hazard - Exposed terminals, even on disconnected batteries, present an electrical shock hazard. Some battery systems are capable of discharging at extremely high rates of current. Accidental shorting of terminals or cables can result in severe electrical arcing, causing burns and electric shock to nearby personnel.

Electrical Safety Precautions
Never touch both battery terminals with your bare hands at the same time!. Remove rings, watches and dangling jewelry when working with or near batteries. The metal in the jewelry can cause a shock or burn if they contact the battery terminals. Only use insulated/non-conducting tools to remove cell caps. Never lay tools or other metal parts on top of a battery.

Electrical Safety Precautions
Consider covering battery terminals and connectors if possible with an insulating blanket before overhead inspections or repairs. Ensure charger is turned off before connecting or disconnecting a battery to prevent arcing.

Fire and Explosion Precautions
– Do not smoke in battery charging areas.
– Prevent open flames, sparks or electric arcs in battery charging areas.
– Do not strike the sides of the battery with any spark producing item.
– Keep tools and other metallic objects away from uncovered batteries.
– Have an ABC dry chemical fire extinguisher in charging areas or readily available.

Fire and Explosion Precautions
– Neutralize static buildup just before working on battery by contacting nearest grounded surface
– Ensure battery area ventilation is operating prior to working on

• Weight of the battery
Changing Batteries - Industrial batteries used to power mobile equipment can weight upwards of 1,500 lbs.Ensure the battery is securely locked in place prior to pulling away from the battery changing area.Do not attempt to stop a battery if it slides out of the equipment. Work onbatteries requires non-sparking and insulated tools.

Handling Acid Batteries
• Use extreme caution when handling electrolyte and keep an acid neutralizing solution—such as baking soda readily available.
• Always wear proper eye, face and hand protection. Use non-metallic containers to handle liquid.
• If the electrolyte is splashed into an eye, immediately force the eye open and flood it with clean, cool water for at least 15 minutes. Get prompt medical attention.
• If electrolyte is taken internally, drink large quantities of water or milk. DO NOT induce vomiting. Call a physician immediately.
• Neutralize with baking soda any electrolyte that spills on a vehicle or in the work area. After neutralizing, rinse contaminated area clean with water.
• To prepare electrolyte of a desired specific gravity, always pour the concentrated acid slowly into the water; DO NOT pour water into the acid.

Always stir the water while adding small amounts of acid. If noticeable heat develops, allow the solution to cool before continuing to add acid.
Use appropriate equipment to load/unload batteries from mobile equipment. Ensure you are trained in using the loading equipment. Keep tools and other metallic objects away from uncovered batteries. Use Baking Soda or cleaning agent specified in AHA to neutralize spilled acid.

Charging a Battery

To save your eyes, please wear glasses or safety goggles in the event of a car or deep cycle battery explosion.

Two things are needed to charge a battery. A voltage source strong enough to move current through a battery, and time. The more current we can push into a battery, the faster we can charge it. Charging at too high rate however can overheat and damage the battery. To reduce the chances of this happening, charge at a slow rate. The rate/time a battery recharges also depends on a couple of factors, how discharged is the battery and if the battery is cold. Check the battery temperature during charging. If the battery is hot to the touch, stop charging immediately until the battery cools down.

• If it is necessary to remove the battery from the vehicle to charge it, always remove the grounded terminal first. Make sure all of the accessories in the vehicle are off, to prevent arcing.
• Be sure the area around to battery is well ventilated while the battery is being charged.
• Clean the battery terminals before charging the battery. During cleaning, keep airborne corrosion from coming into contact with your eyes, nose and mouth. Use baking soda and water to neutralize battery acid and help eliminate airborne corrosion. Do not touch your eyes, nose and mouth.
• Add distilled water to each cell until the battery acid reaches the level specified by the battery manufacturer. Do not overfill. For a battery without removable cell caps, such as valve regulated l lead-acid-batteries, carefully follow the manufacturer's recharging instructions.
• Read, understand and follow all instructions for the charger, battery, vehicle and any equipment used near the battery and charger. Study all of the battery manufacturer's specific precautions while charging and recommended rates of charge.
• Determine the voltage of the battery by referring to the vehicle owner's manual and make sure that the output voltage selector switch is set to the correct voltage. If the charger has an adjustable charge rate, charge the battery in the lowest rate first. • Make sure that the charger cable clips make light connections.

Charger location
• Locate the charger as far away from the battery as the DC cables permit.
• Never place the charger directly above the battery being charged; gases from the battery will corrode and damage the charger.
• Do not place the battery on top of the charger.
• Never allow battery acid to drip onto the charger when reading the electrolyte specific gravity or filling the battery.
• Do not operate the charger in a closed area or restrict the ventilation in any way.

DC connection precautions
• Connect and disconnect the DC output clips only after all of the charger is switched to the "off" position and removing the AC plug from the electrical outlet. Never allow the clips to touch each other.
• Attach the clips to the battery and chassis.

Follow the steps when battery is installed in vehicle. A spark near the battery may cause a battery explosion. To reduce the risk of a spark near the battery:
• Position the AC and DC cables to reduce the risk of damage by the hood, door and moving or hot engine parts.
• Stay clear of fan blades, belts, pulleys and other parts that can cause injury.
• Check the polarity of the battery posts. The POSITIVE (POS, P, +) battery post usually has a larger diameter than the NEGATIVE (NEG, N, -) post.
• Determine which post of the battery is grounded (connected) to the chassis. If the negative post is grounded to the chassis (as in most vehicles), skip to the next step*. If the positive post is grounded to the chassis, skip to the step after next**.
• For a negative-grounded vehicle, connect the POSITIVE (RED) clip from the battery charger to the POSITIVE (POS, P,+) ungrounded post of the battery. Connect the NEGATIVE (BLACK) clip to the vehicle chassis or engine block, away form the battery. Do not connect the clip to the carburetor, fuel lines or sheet-metal body parts.
• Connect to a heavy gauge metal part of the frame or engine block.
• **For a positive-grounded vehicle, connect the NEGATIVE (BLACK) clip from the battery charger to the NEGATIVE (NEG,N, -) ungrounded post of the battery. Connect the POSITIVE (RED) clip to the vehicle chassis or engine block, away form the battery. Do not connect the clip to the carburetor, fuel lines or sheet-metal body parts.
• Connect to a heavy gauge metal part of the frame or engine block.
• When disconnecting the charger, turn all switches to "off," disconnect the AC cord, remove the clip from the vehicle chassis and then remove the clip from the battery terminal.
• See Calculating Charge Time for length of change information.

Follow these steps when battery is outside vehicle. A spark near the battery may cause a battery explosion. To reduce the risk of a spark near the battery:
• Check the polarity of the battery posts. The POSITIVE (POS, P, +) battery post usually has a larger diameter than the NEGATIVE (NEG, N, -) post.
• Attach at least a 24-inch long 6-gauge (AWG) insulated battery cable to the NEGATIVE (NEG, N, -) post.
• Connect the POSITIVE (RED) charger clip to the POSITIVE (POS, P, +) post of the battery.

Position yourself and the free end of the cable you previously attached to the NEGATIVE (NEG, N, -) battery post as far away from the battery as possible - then connect the NEGATIVE (BLACK) charge clip to the end of the cable.
• Do not face the battery when making the final connection.
• When disconnecting the charger, always do so in the reverse order of the connecting procedure and break the first connection while as far away from the battery as practical.

A marine (boat) battery must be removed and charged on shore. To charge it onboard requies equipment specifically designed for marine use.

Battery charging - AC connections
• The battery charger is for use on a nominal 120-volt circuit.
DANGER - Never alter AC cord or plug provided. If it does not fit the outlet, have a proper outlet installed by a qualified electrician. Improper connection can result in a risk of an electric shock.
• Recommended minimum AWG size for extension cords for battery chargers: - Charging Rates

Selecting the Right Battery

It's all about power

The automotive battery provides essential power for starting the car. In addition, the battery provides power for door locks, lights, music, and other accessories. Without a working battery, a car is dead.

Automotive batteries range greatly in quality and capacity. Cheap batteries may prove to be no bargain at all, as they may not last long. Installation and re-installation costs may quickly cancel out any initial savings. A customer might expect to pay anything from RM180 to RM600 in the Malaysia for a new automotive battery, depending on type of vehicle and battery.
Automotive batteries are sold directly to consumers for do-it-yourself installation, as well as through automotive service centers and repair shops. Prices vary dramatically, so a little research can save the consumer a considerable amount of cash. is one of the many retail shop you may get good batteries.
Do-it-yourselfers can reduce their costs, but they will have to find a suitable service for disposing of their old batteries legally and responsibly. Many automotive supply stores actually pay cash or provide discounts for customers who turn in old batteries.
Vehicle warranties may cover the cost of battery replacement for a predetermined time period. Checking the owner's manual can pay off.

Group size refers to the overall volume of the battery, as well as the location of its positive and negative terminals. Owner's manuals usually indicate the group size required by automobile models. Automotive dealers, service centers, and supply retailers generally offer reference guides, which will also list which group sizes correspond to each automobile make and model. Some batteries will be labels with combination numbers, making them suitable for a variety of automobiles.

Cold-Cranking Amps (CA) refers to a battery's ability to operate in cold weather. In such conditions, automotive engine oil tends to be thicker, which makes ignition more difficult. A battery's CCA rating indicates how much electrical power it can provide to a car's starter motor at zero degrees (F).

Another battery measure, known as cranking amps (CA) determines the battery's power-provision at 32 degrees (F), or the freezing point.

Reserve capacity indicates how long your car can run on the battery, if the alternator ceases to work. This is usually listed in minutes.

Most batteries are marked with a date code. This designates the month and year in which the batteries were manufactured. A more recent date indicates a fresher battery, which is desirable. Of course, installing a used battery is never a good idea. This can even be quite dangerous!
Battery warranties may vary. These can be an important consideration, especially if a free replacement is offered during the first few months. Sometimes a new battery may prove faulty within a short time after installation. A warranty will take care of this. Some suppliers offer 60-month warranties, which are ideal.
Online shopping comparison services are available, which can help consumers to determine the pros and cons of the many battery choices. Publications such as CONSUMER REPORTS and automotive industry magazines often print helpful feature articles on batteries and other car components. As the consumer, you have more power of choice, if you select a new automotive battery before the old one is dead. If your battery is stone-cold dead, then you may have fewer options. Once you are stranded, you will be at the mercy of the automotive repair shop to which the tow truck takes you.

When you take your car for routine oil changes and maintenance, be sure to ask the mechanic to do a load-test on your battery. This will indicate whether your battery is able to hold an electrical charge sufficiently. Failure to hold a charge is a major sign that your battery is losing its useful life. Some newer batteries do have devices on them that indicate the level of charge the battery still holds. A new car will generally require a new battery when it becomes four years old.

Be guided with the CHECK BATTERY TYPE found in the main page - What type of battery is right for you.



After they've served their useful purpose to power cars, trucks, and boats, there are ample recycling opportunities for lead-acid batteries.

A good reason for this is because of strict regulations for their disposal. In other words, you can't just throw them away in the garbage. Instead, use our handy tips for car battery recycling.

Part Recycled, Part Toxic
A typical lead-acid battery contains a high percentage of already recycled lead and plastic. It also contains sulfuric acid and heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium and nickel, which are toxic to people. Regulating disposal and car battery recycling eliminates the risk of air and water pollution from these potentially nasty substances!
Car battery recycling means they are broken down to reclaim their components. The plastics are separated and sent to a recycler to make new plastic products. Even the sulfuric acid can be recycled. The acid is neutralized with an industrial compound similar to household baking soda. This turns the acid into water, which is treated before it is released into the public sewer system.

Lead It Be
About 6 million tons of lead are used each year around the world, and about 75 percent of that is used in the production of lead-acid batteries. It's great when lead from batteries is recovered because this reduces the need for mining more ore. However, if car battery recycling takes place in an unregulated, unsafe way, it leads to the poisoning of recycling workers and their surroundings. This is the same scenario with electronics, which you can read about in our article on what to ask a recycler. Make sure that materials are not exported to other, developing countries, and that the recycler's environmental standards are high.
Almost 100 million new lead-acid batteries are manufactured each year, and because of the wide availability of recycling resources, it is estimated that over 90 percent of all car batteries in the U.S. are recycled. So here's where to take your old car batteries for recycling:
• Pretty much any retailer that sells lead-acid batteries also collects used ones for recycling, as required by most state laws. That means most automotive repair or supply shops accept car batteries for recycling, so ask the one near you.
• Scrap metal dealers will often pay for these batteries, as the lead and other metals are profitable.
• Your state's hazardous waste collection site is also a great place to responsibly dispose of car batteries and other stuff too, like oil-based paint. Here's where you can find links to every state's web sites related to hazardous waste programs.

Remember: When transporting an old car battery for recycling, use a cardboard boxes or plastic container and keep the battery upright. Wear protective gloves and/or safety glasses when handling old car batteries. Sometimes the acid leaves a crusty residue that you don't want touching your skin.

Testing a Battery

A car battery is the power house of the automobile. It grants power to all the electrical systems of a car, including the ignition system. This article talks about how to test a car battery by simple inspection and voltage measurement.

A car battery is an electrochemical device that supplies the much-needed electric power to your car. Everything that powers the car, including the engine is dependent on the electric battery. The car can create its own power through the use of an alternator which stores the generated electric power in a car storage battery, by charging it. Problems with the car battery can result into problems with ignition and many more devices, dependent on battery for power. So it's important for you to know how to test a car battery. Regular testing and maintenance of a car battery enhances its life and improves performance.

Working of a Car Battery
To test and diagnose a car battery problem, one needs to have a little insight into its working. A car battery is an electrolytic cell, designed to store electrical energy in the form of chemical energy and convert the chemical energy back into electrical energy, when required. It is a battery of six individual cells, each supplying about 2.1 V of electricity. So when joined in series and charged, they provide a voltage of 12.6 V approximately. The anode and cathode used in these cells are lead oxide (PbO) and sponge lead (Pb) respectively and the electrolyte used is dilute sulfuric acid.

There are two processes that occur in a car battery: the charging process and discharging process. The charging process converts the electrical energy input into chemical energy. The discharging process converts the chemical energy back into electric current output. When a load is connected across a battery, the circuit of the electrolytic cell is completed. The circuit is completed by flow of charge in form of cations and anions in the cells and in form of electrons through the external circuitry.

The key to maintaining a good battery output is to maintain the chemical balance of the cell. Water is an important factor in the chemical reaction inside the cell. Dropping water levels in a car battery can cause the voltage output to drop. If the battery is overcharged, some extra chemical reactions may occur which otherwise, do not. This hampers the reversibility of the chemical reaction. That is, the charging/discharging processes that are reversible reactions cannot occur anymore. Therefore, overcharging the battery should be avoided by monitoring the voltage levels while charging.

Car Battery Testing
Let me talk about a precautionary measure, before engaging in a discussion about battery testing. Make sure that no matter what you do, the two battery terminals are never connected together with each other, as it will lead to a short circuit. The high ampere current that results from it, may simply fry the equipment and even cause fire! So make sure that avoid making this blunder.
The only way to gauge a battery's performance is to test the voltage output it is offering. The output voltage levels that it provides with and without load can give you an idea of battery health. Here is a step wise procedure explaining car battery testing.

Step 1: Safety First
Handling car batteries can be hazardous, with sulfuric acid being the operating chemical inside them. It is essential that you wear protective gloves, clothing and safety goggles. That way, you are well protected from any electrical hazards that might possibly occur.

Step 2: Disconnect Car Battery
So to test a car battery, arm yourself with a voltmeter and set the dials on the 0-50 V range. Disconnect the battery from the car connections by following the details in the car manual to the word. While doing so attach a 9V alkaline battery to the car PCM as otherwise it loses its programmed settings.

Step 3: Connect Voltmeter With Battery Terminals
Connect positive red lead of voltmeter to positive of battery terminal and the black lead to the negative terminal. Check the voltage level. If it's in the range of 12.6 to 12.8, your battery is doing well and adequately charged. Anything below that, like 10 V or lower means that the battery is in need of charging, and you might want to check the alternator.

Step 4: Test Voltage Output Without Load
Now reconnect the battery and start the car. Keep it in idling mode and check the voltage reading between same points again. If it is around 10V, then the battery is okay. Anything below 10 V means that either the car battery needs charging, or some other problems are causing the voltage decline.

Step 5: Check Battery Fluid Levels
Next thing to check is the fluid levels in your car battery. To do this you must disconnect the battery again of course. Open up the battery cover and peep into the compartments of cells inside. The electrode plates should be submerged in the electrolytic fluid. If they are not, you must add distilled water to the cell compartment only uptil the fluid level rises about a one-fourth of an inch above the plates.

Another reason which may cause the battery to have a lot output, is a car alternator problem. Get it checked with the mechanic as soon as possible. You might alternatively use a battery tester, which has its own internal load resistance, that makes checking batteries simpler. Thus, you can test your car battery with ease, armed with just an humble voltmeter and a discerning mind! When you manage to deal with your car problems, on your own, it's indeed a satisfying experience.

How a Battery Dies

A battery is created by alternating two different metals such as Lead Dioxide (PbO2), the positive plates, and Sponge lead (Pb), the negative plates. Then the plates are immersed in diluted Sulfuric Acid (H2SO4), the electrolyte. The types of metals and the electrolyte used will determine the output of a cell. A typical fully charged lead-acid battery produces approximately 2.11 volts per cell. The chemical action between the metals and the electrolyte (battery acid) creates the electrical energy.

Energy flows from the battery as soon as there is an electrical load, for example, a starter motor, that completes a circuit between the positive terminal connected to the positive plates and the negative terminal connected to the negative plates. Electrical current flows as charged portions of acid (ions) between the battery plates and as electrons through the external circuit. The action of the lead-acid storage battery is determined by chemicals used, State-of-Charge, temperature, porosity, diffusion, and load. A cycle is defined as one discharge and one recharge of the battery.

How Batteries Die
When the active material in the plates can no longer sustain a discharge current, a battery "dies". Normally a car (or starting) battery "ages" as the active positive plate material sheds (or flakes off) due to the normal expansion and contraction that occurs during the discharge and charge cycles. This causes a loss of plate capacity and a brown sediment, called sludge or "mud," that builds up in the bottom of the case and can short the plates of a cell out. This will kill the battery as soon as the short occurs. In hot climates, additional causes of failure are positive grid growth, positive grid metal corrosion, negative grid shrinkage, buckling of plates, or loss of water. Deep discharges, heat, vibration, fast charging, and overcharging all accelerate the "aging" process. Approximately 50% of premature car battery failures is caused by the loss of water for normal recharging charging due to the lack of maintenance, evaporation from high under hood heat, or overcharging. Positive grid growth and undercharging causing sulfation also cause premature failures.

Normally well maintained and properly charged deep cycle batteries naturally die due to positive grid corrosion causing an open connection. The shedding of active material is an additional cause. If deep cycle battery is left discharged for long period of time, dendrite shorts between the plates can occur when the battery is recharged. The low resistance bridge in the shorted cell will heat up and boil the electrolyte out of the cell causing a high volumes of hydrogen and oxygen. That is why proper venting and ventilation is so important when recharging batteries. Approximately 85% of premature deep cycle and starting batteries failures that are not recharged on a regular basis is due to an accumulation of sulfation. Sulfation is caused when a battery's State-of-Charge drops below 100% for long periods or under charging. Hard lead sulfate crystals fills the pours and coats the plates. Please see Section 16 for more information on sulfation. Recharging a sulfated battery is like trying to wash your hands with gloves on.

In a hot climate, the harshest environment for a battery, a Johnson Controls survey of junk batteries revealed that the average life of a car battery was 37 months. In a separate North American study by BCI, the average life was 48 months. In a study by Interstate Batteries, the life expectancy in extreme heat was 30 months. If your car battery is more than three years old and you live in a hot climate, then your battery is probably living on borrowed time. Abnormally slow cranking, especially on a cold day, is another good indication that your battery is going bad. It should be externally recharged, surface charge removed, and load tested. Dead batteries almost always occur at the most inopportune times. You can easily spend the cost of a new battery or more for an emergency jump start, tow or taxi ride.

Most of the "defective" batteries returned to manufacturers during free replacement warranty periods are good. This strongly suggests that some sellers of new batteries do not know how to or fail to take the time to properly recharge and test batteries.

Why are vehicles negatively grounded?
It has been found that cars wired positive earth [ground] tend to suffer from chassis and body corrosion more readily than those wired negative earth. The reason is perfectly simple, since metallic corrosion is an electrolytic process where the anode or positive electrode corrodes sacrificially to the cathode.

The phenomenon is made use of in the "Cathodic Protection" of steel-hulled ships and underground pipelines where a less 'noble' or more electro-negative metal such as magnesium or aluminum is allowed to corrode sacrificially to the steel thus inhibiting its corrosion.

How to Check Juice in your Battery

Checking battery acid level.

There's more to checking a battery than testing the voltage and looking inside for low water.

For one thing, you need to check the voltage when the engine is off, not when the alternator is raising system voltage to its normal level. You can test for proper cranking voltage with a voltmeter while—you guessed it—cranking the engine. The several hundred amperes of current the starter motor draws should pull the battery voltage down to a normal 9 to 10 volts. Do this test: Disable the ignition or injection to prevent the engine from starting. Then put a voltmeter across the battery posts while cranking it with the key or an external remote starter button. Crank for 15 seconds (no longer); the battery voltage should remain 9.6 volts or above. (These are GM specs for a battery at 70 F; your mileage may vary.)

Another way to check is with a dedicated battery tester that has its own internal resistor pack and voltmeter. This is a lot easier to use--you don't need to disable the engine to crank it. Just check the voltage after 15 seconds.

Electrical System

Reliable starting and performance are tied into your vehicle's electrical system. It's important to monitor your vehicle's battery, starter and alternator health regularly.

Starting & Charging Performance Test

Why this is Important

The battery, starter and alternator are key components in the electrical system that starts your vehicle and keeps it running. A weak component can cause premature wear in other system components or cause the entire system to fail. For example, a weak battery left unchecked can overwork the alternator, ultimately causing it to fail. What's included Computerized diagnosis of your vehicle's battery, starter and alternator with printout. Inspection of alternator drive belt. Inspection of cable connections (including ground and battery terminals). Comprehensive evaluation based on the manufacturer's specifications and our technician's expert recommendations. Detailed written estimate for items requiring adjustment, repair or replacement. - Jump start steps

When to have this done
When experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Dashboard battery warning light is illuminated.
- Battery, starter or alternator is replaced.
- Vehicle has trouble or fails to crank over at start-up.
- Noticeable slow cranking or noise upon start-up.

Power On Demand

The battery strength or cranking ampage is generally affected by the amount of work it does and the conditions in which it has to work.

In-car entertainment & other electronic devices put your battery under even more strain.

What is Power on Demand?

- In-car entertainment & other electronic devices put your battery under even more strain.

- A battery check at can help prevent premature battery failure.

To locate a Bateriku call centre near you, click here. Alternatively, call centre directly on 1-800-22-2324 today.

In simple terms, a battery is an electrical storage device. Batteries do not make electricity they simply store the power until you are ready to use it. So when you turn the key to start your car, the battery supplies power to the starter motor, which turns the engine over. At the same time, power from the battery is supplied to the spark plugs, or glow plugs, in order to ignite the fuel and air mixture that has been compressed in the engine combustion cylinders.

The battery power used during the starting up process is then replaced by the alternator, which supplies the bulk of electrical current to your car's electrical systems, keeping your battery fully charged. The battery strength or cranking ampage is generally affected by the amount of work it does and the conditions in which it has to work. Also, over the past few years, in-car technology has grown to include items like air conditioning, digital music players, satellite navigation systems and other electronic gadgetry. All of these increase the demand on your car's battery and charging system. Consequently more frequent checks are recommended so that your car battery maintains its optimum working level.

Regular battery checks can help identify and prevent premature 'battery failure', which can result in a vehicle breakdown at a most inconvenient time.

Battery Check Video

Discover how a battery works

Love your battery - It is the heart of your car

Battery generates electrical source for your vehicle

FAQs Glossary

FAQs Glossary of Batteries

List of fact and figures you need to know about batteries.

The Glossary

Word Description
Nickel-Cadmium Battery (NiCad) A form of rechargeable battery used in portable devices such as camcorders, cell phones, cordless phones and power tools. Compared to nickel-metal-hydride and lithium-ion batteries, it can provide a higher constant discharge rate but has a lower capacity.
Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) A separator technology used in some sealed lead-acid batteries in which the glass-mat separator absorbs 100% of the electrolyte. Because of the immobilized electrolyte, an AGM battery will not leak or spill and does not require water addition. This battery is used in deep-cycle and specialty applications such as telecommunications, wheelchairs and security alarm systems, as well as in automotive starting applications.
AC Alternating Current - An electric current that varies periodically in magnitude and direction. A battery does not deliver alternating current. This periodic variation is counted in hertz.
Active Material The chemical paste that adheres to the positive (+) and negative (-) electrodes in a battery and reacts with the sulfuric acid.
AGM Absorbent Glass Mat - Separator technology used in some sealed lead-acid batteries in which the glass-mat separator absorbs 100% of the electrolyte. Because of the immobilized electrolyte, an AGM battery will not leak or spill and does not require water addition. This battery is used in deep-cycle and specialty applications such as telecommunications, wheelchairs and security alarm systems, as well as in automotive starting applications.
AH Amp-Hour : The unit of measure for a battery's electrical storage capacity, obtained by multiplying the current in amps by the time in hours of discharge. Example: A battery delivering 10 amps for 20 hours = 10 amps x 20 hours = 200 AH.
Alkaline Battery A nonrechargeable, dry-cell battery — such as a AA, AAA, C, D or 9-volt battery — that uses alkaline aqueous solution for its electrolyte. It has a greater capacity than some other types of dry-cell batteries.
Alloy A mixture of different types of metals or a mixture of a metal and a nonmetal.
Alternating Current (AC) - An electric current that varies periodically in magnitude and direction. A battery does not deliver alternating current. This periodic variation is counted in hertz.
Alternator An alternating-current generator that produces and rectifies current so that it can be used in an automobile.
American National Standards Institute (ANSI) - An organization, sponsored by the National Electric Manufacturers Association (NEMA), that establishes policy and standards regarding cell sizes, terminals and testing procedures.
Ammeter An instrument that measures the flow of current in amps. Ammeters can be made to read DC (Direct Current) and AC (Alternating Current.)
Amp Short for ampere, it is the unit of measure for the amount of current that is flowing through a circuit.
Amp-Hour (AH) - The unit of measure for a battery's electrical storage capacity, obtained by multiplying the current in amps by the time in hours of discharge. Example: A battery delivering 10 amps for 20 hours = 10 amps x 20 hours = 200 AH.
Amperage The amount of current flow within a circuit, expressed in amps.
Ampere (Amp) - The unit of measure for the amount of current that is flowing through a circuit.
Anode The positive (+) terminal of an electrolyte battery. The negative (-) terminal of a primary cell battery.
ANSI American National Standards Institute - An organization, sponsored by the National Electric Manufacturers Association (NEMA), that establishes policy and standards regarding cell sizes, terminals and testing procedures.
Application The equipment in which a battery is used.
Automotive Battery A battery designed to start an automobile, also known as a Starting, Lighting, and Ignition (SLI) battery.
Average Drain The average current withdrawn — i.e., the drain — from a cell or battery during discharge, usually approximated by calculating the current at 50% depth of discharge.
Battery A device that produces and stores electrical energy as a result of a chemical reaction. A 12-volt battery has six individual 2-volt cells that contain positive (+) plates and negative (-) plates that create electrical current. A fully charged 12-volt battery produces at least 12.66 volts.
Battery Charge See State of Charge.
Battery Council International (BCI) An association of battery industry companies whose members establish policy and standards for the industry.
Battery Group Size See Group Size.
BCI Battery Council International (BCI) - An association of battery industry companies whose members establish policy and standards for the industry.
BCI Group Number See Group Size
Boost Charging Charging at an extremely high rate of 50-300 amps, this method is primarily used to rapidly charge a battery in order to start a vehicle in a matter of a few seconds to five minutes.
Button Cell A single-cell, miniature battery, such as a watch battery, that is the size and shape of a button.
CA cranking amps
Capacitor A device that can store a charge on conducting plates, it is most frequently called a condenser, as in "points and condenser," in an automobile.
Capacity The ability of a fully charged battery to deliver a specified quantity of electricity (AH) at a given rate (amps) over a definite period of time (hours).
Carbon-Zinc Battery A general-purpose battery, made of a carbon-zinc alloy, such as a AA, AAA, C, D or 9-volt battery. It typically has a lower capacity than alkaline batteries but is used in the same applications, e.g., flashlights.
Cathode (1) The negative (-) terminal of an electrolyte battery. (2) The positive (+) terminal of a primary cell battery.
CCA cold-cranking amps
CCV closed-circuit voltage
Cell (Dry) The basic unit that converts chemical energy directly into electric energy. Typically consists of two electrodes of dissimilar material isolated from one another electronically in immobilized electrolyte. See also Dry-Cell Battery.
Cell (Flooded) The basic unit that converts chemical energy directly into electric energy. Typically consists of a set of positive (+) plates, negative (-) plates, liquid electrolyte, separators and casing. A 12-volt battery has six cells.
Cell Mismatch The condition of a battery pack that contains cells with significant variations in voltage or capacity. In a liquid-electrolyte battery, cell mismatch may be determined using a hydrometer.
Cell Reversal See Reversed Polarity
CEMF counter electromotive force
Charging The process of supplying electrical energy to a discharged battery for conversion to stored chemical energy.
Charging Voltage The voltage used to overcome a battery's internal resistance and to recharge the battery.
Circuit The path followed by a current. See also Open Circuit, Parallel Circuit and Series Circuit.
Closed-Circuit Voltage (CCV) The voltage of a battery when the cell or battery is under a specific discharge load and time interval. See also Open-Circuit Voltage.
Coin Cell A miniature battery — typically a single-cell — such as a keyless-remote or camera battery, that is the size and shape of a coin.
Cold-Cranking Amps (CCA) A rating that is used to define the battery's ability to start an engine under low-temperature conditions. BCI defines it as "the number of amps a lead-acid battery at 0ºF (-17.8ºC) can deliver for 30 seconds and maintain at least 1.2 volts per cell (7.2 volts for a 12-volt lead-acid battery). See also CA and HCA.
Conditioning (1) The process of restoring capacity to a nickel-cadmium or nickel-metal-hydride battery by deeply discharging and recharging the battery multiple times. (2) The process of preparing a lead-acid battery for a set of standard electrical tests by a precise charge regime.
Conductance The ability of a circuit to conduct current. It is the mathematical reciprocal of electrical resistance.
Conductor A material that allows the movement of electrons (current), such as the metals used for wire and contacts. The best conductors are gold, silver and copper, followed by lead, aluminum and steel.
Constant Current Charging or discharging method in which current does not change appreciably in magnitude regardless of battery voltage or temperature.
Constant Resistance A situation during discharge in which the resistance of the application remains constant.
Constant-Current Battery Charger A battery charger with output current that stays relatively constant as the battery state of charge increases.
Constant-Current Discharge A discharge in which the current drawn from the battery remains constant.
Constant-Voltage Battery Charger A voltage-regulated battery charger that allows a decrease in charging current as the battery state of charge increases.
Continuity The indication that a circuit is complete between two points; continuity does not exist in an open circuit.
Continuous Test A battery test in which the battery is continuously discharged until it reaches a predetermined voltage.
Corrosion A destructive chemical reaction with a reactive metal that forms a new compound. Saltwater or dilute sulfuric acid on steel, for example, forms the corrosion compound, rust. Battery terminals can be subject to corrosion.
Counter Electromotive Force (CEMF) The voltage that is produced within the battery, mainly by chemical means, that opposes the charging voltage.
Cranking Amps (CA) A rating that is used to define the battery's ability to start an engine in moderate temperature conditions. BCI defines it as "the discharge load in amps that a new, fully-charged battery at 32ºF (0ºC) can continuously deliver for 30 seconds while maintaining a terminal voltage equal to or higher than 1.20 volts per cell." This artificially high rating should not be confused with CCA, which is conducted at 0ºF (-17.8ºC).
Cranking Battery An SLI battery
Current (I) The rate that electricity flows through a conductor, such as the wire in a battery cable. Current is measured in amps. See also Alternating Current and Direct Current.
Current Drain The current withdrawn from a battery during discharge. See Drain
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Cutoff Voltage The voltage at the end of useful discharge. When battery voltage is below this level, the connected equipment will not operate and operation is not recommended.
Cycle One sequence of battery activity, which is a battery discharge followed by a complete recharge.
Cycle Life The total number of cycles a battery can undergo before it no longer performs at a predetermined minimum rated capacity.
Cycling The repeated charge/discharge cycle of a battery. Some batteries are rated according to their ability to cycle.
Cylindrical Battery (1) A battery that has a height greater than its diameter. (2) A battery made up of cylindrical cells.
Cylindrical Cell A battery cell design in which the positive (+) plates and negative (-) plates are rolled up and placed into a cylindrical-shaped container. In Interstate's Extreme Performance batteries, this construction is called Spiralcell® technology.
DC direct current
Deep Discharge The discharge of the battery to below the specified cutoff voltage before the battery is replaced or recharged.
Deep-Cycle Battery A battery that is designed to withstand repetitive discharges to a 20% depth of discharge or more and to continue providing its rated capacity after hundreds of cycles. Deep-cycle batteries are often used in marine/RV and industrial applications.
Depth of Discharge (DOD) The percent of rated capacity to which a cell or battery is discharged. It is the reciprocal of a battery's state of charge. Example: a battery that has a depth of discharge of 45% has a state of charge of 55%.
Digital Voltmeter (DVM) See voltmeter
Diode A semiconductor device that acts like a one-way valve for current. Today's alternators use diodes to rectify current.
Direct Current (DC) An electrical current that flows in one direction only. A battery delivers direct current, discharging the battery, and is recharged with direct current.
Discharge Rate The rate at which current is drawn from a battery, usually expressed in amps.
Discharged The state of a battery when it has less than a 100% state of charge. Levels of discharge are shown in the Open-Circuit-Voltage Chart.
Discharging The withdrawal of electrical energy from a cell or battery, usually to operate connected equipment. A battery is discharging when it delivers current.
Distilled water If the water level in your battery is low, Interstate Batteries recommends adding nothing but distilled water to a vehicle battery. No other additives have been proven to extend battery life and may actually decrease it.
Drain Withdrawal of current from a cell or battery. Often referred to as discharging. See also Average Drain and Initial Drain.
Dry Battery A battery in which the electrolyte is immobilized, being either in the form of a paste or absorbed into the separator material.
Dry-Cell Battery A cylindrical-cell battery, typically nonrechargeable and disposable, such as a standard alkaline, heavy-duty or general-purpose battery. See also Cell.
Dual-Alloy Battery See Low-Maintenance Battery.
Dual-Terminal Battery An automotive battery with top terminals and side terminals.
Duty Cycle The time duration and use frequency during which a battery is drained. It is affected by such factors as charge and discharge rates, depth of discharge, length of cycle, and length of time in standby mode.
E volt
Electricity The flow of electrons through conductive materials and devices.
Electrode A conductor used to establish electrical contact with a nonmetallic part of a circuit
Electrolysis The chemical process that breaks down the water in the electrolyte, releasing hydrogen from the cathode and oxygen from the anode.
Electrolyte The dilute solution of approximately 25% sulfuric acid (H2SO4) and 75% water by volume in a lead-acid battery, it conducts electricity required for the battery to supply energy. A lead-acid battery may have a liquid, gelled or immobilized electrolyte.
Electromechanical Of, relating to, or being a process or device that converts electrical energy into mechanical movement. A starter motor and an alternator are electromechanical devices.
Electromotive Force (EMF) voltage
Electron A negatively charged particle that orbits the nucleus of an atom.
Element In a battery, a set of positive (+) plates and negative (-) plates along with separators.
EMF electromotive force, which is another term for voltage
Energy Density The ratio of a battery's energy-delivery capability to its weight or volume, measured in watt-hours per kilogram or watt-hours per cubic centimeter.
Equalizing Charge A charging method that equalizes the specific gravity or voltage levels of individual cells in a battery or a group of batteries connected in series.
Fast Charge A high rate charge — typically above 20 amps — for one to five hours that provides a quick blast of energy. It is often used to get the battery to a recharge level that can restart a vehicle. Repeated fast charges overcharge the battery and reduce service life.
Float Charge A low, constant-current or constant-voltage charge that compensates for the self-discharge of a battery normally used in a standby application.
Flooded Battery A type of liquid, lead-acid battery. See Vented Battery.
Frequency The number of times that a periodic function, such as current or voltage, repeats the same sequence of values within a unit of time. It is measured in hertz.
Fuse A safety device in a circuit that melts "open" at a specific level of current in order to protect the circuit from shorts circuits and current surges.
Fusible Link A type of fuse in a circuit consisting of a reduced number of strands of wire held together by solder.
Gassing The production of gas in a battery due to the chemical reaction during recharging
Gel-Cell Battery A recombinant-chemistry, lead-acid battery in which the electrolyte is immobilized by adding a gelling agent. Totally sealed and valve-regulated, it is nonspillable and does not require water addition. Gel-cell batteries are used in special applications such as telecommunications, wheel chairs and security alarm systems.
General-Purpose Battery The least expensive of the typical dry-cell batteries, it has the lowest capacity and is suitable only for low-drain applications, such as TV remote controls, clocks and keyless remotes.
Grid A lead-alloy framework that supports the active material of a battery plate and conducts current. In SLI batteries, it may contain antimony or calcium to make it more rigid.
Ground A large conducting body, such as the metal frame of a vehicle, used as a common return for an electric circuit and as an arbitrary zero of potential. When jump starting or installing a battery, it is important to identify the ground cable to avoid damage when attaching the cable to the ground. The negative (-) terminal of the battery is used as the ground in 99% of automotive applications today.
Ground Cable The cable which connects the ground - e.g., the metal frame of the vehicle - to the battery, normally to the negative (-) terminal.
Group Size The physical dimensions of a battery. BCI assigns letters and numbers for North American battery size types. All group-size-24 batteries, for example, have similar container dimensions, terminal orientation and terminal types.
Hazardous Waste Waste that is classified by the government as potentially harmful to the environment. Lead and cadmium are examples of chemicals that are particularly hazardous.
HCA hot-cranking amps
HD heavy duty
Heavy-Duty Battery (Commercial) A lead-acid, liquid-electrolyte, starting battery used in medium and heavy-duty trucks, construction vehicles and other off-road vehicles.
Heavy-Duty Battery (Dry-Cell) A dry-cell battery used in low-to-medium-drain applications, such as flashlights and radios. A lower-priced alternative to an alkaline battery, it has less capacity and is unsuitable for high-drain applications.
Hertz (Hz) A unit of frequency equal to one cycle per second.
Hot-Cranking Amps (HCA) A rating similar to CCA that is used to define the current output of a storage battery at 80°F (27°C). These inflated ratings should not be confused with CCA.
Hourly Rate See amp-hour
Hydrometer An instrument — normally a mechanical float type device but can be electronic — used to determine the state of charge of a battery by measuring the specific gravity of its electrolyte.
Hz hertz
I current
IEC International ElectroChemical Commission
Immobilized Electrolyte An electrolyte made motionless by use of a gel additive or AGM separator. See also Gel-Cell Battery and Recombinant.
Impedance (Z) The total opposition that a battery offers to the flow of alternating current. Impedance is a combination of resistance and reactance.
Initial Drain The current that a cell or battery supplies when first placed on load. Also referred to as starting drain.
Insulator A material — such as rubber, some plastics and glass — that is highly resistant to conducting electricity.
Internal Resistance (Ri) The opposition to direct current flow within a battery, which causes a drop in closed-circuit voltage proportional to the battery's discharge rate.
International ElectroChemical Commission (IEC) A worldwide organization that establishes standards in the electrical and electronic fields.
Key-Off Drain An electrical discharge, such as that caused by a vehicle computer memory or alarm system, that draws power from the car battery when the vehicle is not running. See also Drain.
Kilowatt (kW) One thousand watts.
kW kilowatt
Lead-acid Battery A storage battery with an active material of lead and lead peroxide and with an electrolyte solution of water and sulfuric acid. Maintenance-free, low-maintenance and gel-cell batteries are types of lead-acid batteries.
LeClanche A carbon-zinc battery with slightly acidic electrolyte consisting of ammonium chloride and zinc chloride in water.
Li-ION lithium-ion battery
Lithium Battery Lithium primary batteries are non-rechargeable batteries used in devices requiring long life and low, steady power, such as digital watches, computers and smoke detectors. Some types of lithium batteries are specifically designed for applications with high power requirements, such as wireless microphones and flash units.
Lithium-Ion Battery (Li-ION) A rechargeable battery with a very high capacity for its size and weight compared to other rechargeable batteries. It is used in portable devices such as laptops, cellular phones and camcorders.
Load A circuit's built-in resistance — e.g., the starting motor, headlights or resistor — that discharges the battery when operating.
Load Tester An instrument that discharges a battery using an electrical load while measuring voltage. It determines the battery's ability to perform under actual operating conditions.
Low-Maintenance Battery Normally a lead-acid battery, it may require periodic water addition under normal service conditions. A dual-alloy battery, it typically uses a low antimony lead alloy in the positive (+) grid and a calcium-lead alloy in the negative (-) grid.
mA MilliAmp
mAH Milliamp-hour
Maintenance-Free Battery A battery that does not require water addition under normal service conditions. Both positive (+) and negative (-) grids are made of lead/calcium.
Marine-Cranking Amps (MCA) A rating that is used to define the number of amps that a lead-acid marine battery at 32°F (0°C) can deliver for 30 seconds and maintain at least 1.2 volts per cell (7.2 volts for a 12-volt lead-acid battery). This artificially high rating should not be confused with CCA.
MCA marine cranking amps
Memory Effect A condition that is created when a NiCad or NiMH battery is partially discharged and recharged repeatedly, causing a loss of capacity.
MilliAmp (mA) One one-thousandth of an amp
Milliamp-hour (mAH) One one-thousandth of an amp-hour
Miniature Battery A button- or coin-shaped battery — i.e., a button cell or coin cell — with a diameter greater than its height. The term miniature is also used to describe batteries made up of miniature cells.
Multimeter Also known as a volt-ohm-meter (VOM), it is an instrument designed to do a variety of electrical testing, including voltage, amperage and resistance.
Negative (-) Normally refers to the negative (-) battery terminal, which is the point from which electrons flow during discharge. The negative (-) terminal cap or cable is typically black, designating negative (-). See also Ground.
Negative (-) Plate The negative (-) electrodes of a battery composed of "spongy" lead on a grid. See also Active Material.
NiCad nickel-cadmium battery
Nickel-Metal-Hydride Battery (NiMH) A form of rechargeable battery used in portable devices such as camcorders, cell phones, cordless phones and laptops. It provides a higher capacity than a nickel-cadmium battery but is designed to perform at a lower discharge rate.
NiMH nickel-metal-hydride battery
Nominal Voltage The rated voltage of a battery
OCV open-circuit voltage
Ohm The unit of measure for resistance within an electrical circuit. Its symbol is the Greek letter omega.
Ohm's Law An equation — E (Volts) = I (Current) x R (Resistance) — that expresses the relationship between volts, amps and ohms in an electrical circuit with resistance.
Ohmmeter An instrument used to measure resistance in an electrical circuit
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Open Circuit A circuit that has a broken or interrupted path, preventing current flow
Open-Circuit Voltage (OCV) The no-load voltage of a cell or battery measured with a voltmeter. See also Closed-Circuit Voltage
Overcharging The forcing of current through the battery after it is fully charged. Overcharging reduces service life and can damage the battery.
Parallel Circuit A circuit in which the current has more than one path to follow. In this configuration, two batteries of equal rating are wired together positive (+) to positive (+) and negative (-) to negative (-). In parallel, the RC (Reserve Capacity) and CCA (Cold Cranking Amps) double while the voltage remains the same as the weakest individual battery.
Photovoltaic Of, relating to or utilizing the generation of a voltage when radiant energy falls on the boundary between dissimilar substances, such as two different semiconductors.
Plate A composite of a grid framework and the chemical active material. See Positive Plate and Negative Plate.
Polarity The particular state of a battery terminal, either positive (+) or negative (-)
Polarization The electrical potential reduction of electrodes, typically arising from prolonged or rapid discharge of the battery
Positive (+) Normally refers to the positive (+) battery terminal, which is the point to which electrons in the external circuit flow during discharge. Sometimes the positive (+) terminal cap or cable is red, designating positive (+)
Positive (+) Plate The positive (+) electrodes of a battery composed of lead peroxide on a grid. See also Active Material
Potential Difference Voltage or electromotive force (EMF)
Power The rate at which work is done. Power is measured in watts. P (Power) = E (Voltage) x I (Current)
Primary Battery A cell or battery designed to deliver its rated capacity once and then be discarded; it is not designed to be recharged. Primary batteries include alkaline, heavy-duty and general-purpose batteries
R resistance
Rapid Charge The charging of a battery, typically a NiCad, to its capacity in a short period of time
Rapid-Charge Battery A battery pack that is designed to accept a high amount of current in a short amount of time, such as a radio-control battery
Rate Sensitivity Typically refers to battery performance under various discharge loads with operating voltage being the defining characteristic
Rated Capacity (Dry Cell) The average capacity delivered by a cell or battery on a specified load and temperature to a cutoff voltage, as designated by the manufacturer. Rated capacity is usually determined by an accelerated test approximating the cell or battery's capacity in typical use.
Rated Capacity (Flooded) The CCA, RC or amp-hours that a battery can deliver at a given rate of discharge, end voltage and temperature. These ratings are often displayed on the outside of the battery
RC reserve capacity
Rechargeable Battery A cell or battery capable of being recharged. Refers to secondary batteries
Recharging See charging
Recombinant The process in which the oxygen formed at the positive (+) plate diffuses to the negative (-) plate, reacts with the lead and suppresses water loss. In a recombinant (immobilized electrolyte) chemistry battery, gassing is recombined within the sealed battery so that water addition is unnecessary
Reconditioning See Conditioning
Rectifier Device that changes alternating current to direct current
Rectify To convert alternating current into direct current
Reserve Capacity (RC) BCI defines it as "the number of minutes a new, fully-charged battery at 80ºF (27ºC) can be discharged at 25 amps and maintain a voltage equal to or higher than 1.75 volts per cell" (i.e., 10.5 volts for a 12-volt battery). This rating represents the time the battery will continue to operate essential accessories in the event of a charging system failure.
Resistance (R) The opposition to the free flow of current in a circuit. Resistance is measured in ohms. See also Internal Resistance
Resistor A device, with electrical resistance, that is used in an electrical circuit for current control and efficient operation.
Reversal See Reversed Polarity
Reversed Polarity The changing or reversing of the normal polarity of a battery, which commonly occurs when battery cables or charging cables are connected backwards
Ri internal resistance.
Sealed Battery A maintenance-free battery with nonremovable vent caps
Secondary Battery Any battery that is designed to be recharged, such as lead-acid, NiCad and nickel-metal-hydride batteries
Self-Discharge The discharge that occurs in a battery while it is not in use. The higher the temperature, the greater the rate of self-discharge
Self-Discharge Rate The rate at which a cell or battery loses its capacity when standing idle
Separator An insulative divider between the positive (+) plates and negative (-) plates of an element that allows the flow of current to pass through it and prevents positive (+) and negative (-) electrodes from touching and creating a short circuit. Interstate's lead-acid batteries generally use polyethylene separators
Series Circuit A circuit in which the current has only one path to follow. In this configuration, two batteries of equal rating are wired together positive (+) to negative (-). In series, the battery voltage increases while the RC and CCA remain the same as the weakest individual battery
Series/Parallel Circuit A circuit in which some of the terminals are connected in series to increase total voltage, and some are connected in parallel to increase total capacity. The amount of voltage and capacity depends on the exact number of series and parallel connections
Service Life The length of time a battery can be used in a given application
Shelf Life The amount of time a cell or battery will retain a specified percent of its rated capacity, typically under ambient storage conditions. Interstate's superior rotation service ensures that batteries are fresh on the shelf
Short Circuit An unwanted electrical connection between a negative (-) ground and a positive (+) source. A short circuit in a battery cell may be permanent enough to discharge the cell and render the battery useless
Silver-Oxide Battery A small, nonrechargeable battery used in devices such as watches and calculators
SLI Starting, Lighting, and Ignition - A battery primarily used to start a vehicle and to provide power for lights and accessories. SLI batteries include automotive, deep-cycle and heavy-duty commercial starting batteries.
Slow Charging Charging at a rate of about 5-10% of a battery's rated capacity. Example: 50 AH battery x 10% = 5-amp charge
Smart Battery A battery with internal circuitry designed to communicate information, such as capacity remaining, to the user or to other parts of the application's circuit
Smart Charger A charger that fully discharges a NiCad battery and/or an NiMH battery before recharging it to prevent a memory effect from occurring
Solenoid (1) A term used to mean coil or inductor. (2) A type of relay that switches the starter current "off" in an automobile after the engine engages
Specialty Battery Any battery other than an SLI battery
Specific Gravity In a lead-acid battery, the weight of sulfuric acid compared to the weight of an equal volume of pure water
Standby A backup power supply. See also Float Charge and Uninterrupted Power Supply
Standby Time The number of hours a cell phone can be left "on" and unused before its battery's capacity is depleted. See also Talk Time
Starting Battery A starting-lighting-and-ignition battery (SLI)
Starting-Lighting-and-Ignition Battery (SLI) A battery primarily used to start a vehicle and to provide power for lights and accessories. SLI batteries include automotive, deep-cycle and heavy-duty commercial starting batteries
State of Charge The condition of a battery in terms of rated capacity remaining at a given point in time. See also Open-Circuit-Voltage Chart, Specific-Gravity Chart and Depth of Discharge
Stratification A condition in which the concentration of acid is greater at the bottom of the battery than at the top. Normally caused by continued undercharging.
Sulfation The accumulation of lead sulfates on the plates of a lead-acid battery. When enough plate area has sulfated, the battery will not be able to provide enough current and will normally need to be replaced
Switch A mechanical device used for opening and closing a circuit
Talk Time The number of minutes that a cell phone can be used before its battery's capacity is depleted. See also Standby Time.
Temperature Cutoff A device, such as a thermostat, that senses battery temperature and opens the battery circuit when the temperature reaches a certain point.
Terminal A connection point on a device or component, e.g., a battery terminal.
Terminal Voltage The voltage at the battery terminals
Trickle Charging Charging at a very slow rate of 1-2 amps, this is typically used for smaller batteries — e.g., motorcycle, lawn and garden — or occasionally is erroneously used for keeping large automotive batteries fully charged when they are not in use.
Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) It is a battery-powered system that provides standby power if the primary power is interrupted.
Unwanted Resistance Any resistance — e.g., corrosion and inadequate connections — found in a circuit that is not designed into the circuit.
UPS uninterrupted power supply
Valve-Regulated Lead-acid Battery (VRLA) A lead-acid battery that is sealed with the exception of a one-way valve that opens to the atmosphere when the internal gas pressure in the battery exceeds the atmospheric pressure by a pre-selected amount. VRLA batteries are sometimes called recombinant batteries
Vented Battery A battery in which the gaseous products of electrolysis and evaporation are allowed to escape into the atmosphere as they are generated. These batteries are commonly referred to as flooded batteries
Venting When gas or electrolyte escapes through a valve or vent
Volt (E) The unit of measure for electrical potential or pressure, which is also called electromotive force (EMF). Volts = Amps x Ohms
Volt-ohm-meter (VOM) multimeter
Voltage Also called electromotive force (EMF), it is the electrical pressure that forces electron flow in a complete circuit
Voltage Drop The net difference in the electrical potential (voltage) when measured across a resistance (ohms). Its relationship with current is described in Ohm's Law
Voltage Regulator A device that limits the charging voltage in a circuit
Voltmeter An instrument used to measure the voltage in a circuit or the state of charge of a battery by measuring its open-circuit voltage
VOM Volt-ohm-meter See Multimeter
VRLA valve-regulated lead-acid battery
W watt
Watt (W) The unit of measure for electrical power. W = Amps x Volts.
Watt-Hour The unit of measure for electrical energy. Watt-Hour = Watts x Hours.
Z impedance
Zinc Chloride A chemistry used in some heavy-duty batteries.
Zinc-Air Cell A dry-cell battery system that uses oxygen and catalyzed carbon as the cathode and zinc as the anode to produce electricity. - Terms of Use

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