If some of the cars on your lot aren’t getting quite as much attention or ride time as others, you may find yourself spending a lot more on replacement batteries. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A high-quality battery charger could be the answer to your weak or dead battery problems.
While you may wonder whether the most inexpensive charger on the market will do the trick, high-quality chargers will offer far more value and save you money in the long run. This post will take a look at the following:
- Different types of battery chargers
- The benefits of choosing a high-quality charger
- Considerations when selecting a charger
Basic Chargers vs. Smart Chargers
A battery charger for cars and other vehicles is a device that connects to the car battery terminals and plugs into an electrical outlet. You might need a battery charger for two reasons: to revive a dead battery or keep it from discharging when it isn’t in use. Battery chargers fall into two broad categories: basic chargers (often called trickle chargers) and smart chargers.
Trickle chargers. These provide a small, steady amount of power to replenish a battery as it discharges. This method is particularly beneficial for batteries in vehicles that are infrequently used, helping maintain their health over prolonged periods. But these chargers must be unplugged when the battery is finished charging, or they could overcharge and damage the battery.
Trickle chargers typically don’t offer float charging, which is a function that maintains a level of charge for the battery without the risk of overcharging. Overcharging is dangerous because it can lead to gas buildup in the battery, which can reduce the electrolyte levels and damage the lead plates or even cause the battery to burst.
In contrast, smart chargers continuously collect information from the battery during the charging process and can adjust voltage and current as needed. This allows them to charge the battery without the risk of overcharging.
Smart chargers. These often offer multiple functions, like float charging and pulse charging. Pulse charging is a function that supplies the battery with short bursts at a higher voltage to help remove built-up lead sulfate crystals on a battery. These lead sulfate crystals, called sulfation, can cause batteries to die prematurely.
No matter the charger you decide to go with, charging the battery before it has deeply discharged is better for the life of the battery. The more you fully drain the battery before recharging, the more chances there are for lead sulfate to crystallize and cause sulfation.
Benefits of High-Quality Battery Chargers
High-quality battery chargers offer optimized battery charging for your vehicle batteries, so you don’t overcharge or undercharge your batteries. This leads to several benefits for your battery, car and wallet.
A reliable battery charger for cars:
Boosts battery lifespan. How long will your car battery last? It depends, but most standard vehicle batteries last three to five years, and electric batteries can last eight to 20 years. Maintaining your battery will maximize its lifespan, and that’s where a good battery charger comes in. Rechargers can keep batteries at the optimal charge, even if no one is driving the car frequently. They also help protect against sulfation, which happens when a battery isn’t charged enough and can prematurely kill the battery.
Saves money. There are many ways that a battery charger can save you money. For one, you'll spend less on battery replacements by extending the battery life. The whole vehicle can also run more efficiently by keeping the battery optimally charged. You don’t want to spend extra money on utilities to recharge the batteries, and smart, high-quality chargers will monitor charge levels to prevent overcharging and excess energy use.
Maintains battery charge. When vehicles sit for weeks or months, the battery power slowly drains. A good recharging device with pulse charge will maintain up to 99% charge in a battery, even if it sits for months. The pulse charge will also make sure to maintain the charge without overcharging the battery, which could damage the plates or cause the battery to bloat, crack or burst.
Revives dead batteries. While you don’t need to wait for the battery to completely die before you recharge it, a good battery recharger will bring a dead battery back to life. During this process, called reconditioning, the battery will recharge over the course of a few hours. The best chargers can even help counteract sulfation from deeply discharged batteries through micropulses that target lead sulfate crystals. That said, chargers can’t always revive a battery. Smart chargers with reconditioning functionality may not revive AGM batteries, which may not react to the micropulses. Also, for batteries that have been sitting without a charger for over a month, the battery may be too deeply discharged to revive with a charger.
Offers more durability. If you don’t want to replace your battery often, you probably don’t want to replace a bunch of chargers, either. Lower-quality chargers are often made with cheaper materials, and they may stop working sooner or have pieces break off. High-quality battery chargers are also better sealed and can withstand elements like dust or even water.
Provides more functionality. High-quality chargers have better designs and smart features that improve their durability and functionality. You can set specific charge times and monitor battery conditions. Smart chargers will perform analysis during charging to test for bleeds in the battery (and if your battery is bleeding while fully charged, you probably need to start shopping for a battery replacement; but don’t worry, you’ll be able to better maintain your new battery with the help of a great charger).
Operates with minimal assistance. Chargers that offer float and/or pulse charging mean you don’t have to remember to shut off the charger. This “set it and forget it” feature isn’t just convenient for keeping the battery at the right charge level; it’s also better for your battery. When you forget to unplug a basic charger, you risk overcharging your battery, which can cause dangerous gassing and cause the battery to bulge or even burst.
Improves safety. High-quality battery chargers include safety features that prevent the battery from becoming overcharged or offer more protection against short circuits in your electrical system. Lower quality battery chargers don’t have safety elements, so a short circuit or over voltage could cause damage to the battery or could lead to a fire or electrical shock.
Important Considerations Before You Buy a Battery Charger
Knowing all the benefits of a good battery charger, you’re probably ready to start shopping for this helpful tool. But what should you look for when you go to buy a battery charger? Before you buy, be sure to consider the following:
Battery type. Unless you buy a multipurpose charger that can be set to service different battery types, make sure to choose a charger that will work with specific battery types. A lithium-ion battery in an electric vehicle will need a lithium-ion battery charger, while a flooded lead-acid battery will require a similarly compatible charger. Cars with start-stop technology typically have batteries, like gel cell batteries, that require a smart charger.
Voltage. Make sure to check the voltage rating of your charger. It should match the vehicle battery’s voltage rating. If it’s too high, it could damage the battery or cause it to burst.
Battery size. The battery charger’s amp rating needs to be about 10% to 20%, at most 30%, of the battery’s Amp-hours (Ah) rating to prevent overcharging. For instance, you should buy a 10-amp battery charger for a battery with a 50 Ah rating. You can find the battery Ah on the outside of the battery, or you can contact the battery manufacturer. Some smart battery chargers can be set to supply different amounts of current, which is ideal if you’ll be charging multiple batteries with different Ah ratings.
Functionality. Look for smart battery chargers that offer programmable features and helpful phases for desulfation, reconditioning, analysis, float charge and pulse charge. These high-quality battery chargers will make charging a battery far easier and more convenient than a basic charger, not to mention safer.
Battery lifespan. One thing to consider before you buy a battery charger is the age of your current batteries. For a fleet of vehicles, some batteries may be near the end of their lifespans at four or five years old, while others may be newer. You may want to make sure to replace older batteries before buying chargers, or the charger you buy for the older batteries may not be compatible if you have to replace those batteries in the near future. You’ll also likely need to buy multiple types of chargers to service different battery types.
The Best Batteries Deserve the Best Chargers
You wouldn’t use regular gas in a luxury vehicle when premium fuel is available for better performance. Similarly, if you want your car battery to last longer and work more efficiently, you don’t want to skimp on a battery charger. A high-quality battery charger offers many benefits that make it worth the investment. Good battery chargers add more benefits than a basic charger, such as extending the lifespan of a battery and making recharging safer and easier.