Frequently Asked Questions
Get the Answers to your Battery Questions
Lead-acid batteries are 100% recyclable. Lead is the most recycled metal in the world today, and all lead within a battery is completely recyclable. The plastic containers and covers of old batteries can be neutralized, reground and used in the manufacturing of new battery cases. The electrolyte within lead-acid batteries can be cleaned, reprocessed and reused as battery-grade electrolyte. In other instances, the sulfate content is removed as ammonia sulfate and used in fertilizers. The separators can be used as a fuel source for the recycling process. Discover the step-by-step process of battery recycling.
Yes. As the state of charge in a battery decreases, the electrolyte becomes more like water, and the freezing temperature increases. This is why it is so important to make sure your battery stays fully charged in extremely cold weather. If a battery freezes, it can damage the plates and container, leading to a potential explosion.
Lead-acid batteries are a type of battery most commonly used to power cars and other automotive equipment. Learn more about lead-acid batteries.
Yes. While lead-acid battery explosions are uncommon, they can occur under certain conditions. The most common cause is overcharging. If the battery is left on the charger for an extended period of time, gas can build up inside the battery. This increases the pressure and can lead to an explosion. Other causes include manufacturing defects, using an improper charger, static electricity or open flame in the vicinity or using a battery that is smaller than recommended for the application.
Warning signs for a battery that may explode include:
- Swelling or bulging of the battery case, indicating increased pressure.
- Leaking or spewing of electrolyte.
- A foul smell can be a sign of overheating.
- Smoke or sparks.
While the probability of an explosion is low, it’s important to take safety precautions when working with or near a battery or jump-starting a vehicle.
- Wear glasses or safety goggles.
- Shield eyes and face from the battery.
- Keep as much distance as possible from the battery.
- Do not cause any flames or sparks, and do not smoke.
- Read your vehicle instruction manual before jump-starting the vehicle.
- Read warning labels on the battery.
- Should acid get on your skin or in your eyes, flush with water immediately and seek medical attention.
Technically yes, as long as the CCA is sufficient to start the engine, but it is not recommended. Engine compartments have become more crowded, and an improper fit or loose hold down could be dangerous.
No, a battery will self-discharge slowly over time. Allowing a battery to sit in a discharged state will ultimately lead to severe positive grid corrosion and battery failure. An unused battery should never be allowed to sit for more than six months without a recharge.
Today’s low-maintenance and maintenance-free batteries should not require water.
Lead-acid batteries are divided in two ways: by application (what they are used for) and by construction (how they are built). The major applications are automotive, marine/RV, commercial, powersport and specialty solar/medical/telecom/oil and gas batteries. The major construction types are flooded (wet) and AGM (absorbed glass mat). AGM batteries are also sometimes called starved electrolyte or dry because the fiberglass mat is 95% saturated with sulfuric acid, and there is no excess liquid.
CCA stands for “cold cranking amps.” This is the amount of power supplied by your battery when starting your vehicle on a really cold day (0 degrees Fahrenheit). The definition by Battery Council International (BCI) is the discharge load, in amperes, that a fully charged battery, at 0 degrees Fahrenheit, can deliver for 30 seconds and maintain a voltage of 1.2 volts per cell or higher.
Deep cycle means using the battery in an application that will typically discharge 60% or more of the battery capacity. Electric vehicles and many industrial applications make extensive use of deep cycle batteries, useful for any time you need the battery to supply all the operating power for a vehicle or other device. Additionally, deep cycle batteries should be used in vehicles that have heavy accessory loads where the alternator cannot maintain the battery in a fully charged condition. Some examples include vehicles with powerful stereo systems, vehicles with increased electronics like GPS systems, game systems, DVD players and LCD screens. or boats with onboard chargers, trolling motors, fish-finders, stereos, lights, etc.
A battery is a device for storing chemical energy and converting it to electrical energy. Batteries have been around for centuries. Today, batteries — big and small — power all kinds of devices that make modern life possible. Learn more about batteries and how they work.
RC stands for “reserve capacity.” The BCI defines this as the number of minutes that a fully charged battery at 80 degrees Fahrenheit can be continuously discharged at 25 amperes and maintain a voltage equal to or higher than 1.75 volts per cell.
This refers to the physical dimensions of the battery. It also includes the post type and configuration, hold-down type, etc.
A gel battery design is typically a modification of the standard lead-acid automotive or marine battery. A gelling agent is added to the electrolyte to reduce movement inside the battery case. Many gel batteries also use one-way valves in place of open vents. This helps the normal internal gasses to recombine back into water in the battery, reducing gassing. Gel cell batteries are non-spillable, even if they are broken. Gel cells must be charged at a lower voltage (C/20) than flooded or AGM batteries to prevent excess gas from damaging the cells. Fast charging them on a conventional automotive charger may permanently damage a gel battery.
Marine batteries are considered a hybrid battery that actually falls between starting and deep cycle batteries. They may also have additional features to make them more vibration-resistant.
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Sealed batteries are known as maintenance free batteries. They are made with vents that (usually) cannot be removed. A standard auto or marine maintenance free battery is sealed, but not fully leak proof. Sealed batteries are not totally sealed since all batteries must allow gas to vent during charging.
Starting batteries (sometimes called SLI, which stands for “starting, lighting, ignition”) are commonly used to start and run engines. Engine starters need a very large starting current for a very short time. Starting batteries typically have a larger number of thin plates, giving them maximum surface area to generate current. An automotive battery is an SLI battery. Its plates are designed to deliver maximum power for a short duration. Starting a car typically discharges an SLI battery only 1% to 3%.
Absorbed glass mat (AGM) batteries are sealed, non-spillable, maintenance-free valve-regulated batteries that use very fine fiber boron-silicate glass mats between the plates. They are also called starved electrolyte batteries.
AGM batteries will not leak or spill even if broken and can survive most freezes. AGM batteries are “recombinant” — that means the oxygen and hydrogen recombine inside the battery. These batteries use gas phase transfer of oxygen to the negative plates to recombine them back into water while charging and prevent the loss of water through electrolysis. The recombining is more than 99% efficient, so almost no water is lost.
Charging voltages for most AGM batteries are the same as for a flooded lead-acid battery, so there is no need for special charging adjustments or problems with incompatible chargers or charge controls. Since the internal resistance is extremely low, there is almost no heating of the battery even under heavy charge and discharge currents. AGM batteries have a very low self-discharge rate (from 1% to 3% per month). That means they can sit in storage for much longer periods than other battery types without charging. The plates in AGMs are tightly packed and rigidly mounted and will withstand shock and vibration better than any standard battery.
Sulfation is the formation or deposit of lead sulfate on the surface and in the pores of the active material of the batteries' lead plates. If the sulfation becomes excessive and forms large crystals on the plates, the battery will not operate efficiently and may not work at all. Common causes of battery sulfation are standing a long time in a discharged condition, operating at excessive temperatures and prolonged under or overcharging.
The primary reason for battery failure is positive grid corrosion. This is a natural occurrence over time. However, it is accelerated by operating in an extremely hot climate or by overcharging. Overcharging can occur due to a malfunction in a part of a vehicle’s electrical system.
Vibration is another major reason for battery failure. Excessive vibration can cause plates to become damaged, accelerating corrosion. AGM batteries are much more vibration-resistant.
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CA and HCA stand for “cranking amps” and “hot cranking amps.” These ratings are obtained under the same load as CCA but are typically tested at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. These ratings may be useful for people not living in cold-weather climates. They are also sometimes referred to as MCA, or marine cranking amps.
When replacing a battery, keep the following in mind: size, power and warranty. A new battery should match the dimensions of the original battery. It should also provide the same number of CCAs.
Learn more about how to find the right battery for your vehicle and about the Continental Battery Systems warranty.
Before you start, always check what type of grounding system the vehicle has. If you remove the positive connector first in a negative ground system, you risk the chance of creating a spark. That could happen if the metal tool you’re using to remove the positive terminal connector comes in contact with any piece of metal on the car. If you are working near the battery when this occurs, it might create an ignition source that could cause the battery to explode. It’s extremely important to remove the ground source first.
Old batteries may be returned to the battery retailer, automotive service station, battery manufacturer or other authorized collection centers for recycling. If you are not sure where to take your spent batteries, call your local Continental Battery Systems dealer for assistance.
Hot weather. Your vehicle may be harder to start on a cold day because extreme cold weather causes the battery to work harder to provide the power to crank the engine. The electrochemical reaction that actually generates a battery's power is slowed when the temperatures drop below freezing. A battery that has not been maintained properly can fail at temperatures in the 20s.
Continental Battery Systems is your single-source battery solution. We are a company with a rich history dating back to 1932. While we have grown to include more than 200 company-owned distribution centers and a network of over 35,000 retail sellers and installers, our core values of empowered engagement, customer-centric service and a commitment to always moving forward remain the same.
All lead-acid batteries will naturally self-discharge, which can result in a loss of capacity from sulfation. Heat speeds up this self-discharge, so that is why it is not a good idea to store batteries in a hot garage or warehouse. The rate of self-discharge is most influenced by the temperature of the battery’s electrolyte and the chemistry of the plates. Some experts believe that storing car or deep cycle batteries on a colder concrete floor might actually slow down the self-discharge (leakage) rate because the floor acts as a heat sink and cools the battery.