Properly maintaining your car means you’ll have fewer short-term issues and no parts that need repairing or replacement in the long run. This applies to all vehicles. The car you use on a daily basis to get to and from work, or in a quick run to the shops, as well as any car that you have garaged, and might take for a spin on the odd weekend. Checking things like oil levels, tyre pressure, brakes and fluids is vital before any long trip. Also, you’ll need to keep an eye on the charge in your car battery, especially for garaged vehicles. Batteries are charged when the car is running, but what happens when you turn the key, and nothing happens. If you’re with a mate, then jump starting is a possibility, but too much charge can cause more trouble than fixing the issue in the first place. To be on the safe side, you’ll need a car battery charger for the appropriate type and size of the battery in your car.
Depending on the type of car you drive, the displacement and whether it’s petrol, diesel, hybrid or fully electric, you’ll see different car batteries, and in different sizes. Most are 12V lead-acid batteries, either a flooded battery, which needs constant maintenance for water levels, or sealed batteries that need little in the way of checks, but comes in as more expensive. Also, there are deep cycle batteries with a slow constant discharge, and you’ll see these in camping vehicles. Diesels need more grunt in the startup, especially in colder weather, whereas electric vehicles might also have a secondary battery. Batteries come in the right ampere-hour rating, or basically the capacity for the type of engine in the car. Though car battery chargers might not fix issues with the alternator, they certainly won’t leave while you’re in the middle of nowhere.
What are the Different Types of Car Battery Chargers?
There are three types of car battery chargers to use when the battery charge is low. These include quick battery chargers, battery maintainers, and trickle chargers. Each type charges the battery in a different way and at different levels. Let’s take a closer look.
Quick Battery Chargers
Quick chargers do exactly as they say on the box. They provide for a constant current and voltage to charge the battery quickly, usually within a matter of a few hours for a totally depleted battery. The higher the current, measured in amps, the faster the charging. Beefy chargers might recharge your car’s battery in a few minutes, but you need to take extra care in not overcharging it. An overcharged battery might overheat and start leaking, spilling corrosive materials that eat into anything. The worst-case scenario is that the battery explodes. Quickly disconnecting the charger once the battery is full prevents this, and there are quick chargers with LED indicators that notify you when this is done.
Battery maintainers keep batteries in good health when they are not in use. They hook up to a mains connection and connect to the battery terminals with a pair of positive and negative cables. Battery maintainers are attached to the car battery for longer periods, say overnight, without the need for constant monitoring as with quick chargers. ‘Smart’ battery maintainers have auto-off functions when they sense that the battery is fully charged. If and when the battery loses capacity, they automatically turn on again and do their thing. Basically, these chargers have built-in battery monitors that constantly monitor the state of charge. They provide longer-lasting car batteries without the safety risks of quick chargers.
Trickle chargers are similar to battery maintainers in appearance and how they work. The difference is that while most battery maintainers are smart chargers, trickle maintainers are not and give the battery a continual supply of very small charge over a longer period of time, and just enough to top off the battery. They are recommended after using a quick charger, to restore the active material in the battery plates. In this sense, they are also known as battery restorers and help prolong battery life.
What to Look for in Car Battery Chargers
Check that the battery charger is compatible with the type of battery in your vehicle. Most chargers will work with lead-acid batteries, but some are not compatible with new lithium batteries.
The bigger and more powerful the battery in the vehicle, the more output the charger needs to have to optimally charge your battery. Generally, a battery with 100 ampere-hours will need a charger with around 10 Amperes. This fluctuates depending on the state and age of the battery. An older battery will require a charger with more output to be charged at the same time as a new battery.
Maintaining vs Charging
Do you need a charger to top off the battery’s charge because of all the different gadgets drawing power? Or do you need a charger to restore life in a dead battery? Choose the correct charger according to your needs.
Check the safety features of the charger to avoid overheating and leaking if the battery gets overcharged. Battery maintainers have these built-in.
Quick car battery chargers are generally the cheapest, while maintainers with added features, like the possibility of a solar hookup, are more expensive. Trickle chargers occupy the middle ground. Also, chargers with higher output will cost you more.