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Mechanics Corner: Super-charge your spring

Aaron Booth Published on 24 February 2014

When it comes to inspecting your equipment’s vital parts, batteries “are” included. In fact, the battery is the single-most important part of all electrical components. These components include the starter, alternator and even precision farming systems and software.

Over the last three to five years, electrical component health has become more important due to the essential software, data and memory now stored on your equipment. If you lose power, not only will your tractor fail to start, but you might lose important information.

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An average battery should last at least five years, and some can last a decade. However, the older the battery, the less likely it will fully charge. You can test your battery voltage by taking it to your dealer or by purchasing an inexpensive battery tester. Tell-tale signs your battery is failing: It is harder to start your equipment and your lights dim or flicker.

A new battery for agricultural equipment costs between $80 and $200, so you will want to protect your investment as much as possible. There are many ways to prevent failures and extend the life of your battery. Here are a few suggestions.

Choose a battery built for the work it’s doing
Vibration is the No. 1 killer of batteries, and it’s particularly detrimental in the tough, off-road conditions your equipment might endure. Repeated heavy vibrations can crack a battery’s weld and plates, causing a short.

Always use a battery that is built for off-road use, and be sure to inspect the battery hold-down straps since an unsecured battery can move around in a bouncing vehicle.

Temperature control
Since most dairy producers use their equipment year-round, keep seasonal changes in mind. When it’s hot, a battery discharges more easily and sulfation is more likely to occur (depriving a battery of a full charge).

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In cold temperatures, the chemical process slows within the battery, restricting power production when it is needed most. It’s a good idea to check your battery’s health before temperatures drop.

Note that the temperature where a battery is stored is important – the material the battery is stored on is not. There is an outdated claim that storing a battery on concrete will cause it to discharge, but this is not the case with batteries made today. Store your batteries on any surface that can support it.

Equipment use habits and sulfation
When a battery discharges, sulfate from the electrolyte combines with lead to create lead sulfate. This chemical reaction provides a battery’s power. When a battery recharges, the process is reversed.

If a battery is not recharged for more than three to four weeks (an even shorter period in the winter), the lead sulfate hardens on the battery’s plates, which can shorten battery life over time. This means if your equipment sits idle for more than three weeks, your battery will likely need to charge.

Frequent starts and stops are also detrimental because the battery is never given the chance to fully recharge. When you turn your equipment off, remember to also turn off lights, radios and software systems.

Leaving these on can drain your battery. One way to avoid battery failure is to use a quality battery maintainer that will keep the battery at a full state of charge when the equipment isn’t in use. To avoid overcharging the battery, it’s important to use a maintainer that will automatically shut itself off once the battery is fully charged.

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Another important aspect is to keep your batteries clean. A layer of acid or grime can cause the battery to drain more rapidly because grime is electrically conductive. Simply use a damp rag to clean off the grime, then dry the battery before using.

Stop using batteries not built for your equipment
Most agriculture equipment needs an estimated 2000 amperage – which means that a standard 600 amp car battery is not likely going to work. And don’t cut corners with generic batteries.

Keep in mind your local equipment dealer can help you choose durable batteries built specifically for your equipment. Dealers keep many batteries in stock for emergency replacements.

Now that you have an idea what causes battery failure – and how to avoid it – let’s discuss how to properly charge or jump your batteries if they do fail. Do not disconnect your battery from your equipment during a jump. Disconnecting it can cause damage to your equipment or loss of data.

Finally, a note about pressure washing. Many producers like to pressure wash equipment at the end or the start of a new season, but be careful to protect your equipment’s connectors.

Some pressure washers can dispense water at up to 150 pounds per square inch, which is too much pressure for connectors or lighting equipment. Be careful with your equipment’s lights and connectors and avoid a direct shot in these areas during pressure washing. PD

Aaron Booth is electrical products and batteries manager for CNH Industrial Parts & Service.

aaron booth

Aaron Booth
Electrical Products & Batteries Manager
CNH Industrial Parts & Service

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