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Battery Testing Tips - Battery Tutorial

Battery Testing can be done in more than one way. The most popular is measurement of specific gravity and battery voltage. To measure specific gravity buy a temperature compensating hydrometer and measure voltage, use a digital D.C. Voltmeter. A good digital load tester may be a good purchase if you need to test batteries sealed batteries.

You must first have the battery fully charged. The surface charge must be removed before testing. If the battery has been sitting at least several hours (I prefer at least 12 hours) you may begin testing. To remove surface charge the battery must experience a load of 20 amps for 3 plus minutes. Turning on the headlights (high beam) will do the trick. After turning off the lights you are ready to test the battery.

State of Charge Specific Gravity Voltage
    12V 6V
100% 1.265 12.7 6.3
*75% 1.225 12.4 6.2
50% 1.190 12.2 6.1
25% 1.155 12.0 6.0
Discharged 1.120 11.9 6.0

*Sulfation of Batteries starts when specific gravity falls below 1.225 or voltage measures less than 12.4 (12v Battery) or 6.2 (6 volt battery). Sulfation hardens the battery plates reducing and eventually destroying the ability of the battery to generate Volts and Amps.

Load testing is yet another way of testing a battery. Load test removes amps from a battery much like starting an engine would. A load tester can be purchased at most auto parts stores. Some battery companies label their battery with the amp load for testing. This number is usually 1/2 of the CCA rating. For instance, a 500CCA battery would load test at 250 amps for 15 seconds. A load test can only be performed if the battery is near or at full charge.

The results of your testing should be as follows:

Hydrometer readings should not vary more than .05 differences between cells.

Digital Voltmeters should read as the voltage is shown in this document. The sealed AGM and Gel-Cell battery voltage (full charged) will be slightly higher in the 12.8 to 12.9 ranges. If you have voltage readings in the 10.5 volts range on a charged battery, that indicates a shorted cell.

If you have a maintenance free wet cell, the only ways to test are voltmeter and load test. Most of the maintenance free batteries have a built in hydrometer that tells you the condition of 1 cell of 6. You may get a good reading from 1 cell but have a problem with other cells in the battery.

When in doubt about battery testing, call the battery manufacturer. Many batteries sold today have a toll free number to call for help.

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