A Key Component of Effective Fleet Maintenance Programs

Battery and electrical system maintenance to avoid vehicle downtime.


BATTERY/ELECTRICAL SYSTEM ANALYSIS

A full battery/electrical system analysis should be a required component of fleet maintenance routines, just like changing oil and inflating tires, Midtronics’ Hunckler says. Using patented conductance technology, Midtronics battery analyzers “eliminate the guesswork in battery and electrical service and enable technicians to perform more comprehensive preventative service on fleet vehicles. Conductance is actually a form of load testing, but with a low-frequency AC voltage load pulse rather than high-current DC loads.”

Conductance testers use a small AC load pulse that electronically measures the battery’s State of Health (SoH) and State of Charge (SoC) at the same time. Midtronics battery testers also use proprietary voltage compensation test algorithms that can in many cases provide a valid battery test decision even when the battery is at a low SoC.

Midtronics EXP Series analyzers include an integrated IR direct temperature measurement feature that, along with conductance (SoH) and voltage (SoC), provides a three-dimensional view of battery condition, she says. “This more passive approach supports more accurate and decisive testing with batteries in ‘as found’ condition and greatly reduces the potential need for recovery charging.”

Commercial and fleet vehicles present unique situations. Different battery types and configurations, combined with punishing day-to-day usage conditions, all affect how these vehicles’ batteries will perform, Hunckler says. “Periodic testing is a must in order to spot problems before they turn into road calls. Identifying batteries that are at or nearing replacement condition before problems occur makes battery replacement a proactive decision rather than an emergency.

“Avoid the expense and downtime of a battery failure. Test your fleet’s batteries and electrical systems routinely as part of a regular preventative maintenance program.”

TYPES OF BATTERY CHARGERS

Battery chargers have been an intricate part of vehicle maintenance for decades. Their principal use is to rejuvenate and charge all standard and maintenance-free batteries. Today’s battery chargers have become more sophisticated with the introduction of AGM batteries. Some intelligent battery chargers may also function as a power supply for extended service procedures or re-flashing.

Clearly, not all chargers are alike so it is essential to know what type of battery you are working with to choose the correct charger, says Kimberly A. Cottle, president and COO of Associated Equipment Corp. (www.associatedequip.com), which designs and manufactures a full line of battery charging, testing and portable power solutions, as well as booster cables and clamps.

  • Heavy duty commercial fast chargers. These provide the highest performance in the market as they are made rugged enough to withstand heavy use, she says. These chargers, which can put out up to 80 amps and have engine start (crank assist) ratings up to 400 amps, can be used on standard and maintenance-free batteries with voltage ranges among different models.

The weight and size of these chargers dictate that it is normally a wheel charger for ease of handling.

  • Lighter duty chargers. These units, meant for the small garage or DIY, provide many of the same characteristics of the heavy duty chargers but with less output current (takes longer to bring the battery up to a full charge) at a lower cost, says Cottle. Some of these chargers have a crank assist feature, as well as timers.

Light duty chargers come in both wheeled and portable versions.

  • Intelligent chargers. As more and more vehicle manufacturers turn to the AGM or GEL batteries, a new breed of “smart” charger needed to be brought to market, Cottle explains. These specialized chargers detect the need for a charge, bring the batteries up to a full charge and shut themselves off or maintain a battery until it is removed.

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