Deep cycle batteries are designed for long-term discharging with low amperage devices, the opposite of standard automotive “starting” batteries, which power high amp devices for a short period. Several factors, including proper use, can extend the lifespan of the average deep cycle battery; misuse or improper care can damage a deep cycle battery in…
Acid Level Problems
The acid level of a deep cycle battery can be checked by uncapping the top plugs and drawing a small amount of fluid into an acid dropper tester. These testers have several colored balls inside of a glass dropper that will float or sink depending on the acid level of the fluid, which should ideally be around 33 percent acid to 67 percent water. Over time, the battery could corrode and convert the acid into a base, and more sulfuric acid must be added to the cells to balance the ratio to a usable level.
Corrosion is the primary reason for battery failure and can be removed from the primary power terminals with a metal brush. This corrosion, typically present on the positive terminal first, can reduce the connection of the metallic clamps. When this connection breaks, electricity cannot flow properly. Badly corroded terminals can be indicative of a greater problem inside the battery, which could be corroded plates or low electrolyte level. The battery can be damaged by heavy internal corrosion, and the exterior terminals should be checked often.
Holding a Charge
The batteries must be charged with a charger designed for deep cycle cells, which charges normally up to a certain point, then trickle charges to “top off” the cell charge. Use a voltmeter to check the charge level in volts. A number of things could be causing a “dead” battery, including corrosion and low electrolyte level, which prevents the plates from reaching full capacitance. Proper usage is equally as important, as the deep cycle cell should never be discharged lower than 50 percent of total charge. Damage can occur under 20 percent total charge, and the battery could lose the ability to fully recharge. Always recharge a deep cycle battery immediately after use, and keep the battery sheltered from the elements.
Replace Individuals Quickly
It is important to remove individual deep cycle batteries from a battery bank if they show signs of damage, as one cell could “corrupt” the remaining good cells. Using five good cells with one bad cell, wired in series or parallel, significantly reduces the capacitance of the group and could eventually damage the other cells. Remove any cell from the pool before running acid or charge tests.
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Storing and charging the deep cycle batteries in a well ventilated space can prevent issues with gas buildup. Lead-acid batteries expel hydrogen gas while they charge, and this gas can rise to toxic or flammable levels. Never store or charge these batteries in tightly sealed containers.