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FAQ about Lead Acid Battery

1. What is a Lead-Acid Battery?  

Lead-acid battery is an electrical storage device that uses a reversible chemical reaction to store energy. It uses a combination of lead plates or grids and an electrolyte consisting of a diluted sulphuric acid to convert electrical energy into potential chemical energy and back again.


2.What does "VRLA", "MF", "AGM", and "SLA" stand for? 

"VRLA" stands for Valve Regulated Lead Acid, "MF" stands for Maintenance-Free, "AGM" stands for Absorbed Glass Mat, and "SLA" stands for Sealed Lead Acid. All 4 of these terms basically refer to the same type of battery.These batteries are typically all black in color.

"Standard SLI" (Starting, Lighting and Ignition) refers to any standard, non-sealed battery. In this case SLI refers to older style batteries used for powersports type vehicles. These batteries are typically white with a black top, and with yellow or green acid filling caps.


3.Can an AGM battery be installed in any position? 

In most applications, batteries are installed in an upright position, but in some situations there is a need to tilt them (sometimes at very extreme angles) or lay them completely flat on their backs.

Starlight typically supplies AGM batteries with separate acid packs that you must fill (and charge) yourself. We do not recommend that this type of battery be installed on it's side, or even an extreme angle, due to possible leakage occuring.

Fortunately, Starlight offers many AGM batteries as "Factory Activated". Generally this type of battery is safe to install in almost any direction. If there is any question of a particular vehicle/battery/installation please contact us for our specific recommendation before attempting to use battery.


4. How can you check a battery’s performance?  

Different usage applications will use different methods for evaluating a battery’s performance. Using a 20 hour rate or the 10 hour rate, you can use 0.05CA or 0.1CA to discharge the battery until the battery reaches a terminal voltage of 10.25 volts. You can then calculate the amp hours to see if the battery fits the specifications or not. For a 5 minutes rate, such as the HC1221W, you can use a 21 watts/cell discharge till the terminal voltage reaches a terminal voltage of 9.6 volts and then measure the discharge time to see if it meets the final specifications or not.


5. Do I need to completely discharge my lead acid battery before recharging it?

No. In fact you should never discharge your lead acid battery below 80% of its rated capacity. Discharging a 12 volt battery below this point, or 10.5 volts, can damage it.


6. Do lead acid batteries develop a memory? 

Lead acid batteries do not develop any type of memory.


7. How can the conversion be made between "watts (W)" and "amp hours (Ah)"?

W=I x V = 4I (15 minute rate) = 2CV = 2V

(Ex. HC1217W = 17/4 = 4.25Ah)


8. How long should a battery last?

Many factors affect the life of a battery:

CLIMATE: Colder climates tend to be hard on batteries from a starting standpoint, and for the fact that many people put their bikes away for the season when not using. Sometimes without charging properly. Hotter climates tend to discharge batteries quicker, and dry out batteries quicker. "Average" climates are the best for long battery life.

USEAGE: A battery that is used every day has the most chance of living a long life. Batteries that sit a lot, many times are neglected. This shortens overall life. Periodic charging is the best defense.

APPLICATION: How well is the battery charged in the vehicle? Some vehicles have better charging systems than others. Older bikes have worse charging systems than new ones. Are there a lot of extra accessories on your vehicle? Sometimes a battery has a hard time keeping up with additional electrical drains, thus wearing it out quicker.


SULFATION - Sulfation is a build up of crystals on the plates of a battery. This comes from not charging a battery properly. The more sulfation that builds up, the harder the battery is to charge, until finally it does not charge at all.

WATER LOSS - Water loss can come from overcharging, or just simple evaporation over time. This only happens with conventional batteries. This does not happen with sealed AGM batteries. Once the plates of a battery are left open to the air, above the fluid level, they can corrode very quickly. Corrosion can cause an internal short, and very quickly destroy the battery. Keeping proper water levels maintained is very important.

LACK OF CHARGING - As mentioned previously, lack of proper charging is the main reason that a battery will not last as long as it should. At the very minimum, a battery should be charged once a month if left unused.

COMPLETE DRAIN - Have you ever left your key on, and totally killed the battery? If recovered in a short time period, the battery should charge back to 100%. But every time this happens, it is similar to the battery having a "heart attack", and shortening its overall life. Always turn your vehicle off with the keyed ignition switch, not the "kill switch".


SEALED AGM BATTERIES- Last Longer. They are not "open to the air" by way of a vent tube. They do not lose water. They are also packed tighter. Plates do not vibrate causing material to shed from the plates and short out. Or worse yet, simply breaking apart in some high vibration applications. Sealed AGM batteries typically last 3 to 5 years on average. 6 to 8 years is easily obtainable with proper maintenance. Typically sealed AGM batteries will give warning before completely dying. They will start slower, and require more charging. This is your clue to replace the battery. Typically they do not fail all of a sudden. Conventional "acid-filled" batteries have a harder life, for many of the reasons listed above. Conventional batteries typically only last 2 to 3 years on average. Although, 4 to 5 years is possible, in the best environments, and with excellent maintenance.


9. What determines the life of a VRLA battery? ?

Sealed lead acid battery life is determined by many factors. These include temperature, depth and rate of discharge, and the number of charges and discharges (called cycles).


10.How should a battery be maintained?

Good battery maintenance should include the following:

1. Always keep the acid level between Lower and upper lines on front side of the container (conventional type batteries).

2. Do not let the battery stand in a discharged condition.

3. Charge battery once a month.

4. When motorcycle is stored over 30 days, plug in a Yuasa automatic battery charger to maintain a proper storage charge.

5. Keep battery top clean, dry and free of dirt.

6. Clean battery terminals to prevent corrosion. Inspect vent tube, ensuring that it is not bent, twisted or clogged.

7. Protect the battery from strong impacts or shocks.


11.What can cause a new battery to fail soon after installation?

If a new battery becomes unserviceable within a few days or weeks after its installation it may be due one or more of the following reasons:

1. A faulty charging system.

2. A short circuit in the electrical system.

3. Battery terminals are dirty or not properly connected.

4. Excessive ignition off drains or high parasitic drains.

5. Electrical capacity of the battery is insufficient for size of the vehicle.

6. The battery has been inadequately activated, dissipating its strength from the outset.

7. The battery, after being filled with acid has been left too long without initial charging, and has been allowed to become sulfated.


12What is the cause of sudden battery failure?  

Sudden battery failure is simply that! One minute the battery functions properly, and the next it fails to provide electrical power to your vehicles or products. In the vast majority of situations where this occurs, an internal battery connection failure is to blame. These internal failures usually are the result of poor care and maintenance of the battery. To help ensure that this condition does not occur with your battery, follow the care and maintenance instructions included with the battery or refer to our maintenance section of this web site.


13. Does overcharging damage batteries?  

OVERCHARGING is the most destructive element in battery service. Usually the boater is not aware that this is occurring as he believes his alternator or battery charger is "automatic." Unfortunately, these automatic circuits are sensitive to voltage surges, heat, direct lightening strikes and indirect lightening electromagnetic influences and could fail or shift their calibration. When they fail, overcharging begins to affect the batteries. During overcharging, excessive current causes the oxides on the plates of the battery to "shed" and precipitate to the bottom of the cell and also heat the battery, thus removing water from the electrolyte. Once removed, this material (which represents capacity) is no longer active in the battery. In addition, the loss of water from the electrolyte may expose portions of the plates and cause the exposed areas to oxidize and become inactive, thus reducing additional capacity. Sealed batteries are not immune from the same internal results when overcharged. In fact, sealed recombination absorption and gel batteries are particularly sensitive to overcharging. Once moisture is removed from the battery, it cannot be replaced. Portions of the battery damaged due to overcharging are irretrievable. However, if detected early, corrective adjustments to the charging device will save the undamaged portion of the battery. Initial signs of overcharging are excessive usage of water in the battery, continuously warm batteries, or higher than normal battery voltages while under the influence of the charger. If overcharging is suspected, correct immediately.


14. Does over-discharging damage batteries?  

OVER-DISCHARGING is a problem which originates from insufficient battery capacity causing the batteries to be overworked. Discharges deeper than 50% (in reality well below 12.0 Volts or 1.200 Specific Gravity) significantly shorten the Cycle Life of a battery without increasing the usable depth of cycle. Infrequent or inadequate complete recharging can also cause over-discharging symptoms called SULFATION. Despite that charging equipment is regulating back properly, over-discharging symptoms are displayed as loss of battery capacity and lower than normal specific gravity. Sulfation occurs when sulfur from the electrolyte combines with the lead on the plates and forms lead-sulfate. Once this condition becomes chronic, marine battery chargers will not remove the hardened sulfate. Sulfation can usually be removed by a proper desulfation or equalization charge with external manual battery chargers. To accomplish this task, the flooded plate batteries must be charged at 6 to 10 amps. at 2.4 to 2.5 volts per cell until all cells are gassing freely and their specific gravity returns to their full charge concentration. Sealed AGM batteries should be brought to 2.35 volts per cell and then discharged to 1.75 volts per cell. This process must be repeated until the capacity returns to the battery. Gel batteries may not recover. In most cases, the battery may be returned to complete its service life.                                                                                                                               

CHARGING Alternators and float battery chargers including regulated photo voltaic chargers have automatic controls which taper the charge rate as the batteries come up in charge. It should be noted that a decrease to a few amperes while charging does not mean that the batteries have been fully charged. Battery chargers are of three types. There is the manual type, the trickle type, and the automatic switcher type.


15.Sometimes a battery does not hold a charge. Why? 

When a battery is in an excessively discharged state, it does not readily accept a high current charge. The battery may appear to be accepting charge, but charging is occurring only at the surface of the plates. In such a case, the battery must be charged at a low current flow for an extended period of time: for example, up to 24 hours on a Yuasa automatic charger or equivalent smart charger.


16.How do you determine whether a battery has been charged?

The following characteristics will tell you if a battery has been properly charged:

1. The specific gravity of the acid is over 1.275 (conventional type batteries only).

2. Maximum voltage output across battery terminals can be maintained at constant level for two hours.

3.Open circuit voltage is stablilized @12.7v or higher @ 6.3v or higher for 6 volt batteries.


17. When should a deep-cycle battery be used? 

Deep-cycle batteries are used when 50% or more of the capacity is used per cycle. The most common use of deep-cycle batteries is in applications that require deep, repetitive drain, like powerful car audio systems, trolling motors, golf carts, electric wheelchairs, or RV house power sources. Public safety and high-performance vehicles are other applications that call for the special characteristics of deep-cycle batteries.


18.What is the normal charge rate for a battery? 

Naturally, batteries of different capacities require different charge rates. Generally, a battery should be charged at a slow charge rate of 1/10 its given 10 hr. capacity.


19.Why should you charge your battery once a month? 

When not in use, a battery discharges on a daily basis sometimes up to 0.5-1%. This rate of discharge increases when the climate is warm. To make up for this loss from disuse, a boosting charge should be given once a month.


20.What is sulfation? 

Discoloration of plates with white lead sulfate crystalline deposits may occur when the battery has been left for a considerable time in a discharged condition. It can also occur as a result of the plates being exposed to air due to low electrolyte level, or when a new battery is filled with acid and stored without being charged. This phenomenon is called sulfation. Once plates have been sulfated, the activity of the affected area is permanently impaired, and the battery may not be restored to its original capacity.


21.Why do the winter months seem to bring more battery problems? 

The main reason is that batteries have to work so much harder in cold weather. Engine oil is thick, so engine cranking effort is much higher. Also, a battery's charging efficiency decreases in cold temperatures. In addition, gasoline does not vaporize as readily in the cold, which means that even more battery cranking effort is required.


22.I was told by some old timers that if you leave a battery on the ground or a concrete floor it will ruin the battery. Is this true? 

That is something a lot of "old timers" say. The reason they say that is in the "olden days" vehicle starting batteries used to be made with a hard rubber container. This hard rubber would eventually get mini cracks and become porous. So, when placing a battery on the ground or concrete, the battery would discharge through the ground or wet concrete. Nowadays, containers are made from a solid plastic that does not allow any current to flow through it, so the batteries do not discharge, even if they sit in a few inches of water. That is why you will not find your battery having trouble from sitting on the ground or concrete.


23. How can I evaluate the health and charge state of a battery? 

Routine battery examinations divulge irregularities in the charging system as well as in the batteries. The principle method is to examine the electrochemistry of the battery through hydrometric electrolyte inspection. As previously discussed, this important examination cannot be accomplished with sealed absorption or gel batteries. Voltage readings alone require experience to interpret. Hydrometric readings will uncover early warnings of overcharging or over-discharging before batteries are damaged. The state-of-charge and reliability of a lead acid battery can best be determined by the specific gravity of the electrolyte measured directly with a common bulb-type hydrometer with a glass float. We do not recommend the ball float type hydrometer. Specific gravity is a unit of measurement for determining the sulfuric acid content of the electrolyte. The recommended fully charged specific gravity of marine batteries is 1.255 to 1.265 taken at 80??C More than .025 spread in readings between fully charged cells indicates that the battery may need an equalization charge. If this condition persists, the cell is failing and the battery should be replaced. Since water has a value of 1.000, electrolyte with a specific gravity of 1.260 means it is 1.260 times heavier than pure water while pure concentrated sulfuric acid has a specific gravity of 1.835.


24.Is my battery charger working properly? 

1). Be sure to read all operating and safety instructions before using the charger.

2). If the A.C. power light (red L.E.D) is not on, make sure the charger is plugged into an A.C. outlet and sufficient voltage is available through the outlet. 120Vac +/-10%

3). If the A.C. power light is on but flashing, a charge error has occurred. Check the connections to the battery insuring the red clamp is on the positive terminal and the black clamp is on the negative terminal. If the connections are reversed, unplug the charger and reconnect the clamps to the correct terminal locations.

4). If the terminal connections are correct and the A.C. power light continues to flash, unplug the charger and disconnect it from the battery for a minimum of 5 seconds. Reconnect the charger to the battery and plug the charger into the A.C. outlet.

5). If the A.C. power light continues to flash, disconnect the charger and locate a known good battery to test the charger function. If the charger operates properly, (as described below) the battery you attempted to charge earlier should be replaced. If the A.C. power light continues to flash on a known good battery, the charger should be replaced.

6). If the A.C. power light is on and not flashing and the charging light does not turn on, check to make sure the charging clips are connected to the battery. When using the supplied fused ring connector, check the 3-amp fuse inside the cable fuse housing to insure it is in place and is not blown.

7). The SmartShot 900mA charger will begin charging (yellow L.E.D.) within a few seconds after proper connection to the battery. When charging is complete, the yellow light will turn off and the storage (green L.E.D.) will appear. The A.C. power light will remain on as long as the charger is connected to an A.C. outlet.

8). The SmartShot 1.5Amp charger will begin charging only after the qualification test mode. This may take from 1 minute to 3 hours to complete depending on the condition of your battery. During the qualification test mode, the yellow charging light will flash. Once qualified, the yellow charging light will stop flashing and remain on continuously until the battery is charged. Upon completion of charging, the yellow light will turn off and the float (green L.E.D.) will appear. If you leave the charger connected to the battery and plugged into an A.C. outlet, the charger will automatically recycle through the qualification, charging, and floats modes every 28 days.

9). When charging a larger automotive or commercial type battery, the charger may not reach the float or storage mode (green L.E.D.) condition due to the internal resistance of the battery. This does not indicate a defect in the charger but rather that the inherent capacity loss of the battery is greater than what the charger can supply. While the continual charge condition should not create a problem for the charger, a charger specifically designed for a larger battery may be considered to completely charge the battery.