Proper battery selection and maintenance help ensure long life
Batteries for forestry equipment have become increasingly expensive in recent years, and many machines require more than one. Following these helpful tips will help you get the most for your hard-earned money.
Start with the right battery.
Logging's harsh operating conditions are especially tough on batteries. Be sure to choose one that not only meets manufacturer's specifications for voltage and cranking power, but is also designed for heavy-duty commercial off-road applications.
Take your temperature.
High ambient temperatures are the leading cause of battery failure in forestry equipment. Ambient temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit are common for Southern loggers in sizzling summer weather and with batteries often located in or near engine compartments. It is essential that the battery's internal grids and lead/lead-oxide plates be designed with the proper alloy materials to withstand these high temperatures.
Vibration, the second leading cause of battery failure, is a special challenge in rugged forest conditions. It can damage the materials coating the plates or grids, causing short circuits and premature battery failure. For forestry applications, the plates must be anchored to the floor of the battery case. John Deere StrongBox batteries, for example, use epoxy to anchor the bottoms of the plates. To protect against vibration, don't hesitate to ask your battery supplier whether a battery is built for heavy-duty commercial off-road use or employs plate anchoring.
Even the toughest batteries require regular preventative maintenance:
- If the battery is not sealed, it is designed to vent the sulfuric gas that is generated in the charge/discharge process. This "gassing" also allows some water content in the battery's electrolyte solution to evaporate, and the water must be replenished periodically. For this type of battery, remove the vent caps and inspect the electrolyte level at least every six months – or every month when temperatures top 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If the electrolyte level is below the tops of the plates, refill each cell with distilled water. Note: Never add tap water or electrolyte to a battery.
- Sealed "maintenance-free" batteries also require preventative care. Keep the tops of all batteries, the terminal posts, and the cables clean. Dirt and debris can lead to shortening between posts. Inspect for corrosion (from gassing) on posts and cables. Corrosion reduces battery efficiency and can lead to shortening and failure. Inspect each battery's hold-downs, too, and tighten if necessary to minimize damaging vibration.