Before buying a battery, car enthusiasts sometimes face a choice typical for heroes from folk tales, wondering which battery is better — a maintainable or a maintenance free one. Everyone has the right to choose their own landmarks just like epic heroes do, but
Personal choice or key ready options?
There is already a hint that lies beneath definitions of each of these battery types: maintainable batteries are called so because car enthusiasts can just unscrew the plugs and identify a problem, if any. And in general, one may check the condition of the electrolyte, lead plates, etc. How to find a problem and maintain a battery yourself are the main things you need to know about maintainable batteries.
If you try finding the plugs to unscrew them and check them on your own but having some troubles, please do not keep trying again — this means that your battery is maintenance free. It has a smooth surface on which you can find an indicator and several holes for gas withdrawal. Each of the six reservoirs contains a plate and an amount of electrolyte, which are placed in a sealed case.
These days it is not enough to ask a sales manager for a maintenance free battery, they can offer you an alternative option. Don’t get confused, everything is really simple: batteries may differ in the physical state of the electrolyte:
- wet cell batteries (which are conventional batteries with liquid electrolyte);
- gel batteries («non-flowable» electrolyte state is achieved with the help of special additives);
- AGM batteries (this is a technology invented by American engineers, they use absorbed electrolyte instead of the «classic» electrolyte). Its peculiarity lies in high discharge currents and absence of gas release.
Advantages and disadvantages
Maintainable batteries for an experienced car enthusiast are like your palm for a gypsy soothsayer: one can see if not a life line, then at least assume its lifespan. Thus, maintainable battery advantages are plain to see. Ownes can maintain a battery on their own:
- check the electrolyte level and density;
- tell the state of the electrolyte by colour;
- notice whether sulphate crystals are formed;
- evaluate the condition of lead plates;
- determine the degree of charge by boiling.
But in the modern world and, most importantly, in modern cars, there are new requirements related to electronics. And maintainable batteries often look like «dinosaurs». Therefore, they are trusted either by owners of old domestic cars, or by auto enthusiasts who are used to solving issues on their own. Yet again, this hardly has something to do with purchasing of new equipment.
With maintenance free batteries, everything is easier. This is comparable with a situation when you buy some key ready solutions and know that you have everything under control. Consequently, the absence of the need for constant control is an important advantage of maintenance free batteries. The previously mentioned sealed housing also has some advantages: the liquid will not leak, which is a favourable condition for the absence of corrosion on vehicle assemblies.
There are only few disadvantages of maintenance free batteries. It is hard to say that price is a disadvantage, because this becomes levelled out due to quality-price ratio. Well, you cannot also extend service life on your own, since it is impossible to check electrolyte density or top up some water. But the manufacturer makes sure right from the start that your battery serves its due time and you don’t have to worry and take any actions on your own.
Unpretentious in maintenance, needs charging
Owners of maintenance free batteries do not need to ask themselves how to maintain their batteries properly, but they may reasonably wonder whether they should charge maintenance free batteries. The answer is positive and even strictly affirmative, because this helps to extend battery life. An important point: it is necessary to use automatic devices that do not cause battery overcharging. In general, there are two ways to charge sealed batteries:
- stable current supply (recommended for severely discharged batteries)
- stable voltage supply (recommended for partial discharge)
And finally, here are some recommendations that will be useful to owners of both maintainable and maintenance free batteries: mind the ambient temperature, make sure that onboard network is in good condition, and also do not forget to turn off the headlights. And take care!