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Chapter 17

Theory, Diagnosis, and Service
Basic Battery Theory
Do now
Describe What different types of batteries are
used in todays vehicles?
• Restores chemical nature of cells.
• A chemical reaction causes current flow
within the cells.
• Each battery has own charging requirement.
• Follow charging procedures to prevent
battery damage.
Cell Arrangements
• Voltage depends on cell materials and
chemicals used.
• Most produce between 1.2 – 4.0 volts.
• To produce higher voltage, cells are
connected together.
Series Connections
Battery Hardware
• Battery Cables
– Must be able to carry current to meet demands
– 12-volt cables 4 or 6 gauge
– Connections can be top or side post
– Must be clean and tight
– HV cables on hybrid vehicles are orange
Battery Hardware (cont’d)
• Battery Hold-Downs
– Batteries must be securely held to prevent
– A loose battery can short against vehicle
– Excessive vibration destroys plates
– Can be either metal or plastic
Recycling Batteries
• Do not discard batteries with trash.
• 98% of lead-acid batteries are recycled.
• Additional information:
– Interstate Batteries
Battery Ratings
• Voltage rating may be expressed as open
circuit voltage – the voltage measured
when there is no load on the battery.
• Operating voltage is measured with the
battery under a load.
Battery Ratings (cont’d)
• Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) Rating
– The load in amperes that a battery can deliver
for 30 seconds at 0°F (-17.7°C) without the
voltage dropping below 7.2 volts.
• Cranking Amps (CA) Rating
– Current a battery can deliver for 30 seconds at
32°F (0°C) without the voltage dropping below
7.2 volts.
Safety Issues
• HV circuits identifiable by size and color.
• Cables may be enclosed in orange shielding
or casing.
• HV battery pack and other components
have warnings.
• Some accessories, such as the A/C, can be
powered by the HV system.
Lead-Acid Battery Construction
• Grids • Electrolyte
• Positive plates • A container
• Negative plates • Cell covers
• Separators • Vent covers
• Elements • Cell containers
Basic Construction (cont’d)
• Grids are lead alloy
frames that support
the active material
of each plate.
Basic Construction (cont’d)
• An element is a
group of positive
and negative plates
formed into a
Basic Construction (cont’d)
• Electrolyte is a solution of sulfuric acid and
• The sulfate reacts with the lead and lead
peroxide to release energy.
• Also acts as the carrier for electrons as they
• Desired solution is 65% water and 35% acid.
Casing Design
• Two terminals
• Specified by the Battery Council
International (BCI)
Discharging and Charging
Maintenance-Free and
Low-Maintenance Batteries
• Low-maintenance battery is a heavy-duty
normal lead-acid battery.
• Have vents which allow water to be added.
• Maintenance free batteries do not have
external caps.
• Water is not added.
Factors That Affect Battery Life

• Improper Electrolyte Levels

– Only water should be lost due to hot weather
and gassing
• Temperature
– A battery is at about 40% at 0°F (-17.7°C)
– Batteries can freeze if charge is too low
– If too hot, the electrolyte can evaporate
Factors That Affect Battery Life
• Corrosion
– Is caused by spilled or condensing electrolyte
– Attacks connectors, terminals, hold-down
• Overcharging
– Causes a loss of water in cells
– Produces excessive heat
Factors That Affect Battery Life
• Undercharge/Sulfation
– The plates become sulfated when operated in a
partial discharge condition
• Poor Mounting
– The active materials can shake off the plates or
case may crack
• Cycling
– Repeated deep cycling can cause positive plate
material to break away
Do Now
Describe what safety precautions should be
taken while handling a battery or servicing a
What effects batteries to discharge?
Servicing and Testing Batteries
• Always wear safety glasses or goggles
when working with batteries.
• Hydrogen gas emitted during charging.
– Any spark or flame can ignite the gas
• Sulfuric acid causes severe skin burns.
– If acid contacts skin or eyes, flush area with
water for several minutes
– Do not rub eyes or skin – call a doctor
Battery Safety
• Observe polarity when making connections
to the battery.
• Always disconnect the negative cable first.
• Always connect the negative cable last.
• Follow manufacturer’s recommendations
when charging.
• Do not wear jewelry when servicing a
Battery Inspection Tips
• Check the case for damage, dirt, and corrosion.
• Check the electrolyte level, color, and odor.
• Check the case for cracks and loose terminal
• Check the condition of the cables.
• Check the battery hold-down fixture.
• Check the heat shield for proper installation.
Cleaning Battery Terminals
Built-In Hydrometers
Open Circuit Voltage Test
• Can be substituted for specific gravity test.
• Battery temperature should be between 60º
and 100ºF (15.5ºC and 37.7ºC).
• Allow voltage to stabilize at least 10 minutes.
• May need to disconnect negative cable.
• Apply a heavy load for 15 seconds to a just
recharged battery.
Battery Load Test
• Determines performance under load.
• Carbon pile tester applies load.
• Maximum current draw, within acceptable
voltage, is compared to battery rating.
• Can be performed in or out of vehicle.
• Battery should be close to 80ºF (26.7ºC).
Battery Capacitance Test
• Also called a conductance test.
• Describes the batteries ability to conduct
• Tests battery plate surfaces, cell defects,
shorts, aging, and open circuits.
Battery Drains
• Parasitic loads drain current with key off.
• Some parasitic load is normal.
• Excessive amounts discharge the battery.
• Refer to the manufacturer’s specifications
for allowable amount.
• 30mA is normal for most vehicles.
Battery Cables
• Poor connections cause voltage drops.
• Voltage drop across connections.
• Heavy corrosion is obvious but can also
form a nearly invisible barrier.
• Damaged, bent or out-of-shape terminals
will cause excessive resistance.
Battery Chargers
• Fast Chargers
– Charge quickly but can overheat battery
– Battery must be in good condition
– Never fast-charge a sulfated battery
• Slow Chargers
– Safe way to charge sulfated batteries
Battery Chargers (cont’d)
• Always charge in a well ventilated area.
• Charger should be off when connecting and
disconnecting battery leads.
• Never attempt to charge a frozen battery.
• Disconnect battery cables when charging in
the vehicle.
Replacing a Battery
• When selecting a new battery, consider:
– Capacity
– Ratings
– Size
– Meets or exceeds power requirements
– Fits hold-down fixtures
Isolating High-Voltage Systems
• Ensure HV system is shut down and
isolated before working on HV component
• Use insulated tools
• Never leave tools near battery pack
• Do not wear anything metallic
Isolating High-Voltage Systems
• Do not touch HV cables or parts without the
correct protective gear.
• Wear HV gloves when de-powering and
powering the HV system.
• Follow each manufacturer’s procedures for
de-powering HV systems.