Often, owners of used heavy equipment worry that the cold of winter will harm their machinery. However, the heat of the summer can also do significant damage to machine batteries. Even though it might go unnoticed until the battery has to work harder in cold temperatures, much of the damage is actually done during the months of June, July, and August. The reason that people do not notice during the summer is because construction equipment typically starts easier during the warmer months. What machine operators might not know, however, is that the battery also tends to deteriorate more quickly in the heat. High temperatures cause lead-acid battery current collectors to degrade more quickly and corrode during charging. This corrosion causes machine batteries to become weak over time.
The life of the battery is also shorter when the temperature is hotter. This is because the rate of sulfation becomes faster in heat. Sulfation means that crystals comprised of lead sulfate develop. Lead sulfate typically forms around the electrodes of a battery as it discharges and is not normally an issue as long as a recharge happens immediately. However, when a recharge does not occur right away, the lead sulfate turns into crystals that are more difficult to charge. Sulfation also occurs more rapidly due to parasitic loads, which are small currents that the battery delivers to the various electronic components of a machine. Although the parasitic loads and electrical currents are very minimal, they combine with heat to decrease the life of the battery.
We have a handful of recommendations to help protect your machine battery during the summer months as follows:
1. Keep your used construction equipment out of the sun. In order to maximize the battery life, park your machinery in a shaded or covered storage area such a garagewhen it is not in use.
2. As part of routine equipment maintenance, you should check the health of the battery. Make sure that the battery is fully and properly charged before heavy use during the hotter months. Do not solely rely on the alternator as it can cause the alternator stress and lead to early failure. Use a battery charger as necessary. Ensure that all battery connections are clean and tight. Doing these things will lead to higher current and long-term performance.
3. Use absorbed glass mat, or AGM, batteries whenever possible as they are more low maintenance alternatives to lead-acid batteries. AGM batteries are not as affected by the sulfation process or parasitic loads, and they are able to sit in storage for longer periods of time without adverse effect. AGM batteries are also sealed and leak-proof and are a good choice for equipment that uses a lot of power for different machine components such as mirrors, heat, and air conditioning.
4. Keep your used machinery active. Allowing equipment to sit for extended periods of time will cause parasitic loads to drain the battery more quickly.
5. The largest source of parasitic loads is the electronics of your machinery. Therefore, whenever you exit your machine remember to turn off all electronic systems so that the inactive engine will not degrade your battery.
In conclusion, as an owner or operator of used heavy machinery take the necessary precautions during the summer heat to protect the battery of your equipment. Keep the equipment out of the sun whenever possible. Perform battery checks during regular maintenance. Utilize AGM batteries if possible. Keep machines active. Finally, turn off all electronic systems upon exiting the vehicle. Following these guidelines will better ensure the long-term health of your machine battery.