In the balance

Battery balancing is a concept that many workshops will not be familiar with. However, Rotronics asserts that it can play a key role in reducing downtime and increasing costs.

If a room full of knowledgeable Commercial Vehicle Workshop readers were asked to raise their hands to indicate how much they know about battery balancing, there certainly would not be a sea of confident hands. But battery balancing is fast emerging as a key factor in keeping commercial vehicles on the road when they need to be – and helping vehicle and fleet owners avoid unnecessary downtime and costs.

An unmonitored and unchecked imbalanced battery is likely to have a reduced lifespan of up to 50%, resulting in premature and avoidable early replacement costs.

The battery is the heart beat of any vehicle and, as with the human body, often it is too late before we know that there is an irregularity. In any 24v vehicle system, having imbalanced batteries – or an irregular heart beat – is the sure route to roadside defects and rising avoidable costs. Within six-month’s of operation, a battery set can be out of balance and, without regular maintenance and checks, fleet owners will see few obvious signs in their vehicles until they experience a roadside non-start or battery failure.

Over time, one battery will have a greater charge acceptance than the other and, in turn, the other battery will be short-changed in the charge process. Left unchecked and without correct maintenance, this situation will only deteriorate. Early testing and balanced charging can go a long way to eradicating this problem. Ken Clark, Managing Director of Rotronics, specialists in battery management solutions and UK Midtronics partner, estimates that the impact of battery imbalance and poor maintenance can contribute up to 20% of annual batteryrelated costs.

The long-term implications associated with battery imbalance include:

  • Premature failure.
  • Roadside non-starts.
  • Recovery costs.
  • Customer complaints.
  • Compensation costs.
  • Non-delivery of goods.

Ken says: “Battery imbalance is a serious and unseen problem – without regular monitoring and maintenance there are few obvious symptoms until it is too late. Most workshops will see the visible signs of battery imbalance or overcharging, through the ‘tell-tell’ symptoms of electrolyte staining and corrosion on the terminals. However, simply cleaning them up will not solve the problem. Instead, you should get to the root cause of the problem to improve battery life, battery performance and vehicle reliability. The use of a Midtronics Heavy Duty Diagnostic Tester, will show clearly whether a battery set is in-balance or outof-balance, by taking into account both voltage and CCA (Cold Cranking Amps) variation within the battery set. The fleet owner has a significantly increased chance of a vehicle non-start and shorter battery life if left untreated."

Battery management

Regular monitoring in the form of a battery management programme, as part of day-to-day practice in any workshop, will significantly reduce avoidable costs and maximise a battery’s performance and lifespan.

A battery management programme ensures that:

  • Return-on-investment can be proved and each workshop will have the expertise and knowledge to maximise fault diagnosis, increase productivity and customer service.
  • A full auditable record is available to monitor and track a fleet’s battery performance.
  • Batteries are tested pro-actively, at the point of service and routine inspection
  • Imbalanced batteries are identified and charged accordingly.
  • Batteries are maintained to optimum levels.
  • Defective batteries are identified and replaced before they affect vehicle reliability.

For more information call Rotronics on 0121 526 8185

This article was published in CVW magazine January 2016.