Have you noticed that your truck has lately been cranking slower than usual? If so, chances are that its battery is on its last legs, and it is only a matter of time before it goes completely flat. If that happens, you will not be able to start your truck at all, which would be frustrating. But before blaming it all on the battery, you should know other charging system components can cause such behavior, as well. Because of that, it might be a good idea to check all of them before replacing anything. To help you out with that, we will explore how the charging system in your truck works and what role the battery has in it. Additionally, we will find out how to test these components and go through a selection of the best batteries for your truck.
What Do Trucks Use Batteries For?
Just as any other vehicle, your truck operates a wide range of its components using electricity. For a start, there is the engine, which has things like ignition coils and sensors. These are sensitive components that require a steady voltage to function at an optimum level. Then, there are lights and windscreen wipers, without which driving would be impossible. Lastly, most trucks nowadays have all sorts of creature comforts, such as power windows and heated seats. And most of them have in common that they consume a lot of electricity.
When the engine in your truck is running, it also spins the alternator, which is connected to it. This simple device acts as a generator that produces electricity for various functions. A portion of it is used to power all those components we mentioned earlier. The remaining part is stored inside the battery, which acts as a comical container that holds electrical current within itself. And when the engine is off, the battery serves as a power source for devices like central locking or interior lightning. But most importantly, it also provides electricity for the starter motor, which turns one the engine. Because of this, a battery must have a sufficient capacity to store enough electricity for all these consumers.
How Does a Truck Battery Work?
Truck batteries come in different shapes and sizes, although every one of them does the same job. Still, that doesn’t mean there is no significant difference between various types of batteries and their intended applications. Knowing about the most common battery lifespan will help you decide which one is ideal for your truck.
Wet-cell or flooded battery is the oldest and simplest variant of them all. Because they have been around for decades, their technology has been perfected to the last detail. These batteries have a series of lead plates submerged into a sulfuric acid that acts as an electrolyte. A series of chemical reactions between these two components generate an electrical current. This is what allows the automotive battery to power various electrical consumers. And because of their simple construction, flooded batteries are less expensive than other variants on the market. On the downside, as the acid fluid can evaporate with time, owners need to check it regularly and top it up when needed. This is an additional maintenance job that often gets overlooked by many. Flooded batteries are also heavier and bulkier than their more modern counterparts.
Gel batteries were the first widespread and more advanced alternative to their flooded ancestors. The working principle for both these types is the same, with the electrolyte being the only notable difference. Instead of liquid, gel batteries have a jelly-like substance inside them. This is a mixture of silica and sulfuric acid, which acts as an electrolyte. Having no fluid that can evaporate, these batteries are practically maintenance-free. As another upside, this construction makes them extremely robust, allowing them to keep running even if their casing is broken. The only real drawback is the inability to withstand high-amperage situations during fast charging. As a result, gel batteries take more time to recharge, which can be a limiting factor.
Absorbed Glass Mat batteries are the latest development in this automotive components segment. Also known as AGM batteries, these offer a wide range of benefits over their conventional counterparts. This is because the technology behind them is a bit different. They have metal plates covered with paste and a fiberglass mat that separates them and absorbs the electrolyte. Thanks to this compact construction, these batteries are smaller and lighter than the rest. And like gel batteries, they are completely maintenance-free. But as with anything, there are some downsides, and in this case, it is the price.
Some Best Truck Batteries To Consider
As one of the most iconic names in the business, Optima Batteries is a brand that is hugely popular among automotive enthusiasts. This Wisconsin-based manufacturer owes that reputation to their uniquely-shaped gel batteries. At the time, this was a ground-breaking technology that changed the face of a battery-manufacturing industry. This is why even the current product lineup features a similar outer shape, with this RedTop being the top-of-the-range model. There are several reasons for this battery to be on this list, with its performance being just one of them. But what sets it apart are exceptional vibration resistance and the ability to work in virtually any position. In addition, this battery is the smallest and lightest of the three. With that in mind, Optima RedTop will be ideal if you are frequently taking your truck overs harsh terrains.
Being part of a much larger EnerSys corporation, Odyssey is one of the leaders in stored-energy solutions, with over 100 years of experience. They design and manufacture batteries for all sorts of applications, including automotive and industrial. There is no doubt that such a manufacturer can offer a high-end product for trucks and this 65-PC battery is just that. Even a quick glance at the most relevant features would reveal how capable this unit really is. But what these numbers fail show to show is this batterys’ ability to withstand even the harshest temperatures. It will hold its charge for as long as needed, no matter how cold or hot it gets. Because of that, the Odyssey battery should be your pick if you live in Texas or Alaska and drive a heavy-duty truck.
There are automotive part manufacturers that require no introduction, as their reputation precedes them, and ACDelco is one of them. Backing up the big GM as a part supplier for decades, this Michigan-based manufacturer has both knowledge and experience. And they use this to offer high-quality products for a wide range of automotive brands throughout their Gold and Silver product lineup. These parts are designed based on their OE counterparts and then improved in many ways. It is only reasonable to expect their batteries to be a better-performing direct-fit replacement, which is what this Gold 94RAGM one is. Compared to factory-installed batteries, they offer a longer life-cycle and hold their charge longer. So, if your stock battery did its job well, and you just want to replace it with something a bit better, ACDelco Gold is the way to go.
Why Do Batteries Wear Out?
Despite the differences in construction and design, all truck batteries will lose their ability to hold electricity at one point. Several reasons are causing this, although there are ways to slow this down. For a start, changing charge levels caused by everyday use will gradually wear down the battery. This happens because of changes in its chemical structure like it does with mobile phones or laptops. That degradation process is more severe in extreme temperatures, which is why batteries wear out more quickly and cold or very hot ambients. Driving habit is another contributing factor that may shorten the battery’s lifespan. One such situation is when drivers often use their vehicles for short trips, during which the charging is not sufficient. In addition, most modern trucks have a start-stop system that puts an extra load on the battery. But the biggest threat to the batteries’ longevity is something called deep discharging. This specific situation would happen when an electric consumer is left to drain the battery for a long time until it eventually becomes completely flat. This process is very harmful to the battery’s internal components and can cause reversible damage to them.
How To Test The Battery?
Sometimes, it may not be easy to determine if the battery is worn or if the alternator is faulty. There is, however, a simple test you can carry out that would help you figure this out. It takes no more than a few minutes, and all you will need for it is a standard multimeter tool. But before you begin, make sure to set the select selection knob on the multimeter is set on voltage, so you will get the correct readings. Start by popping up the hood and locating the battery. Then using the multimeter’s test probs, measure the voltage between the positive and negative terminal. If the battery is in good shape, the readings will be approximately 12V or a bit above. Any value significantly below that would indicate a worn battery.
Next, turn on your truck and repeat the procedure with the engine running. This allows you to test alternators’ and charging system performance. The figures you are looking for are around 14 Volts. This test, however, will not work on some newer trucks that have intelligent battery charging systems. These systems continuously alter the charging rate the alternator produces. This is to improve its efficiency and subsequently improve the fuel economy. Still, these systems can recognize any battery or alternator-related issues. If that happens, an appropriate warning message on the dashboard will alert the driver.
There is no definitive answer to how long a battery in any vehicle may last, as it depends on several factors. You could expect a good flooded-cell battery to endure more than five years of use, while AGM may last for up to 10 years. This is, however, assuming ideal running conditions, as some situations can considerably lower these values. For a start, unfavorable driving habits with frequent shot short trips in city traffic may prevent sufficient charging. In addition, extremely high and low temperatures can also shorten the lifespan of a battery. But the biggest threat to batterys’ longevity are issues with the charging system and situations where the driver leaves it to go flat.
There is a chance you have noticed a layer of powder-like power white deposits on battery terminals. This is corrosion caused by some specific chemical processes and can be a tell-tale sign of battery-related issues. The most benign cause may be poor engine-bay ventilation, which doesn’t allow evaporations from the battery to escape to the atmosphere. A leaking battery is much more dangerous, as the escaping acid is toxic and harmful. Still, you can always clean off these deposits using a toothbrush and baking soda and then monitor the situation to see what happens next.
Assuming you have bought the battery that fits your truck, replacing it is a straightforward job. In most cases, this comes down to loosening battery terminals and unbolting the retaining bracket that holds the battery in place. Still, if you have a newer truck, it may be a good idea to hook up a trickle charger during this procedure. This way, you will prevent things like stereo and seat-position memory from being lost while replacing the battery.
As you may have learned in this article, a battery in your truck will go flat out sooner or later. And when that happens, you will not be able to start its engine. But before jumping to any conclusions, you should test both the battery and alternator using a multimeter. If the battery is worn, you can choose from a wide range of products on the market. While ACDelco Gold is a direct-fit replacement that offers improved performance, Optima and Odyssey batteries are excellent choices if you want even more.
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