How Does a Car Battery Charger Work?

Car battery chargers are the oldest type of battery chargers. Today you have battery recharging systems that restore the working power to Lithium-ion batteries, nickel-based batteries, alkaline batteries, zinc-carbon batteries and more. But, the original type of battery that could be recharged was the lead-acid batteries that were designed to be used on automobiles, electric wheelchairs, golf carts, and other motorized devices of this type.

So we all know that when we turn the key on our car the battery is supposed to provide enough power to turn the motor over and thus crank the engine. We also know that it is frustrating when we turn the key and nothing happens because we have a dead battery.

A dead battery can be the result of a malfunctioning alternator, or the cold weather can zap the life and power from a battery, low fluid in the battery cells, or simple wear and tear that happens over time.

What many of us do not know is how an external charging system increases the power in our batteries.

How Does a Car Battery Charger Work?

The car battery charger is a simple device that when connected to the battery at the battery terminals will provide external power that “charges” or increases the power of the battery it is connected to.

The charger uses the electrical current it receives from being plugged into an electrical outlet to slowly provide power to the cells of your car battery.  The process of energizing the electrolytes in your battery cells is usually performed by the alternator on the vehicle. If the alternator is not functioning properly, or if the vehicle is not driven far enough to let the alternator do its job, then the result is a battery that has fewer cranking amps than is needed to turn the engine over in your car.

The battery charger is plugged into an electrical socket, then through the use of alligator clips or connector rings, a cable is connected to the positive battery post, and one is connected to the negative battery post of the battery. The electrical current flows through the battery charger and into the battery and the electrolytes in the battery get restored to their proper energy level.

A battery charger for an automobile may charge your battery using four different methods.

  • Simple or fast charging occurs when the charger supplies a constant amount of power, usually the maximum amount of power capable according to the size of the charging unit. The charge that is provided by the charger happens at one rate and does not fluctuate. This may be called the fast charging, but this process can take several hours to complete, depending on the size of the battery,(the number of amp hours the battery is capable of sustaining) and the number of amps that the charging unit is capable of providing.
  • Trickle charging or float charging happens when the battery charger provides a very small amount of current to the battery it is connected to. This type of charge is much slower than the simple charging but it is the perfect method of charging and maintaining a battery that is not used often. Marine batteries that power boats and watercraft often have to be charged in this manner so they are ready to use when the boat owner is ready to use the boat. Vehicles that are kept in garages and rarely driven benefit from the trickle charge system so the battery does not get depleted from just sitting. A slower battery charge like a trickle charge is more effective than the faster charges, but the trickle charge is so slow that it may not be convenient for you.
  • Timer based charging happens when you have a battery charger that will shut off after a specified amount of time. Timer based charging is used to restore full power to a battery without overcharging the battery. If a battery is overcharged the cells of the battery can be permanently damaged so that the battery cannot provide the number of amp hours that it was designed to provide. Overcharging a battery will cause you to have to replace the battery faster than if it was not overcharged.
  • Smart charging occurs when you have a battery charger that is capable of regulating the type of charging, or the speed of charging your battery needs. These are considered the desired car battery charger because they sense the amount of power that is in the battery and they will provide a simple charge until the battery is almost completely charged, then it will reduce the speed of the charge until the battery is at 100% working power. If the battery remains connected to the charger after it reaches a 100% charge, the charger will automatically provide a lower amperage charge that will maintain the level of power the battery has without overcharging or damaging the battery.

Before you hook a battery up to a charger check the following things:

  • Make certain the case on the battery is not cracked or damaged
  • Make sure the battery is not frozen
  • If your battery has vents make sure the vents are free from obstruction
  • Make sure you connect the charger cables to the battery BEFORE you turn the charging unit on
  • If you notice that your battery is getting hot to the touch immediately turn off the charger and disconnect the cables

The top quality car battery charger will help to prolong the life of your battery. Since car batteries can be expensive items to buy this means that the charging system will save you money over time. These charges can also restore the performance of your car battery so you feel safer when you go places in your vehicle. A fully charged battery will decrease the chances of you experiencing an automobile malfunction, or being stranded away from home.

Knowing what type of battery your car has, and what size of the battery is in your car, will help you to choose the right car battery charger.

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