4WD MODIFICATIONS - ELECTRIC & LIGHTS
The consequences of a flat 4WD battery vary from annoying to life threatening. Today’s vehicles are packed with power hungry technology and, coupled with a change to driving habits post-Covid and post oil price shock, a flat battery is now quite common.
CTEK, the vehicle charging specialist corporation, lists the Top 10 things that could be affecting the performance of your vehicle battery.
Doin many short journeys, particularly in urban areas, drains the battery, as it takes 150-350A of battery power just to start the engine. On short trips the alternator won’t have the time or capability to replace this charge. Over several short trips, your battery will soon be flat.
A battery can lose as much as 35 percent in performance when temperatures hit freezing, and up to 50 percent if temperatures sink below that. Drivers should look out for any signs of change, such as slow cranking or reluctance to start, or the operation of the electrical system in general, because these can be indications of a weak battery.
Leaving the key in your 4WD, or even on a hook nearby, is not recommended. If the fob is too close to your car, it can continue to communicate with it, which could needlessly drain the battery.
A standard lead-acid battery will drain naturally at 0.1V per month, even while sitting on a shelf. That may not sound a lot, but if you consider that a fully charged battery is at 12.72V and a chemically discharged battery, at which point you’d struggle to start your 4WD, is at 11.8V. That means in just eight months of non-use, the battery could appear flat. That is without considering any additional drains that may also impact battery life, too.
Continuous power draw
Even while your car is off, your battery provides power to the clock, the radio and the alarm system. With modern vehicles, engine cooling fans and other systems will keep running for some time, after the ignition is turned off.
The vehicle may run its own network with communication to the manufacturer servers via the TCU (Telematics Control Unit) – over-the-air updates that are sent out on a regular basis usually impact the drivetrain and infotainment system. The ability to turn on lights and heater remotely, from your phone via an app, can also go through this network.
Every time you open the doors to get something out, your 4WD springs into life and its interior and door lights, and other activated systems can drain the battery. Unlocking your vehicle, popping the tailgate and locking the vehicle again can draw around 50 amps from the battery. Regularly doing this can have an impact on battery voltage.
Parasitic battery drain can quickly drain your battery. You can help avoid parasitic drains by turning off every interior and exterior light, including those in the glove box and consoles. Make sure doors are fully closed and locked before leaving the 4WD.
Your engine uses battery power when you fire up the engine, but when it’s running, your battery relies on the alternator to help it stay charged. If your alternator isn’t working correctly, it won’t charge your battery properly.
If your battery falls below 12.4V, a chemical reaction called sulphation will begin. Lead sulphate crystals start to build up on the battery plates, degrading the battery, reducing battery capacity and its cranking potential. Your vehicle will probably start OK if the battery is at 12.4V but your battery is already dying. Around 87 percent of batteries returned under warranty aren’t faulty, but are suffering from sulphation.
End of life
Nothing lasts forever, including your 4WD’s battery. However, the factors outlined above can limit battery life two to three years if you don’t take some preventative steps. Also, a failing battery can damage on-board electronic systems.
Maximising battery life
Charging your 4WD battery at least once a month prolongs its life by up to three times, so buying a reliable battery charger and getting into a regular battery maintenance routine make sense.
CTEK points out that its patented technology incorporated in the MXS 5.0 battery charger can also recondition a battery, by removing sulphation buildup.