Charge it, please!
  26 January 2004  

Here's a piece about another thing I've been doing for so long I never gave it a second thought.

 C2.jpg (36985 bytes)      You get all kinds of input about battery chargers for home/hobby use, but all the average guy needs is something similar to the photo to the left. 
    The "10/2 AMP" printed on the side of the charger means it will charge a 12 volt battery at 10 amps per hour or 2 amps per hour, this one will also charge at 6 volts. Something in this general range is ideal, but you can't see the most important feature of this charger. That feature is in the word "Automatic" that is printed on the front. 
    "Automatic" means the charger will not overcharge your battery no matter how you set it. When the battery becomes fully charged the unit cuts itself back to barely a trickle. You can't renew a bad battery with any charger, but you can kick up a rundown one in about 15 minutes with one of these. Say you get in, hit the starter and get only a grunt. Fifteen minutes at the 10 amp setting and you usually have the hooch to start the car and let the alternator take it from there. 
    You should be able to pick up one for somewhere in the $40.00 range or less.


 C3.jpg (44588 bytes)     Another convenience of a small charger like this is that it is so adaptable - literally - and you don't need big fat cables to do it. See that light blue block with the + and -- posts, cord, and small plug? I use that to adapt to the cigarette lighter plug and charge the battery in my MGB hassle free (more on that later). 
    The lighter plug adapter can be used another way; and the rig with the alligator clips is for that also (coming right up). The plugs are keyed to work only one way, so once you have everything made correctly you can't screw up a hook-up. They are Radio Shack P/N 274-222 with the locking tabs cut off.
    The alligator patch cord allows me to attach my battery maintainer to any 12 volt battery.     

 C1.jpg (30836 bytes)     This is the set up I use to charge the battery in my MGB; it can be used on any car. 
    Contrary to the photo, I always set the charger outside the car and a foot or two away from it. Hook everything up then plug in the charger. No chance for making a spark in the car that way, and remember to unplug the charger before disconnecting anything. 
    You can charge 10 or 12 amps through the lighter socket with no problems at all, but I wouldn't go any higher than 12. 
    The bottom of the plastic block, (wood will do just as well) is counter bored, the bolt heads sunk into it, and the holes filled with a non conductive filler to insulate the bolt heads. 
    The gizmo beside the charger is a digital volt meter that plugs into the cigarette lighter socket. I always carry it in the car to get a quick check, to the tenth of a volt, on the condition of my battery and charging system in a jiffy. 
    Similar more compact units are available at Auto Zone and other stores for about 10 or 12 bucks.


 C4.jpg (63591 bytes)     This is the battery maintainer I use during those long, cold winter months. It's intended to be vehicle mounted, but that wasn't versatile enough to suit me. 
    I added about 12 feet of lamp cord so it would reach anything I wanted to in my small garage. I chose lamp cord because it's very flexible at any temperature and plenty big enough to handle the 1-1/2 amps of maintainer output. You get it wired right one time with the keyed Radio Shack 274-222 plugs and you can't hook up wrong after that; so color coding doesn't matter.
     I use the straight cord, lighter plug, and alligator clip patch cords (shown in a photo above) with this rig. This one is from NAPA, but it is made by Excide and may be sold under any number of brand names. 
    It's not for charging up a dead battery, but will do it in time. It's real purpose is to maintain a charge in a charged battery over an indefinite period of time. It has an indicator light that when showing steadily means it is charging full tilt, blinking means the battery is nearly at full capacity, light off shows the battery is at full charge and the unit has turned itself off. 
    I bought this one when they were first introduced for about $35.00, I think the price is down a little from that now.


 C5.jpg (33805 bytes)     Here is another reason for all the patch cords and adapters. Notice the plug dead center in this shot of my '93 BMW R100R scooter which shares garage space with my "78 MGB "Bea".
    I use the maintainer alternately between the two of them. I can also jam a quick charge into the Beemer and crank her up should I forget the maintainer for too long in winter.

So there it is boys & girls. With a little imagination you can easily rig, charge, and maintain the battery in any vehicle you have; car, truck, tractor, motorcycle, airplane, motorboat, ATV, you name it. And you can do it "on the cheap" with only one or two small chargers.
  Now, if you want to know more about your car's battery, jump to my new tech tip "Batteries 101".

Works for me,

"John Dandy"

(theAutoist NOTE:  John Weimer's new "nom de plume")