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Advantages Of A Smart Battery Charger

Wednesday, 10 January 2018  |  Tom

A simple trickle charger may look like a good bet but you run the risk of overcharging your battery and causing permanent damage; here we look at the advantages of a more sophisticated smart charger with maintenance and reconditioning modes.

Trickle Charger A trickle charger is designed to provide a low rate current that will slowly bring a battery to full charge. Once the battery is in a fully charged state it will continue charging but supposedly only at a rate that is equal to the battery’s self-discharge rate so that the battery remains fully charged.

As you can see this is not a very sophisticated method and runs a big risk of overcharging the battery potentially, causing it to ‘gas’, swell and ultimately destroying it – not something that we would recommend.

Smart Chargers

Smart chargers are much more sophisticated because as well as offering different switchable charging modes they are also programmed to provide a planned and varied output to charge and maintain your battery in the best condition.

Most smart chargers have a number of different charging modes, each one tailored to different battery types and charging requirements. For example, the CTEK MXS5.0 has multiple modes for different situations and battery types.

Small battery mode suitable for motorcycle batteries; this charges at a slower rate to avoid possible damage caused by charging small batteries too fast
Standard mode charging at 5A rate suitable for car batteries and other large batteries
AGM mode designed specifically to maximise the life of powerful Stop/Start AGM batteries
Recond mode for reconditioning deeply discharged batteries

All modes feature fully automatic "connect and forget" 8 step 12V charging and automatic temperature compensation to ensure optimum charging performance even in the most challenging conditions.

Smart Charger Programs

Smart chargers are programmed with multiple automated steps and variations in order to provide the best environment for the battery to accept a full charge. A typical smart charger can have up to 8 or 9 distinct steps to get the best performance from a battery.

These programmes will often start with a ‘desulphation’ step that tries to counteract the effects of a deeply discharged and neglected battery
This will be followed by a high current phase that gets most of the charging done
Next, a ‘bulk’ charging phase where the optimal voltage is maintained but the current is allowed to drop which brings that battery up to near full charge
Often the smart charger will switch to an analysis phase at this point designed to gauge how the battery is taking and keeping the charge and then determine how best to bring the battery to full charge

After that it will monitor the battery and maintain full charge as necessary but will not just keep forcing energy at it hoping for the best - like many cheap trickle chargers.

The big advantage of smart chargers, for those of you lucky enough to have a ‘spare’ car or bike that stays in the garage until summer, is that they can be left connected permanently and will maintain the battery in the best possible condition.

Recommended chargers
CTEK chargers
Optimate chargers