Aug 30, 2017
A former co-worker consistently dropped the second syllable in the word “battery,” and now I find myself calling them “bat-tries.”
However you pronounce the word, batteries are an ongoing frustration for farmers because batteries don’t like to be ignored. Use a battery every day, run the engine long enough to fully recharge it, and a battery should last from 4 to maybe, if you’re lucky, 8 years. Put a machine into storage and ignore its batteries for 10 months, and you’ll be lucky if you don’t have to replace them before their fifth birthday.
The simple solution to optimize battery life in machines that get stored for long periods of time is to hook up a battery maintainer, a trickle charger, and keep them fully charged during storage. If that’s not an option, then try to start the machine every month or so and let the engine run long enough to fully recharge the batteries. But if you never got around to taking steps to keep your batteries healthy, and just hear a clicking sound when you go to get your combine out of storage….
First step is give each battery a slow charge with a good battery charger. Charge them one at a time, then check them with a battery tester. NOT one of those chromed tin boxes that look like a cheese grater–those are for testing automotive batteries, and aren’t designed to test the monster batteries now used in farm equipment. For $50 to $100 you can buy a digital battery load tester at NAPA or other reliable tool supplier that will do a good job load testing farm batteries–I’d say you can trust that caliber of load tester 80 percent of the time. For $200 or more you can get a really good digital load tester that you can trust 100 percent of the time. If $200 sounds like a lot of money for a battery tester, consider that each battery for a big four-wheel-drive tractor can cost $300 or more. Accurately knowing whether you actually need to replace one of those high-priced batteries can pay for a reliable battery tester pretty quick.
Above all else–whether you test the batteries yourself or haul them to town to have them tested–don’t try to “save” batteries. If one battery is weak or dead, replace all of them. The batteries you don’t replace will shorten the lifespan of the single new battery.
Don’t assume that “the batteries will come back after I run it for a day or two.” They won’t. The alternator may burn out, trying to charge the worn…