News and Updates

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    The Case of the Pickled Battery

    It does not happen often but every once in awhile we get a question that just plain stumps us.  Recently, a Customer called late on a Friday, just before closing, with a question that left us scratching our heads.  Apparently, he was doing his monthly water service maintenance on his batteries and he accidently grabbed the “Distilled Vinegar” jug instead of the “Distilled Water” one.  Oops!  He used his battery water fill system and poured about ½ cup of vinegar into the batteries before he caught his mistake.  He knew it was wrong and stopped immediately but wanted to know how much damage he may have done to his batteries.  So he called us.

    When we answered, he explained his situation and we answered with, “Huh?”  He explained some more and again we responded, “Huh?”  At the end of the story, we summarized our answer with, “Huh, we never heard that one before.”  So we called our Battery Supplier and got the exact same responses.  So he called the Battery Manufacturer and got pretty much the same “shoulder shrugs”.  Fortunately, the Engineers were still at work that evening and were able to come up with an answer after a bit of thought and analysis.

    Bottom line … Vinegar is bad for the battery.  It shortens the life expectancy, decreases performance and endurance, and voids any applicable warranties.  DON’T DO IT!

    If you like Chemistry, here’s a little bit of the “why” to explain the situation.  Battery Water is an electrolyte made up from Sulfuric Acid and Distilled Water.  It is the “engine” that drives the process of transferring and storing electrons onto the Lead Plates within the battery when electrical current is applied during the charging process.  When batteries are being discharged, such as while driving or turning on lights, fans, radios, etc., the Lead Plates will discharge electrons and absorb the electrolyte as they lose electrons.  Basically, the Lead Plates act like sponges.  This is not a perfect analogy but hopefully you get the idea.  If there are contaminates in the Electrolyte, such as Vinegar, then the ability of the Lead Plates to absorb the Electrolyte is decreased.  Essentially, the Acetic Acid (Vinegar is mostly water with about 5% Acetic Acid) corrodes and damages the Lead Plates (Acetic Acid is very corrosive to metals).  This decreases the available volume of lead to absorb Electrons during the Charging process.  Charging the batteries reverses the process and pushes Electrolyte out of the Lead Plates and back into the battery casing while allowing electrons to again migrate onto the Lead Plates.  But the damage to the Lead Plates from the Acetic Acid remains and the damage will increase over the remaining Charge/Discharge Cycle life of the batteries.

    The other question our Customer had was, “What do I do about it?”  Another great question which we deferred to our Subject Matter Experts.

    Just in case you were thinking that all you would have to do to fix the problem is to dump out the contaminated battery acid and start fresh.  In a word … DON’T.  Sulfuric Acid is dangerous to work with even while paying attention to proper safe handling, storage, and disposal procedures.  Mixing the Acid and Water to the correct ratio is also a specific science.  And you must be very careful even just servicing your batteries.  We do not have the facilities to store or dispose of Sulfuric Acid safely so we refer any such issues to our Supplier.  Once you use the batteries, even just once, the damage is already done.

    The recommendation we received was to go ahead and use the batteries normally and try to get as much life out of them as possible.  Since the warranty is already voided, it does not make a lot of economic sense to just dispose of them and start over.  Some of the Acetic Acid will “boil off” along with the water during normal Charge and Discharge Cycles and should lessen additional damage (but not reverse) over time.  When you decide that Performance and Endurance are no longer satisfactory, then that will be the time to change out your batteries.

    In summary, what does this all mean to you, the Driver?  Fewer electrons stored on the batteries, means shorter run times.  Restricted flow of electrons due to contamination means slower speeds.  Corrosion of the Lead Plates means a shorter life expectancy.

    Lessons Learned:

    GOOD : Only use Distilled (contaminate free) Water

    BETTER: Service at least once a month so that the batteries have the proper mixture of Distilled Water and Sulfuric Acid that completely covers the Lead Plates

    BEST: Remember that Distilled Water will “boil off” during normal usage (Charging and Discharging) and you may need to check your water levels more frequently depending on usage

    NOTE: We used this story with our Customer’s permission. We sincerely appreciate his candor and honesty. We all learned something, including our “Experts”.

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    Yamaha Recalls Golf Carts

    Do you own a Yamaha cart? This popular brand has an active recall alert – make sure you take a look at the full article to see if you’re affected.
    You should contact the nearest Yamaha dealer, as they will do the repair for free.

    Link to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission 

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    Charge at Night - Water in the Morning

    Battery Manufacturers recommend leaving your cart plugged in and charging every night after you finished using it for the day. Modern chargers and On Board Computers (OBC's) will shut off automatically either when they are done charging or timed out. The charging process heats up the water/acid solution (electrolyte) and forces the electrolyte that has been absorbed by the battery's lead plates back into solution. By charging the batteries first, the liquid electrolyte will be at the highest possible level before adding more water. 

    • If low, then add Distilled Water (only Distilled Water) until just below the fill port of each cell. You should see about 1/4" to 1/2" of electrolyte above the lead plates. 
    • If you can see water up into the circular part of the Fill Ports, your cell is over-filled. 
    • If you over-fill the cells or fill prior to charging, there is a chance that the mixture will overflow through the Vent Holes in the Cell Caps, since the electrolyte typically boils while it is charging or while driving your cart. 
    • If the cells over-flow, then there is a strong potential for it to drip and damage your Battery Compartment Metal Tray (some manufacturers use plastic trays to minimize damage) or damage the finish on your garage floor. 
    • You can rinse off any spillage with plain water from a hose (don't forget to put the caps back on your batteries before rinsing ... remember ONLY Distilled Water goes into the batteries) but keep in mind that what you are rinsing off is "acid" whether it is still in liquid form or has left a dried-off residue. 
    • Be sure to rinse off somewhere where the run-off does not cause damage (such as to your lawn or driveway). 
    • Do not use the Spray Nozzle on your hose. The high-velocity spray may cause the acid to spatter and damage the finish on your cart, or eat holes in your clothes, or injure your eyes or other body parts.

    We are frequently asked how much Distilled Water should normally be needed when doing your monthly water maintenance? 
    The answer is, "it depends". Generally speaking, about 1/2 to 1 gallon is fairly typical. If you need more than 1 gallon, then you waited too long. You will need to do your maintenance more frequently than once a month. You should NEVER look into the battery cells and see the tops of the lead plates above the electrolyte level. This is the one exception to the rule, "Charge at night / water in the morning". If the tops of the plates are exposed to air, then your battery is "DRY" and you should add Distilled Water before charging. Just be mindful of spillage and take appropriate precautions.

    Lastly and with emphasis, be careful! 
    You are working with acid and it can hurt either you, your cart, or its surroundings if you ignore common sense and the Battery Manufacturer's Safety Protocols. Wear protective clothing and gear, service your cart regularly, and be absolutely sure to enjoy your cart as frequently as possible.

    Masterbilt Golf Carts

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    Hurricane Florence approaching

    Stay safe and dry the coming days as hurricane Florence is approaching the east coast. 

    Disconnect the batteries prior to an anticipated flooding event, and move battery to higher ground if possible.

    After the storm, allow the cart to thoroughly dry inside and out. Have it inspected by a trained professional before reconnecting and applying power.

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