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You keep going Stevet. I get the same response sometimes from my kids. I'm the guy that teaches them how to change a flat tire, even though I know they will just call AAA.
 

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... In next week's episode, we'll review the latest trends in rotary dial telephones, and our round table discussion will cover the dangers, both real and perceived, of dropping your beer can pull tab inside the can before drinking. But this week, we'll cover car battery maintenance. (Geez.)

This morning, I've done a few minutes of poking around the internet about car batteries that "still allow you to perform maintenance". I worded that deliberately, because after those few minutes I've concluded that owning a car battery that allows me to check the water level, and add water as necessary, is not necessarily a bad thing. "Maintenance free" wet cell batteries may not be as maintenance free as we'd think, they may still have ventilation provisions built into them to allow charging gasses to escape (charging gasses being hydrogen and oxygen, which when combined were previously the water inside the battery electrolyte), but may not allow provisions to replace water that is no longer inside the battery (which also leads to a shorter battery life). Note the battery electrolyte does not go away, just the water component from the electrolyte recipe, water is what may need periodic replacement.

Wet cell lead acid batteries, while charging, can cause the water in the cells to separate into hydrogen and oxygen gasses, especially in overcharging situations. Other nuggets of info:
-BE SAFE! Battery acid can blind you, burn you, and eat holes through stuff is splashes on. It's ph level is less than 2, very acidic, very nasty. The sites below offer safety info. Protect yourself and your work area.
-Your vehicle alternator doesn't necessarily "charge" your battery as much as it maintains the full charge of the battery. Think trickle charger for a battery in storage. You'd use a separate full power battery charger to charge a battery that is, for whatever reason (such as low charge from long term storage), at a below-full-charge state.
-In batteries that allow adding water, do not use tap water due to dissolved minerals and other materials that can be in the water, use only distilled water. It's a buck a gallon at the grocery store.
-Charge a battery only in a well vented area, remove all sources of spark or ignition (incl. the vehicle being shut off) to prevent explosion of venting hydrogen gas. (I was present for this event once, I never want to see it again.)
-Make sure the battery is sitting level (achieve, if needed, buy driving onto scrap wood blocks or similar), clean the top of the battery and remove the caps from the tops of the cells. The water level inside the cells needs to at least cover the top of the metal plates before charging. Differing water levels in the cells is possible, they may not all be at the same level. The electrolyte can warm and expand during charging so do not fill the cells more than just over the top of the plates prior to charging. Leave the caps loose while charging to allow hydrogen and oxygen gasses to escape. After charging, add more water as necessary. Sites I viewed suggested anywhere from 1/2 inch of water coverage above the plates, to filling with water to touch the bottom of the cell vent/fill holes (see linked video).

Video-
https://www.crownbattery.com/news/watering-your-lead-acid-battery-the-basics
https://www.concordia.ca/content/dam/concordia/services/safety/docs/EHS-DOC-146_LeadAcidBatteries.pdf

Since I have almost three seasons on my Spider's factory battery, and since this topic is fresh in my head, in the coming days I'll do this-
-Clean dirt away from the top of the battery. Make sure the top of the battery is level.
-Pull the caps and add distilled water as needed just to cover the plates a little bit.
-Put the caps back over the cells but leave them loose to vent charging gasses but keep dust and dirt out.
-Attach a battery charger per its instructions and recharge the battery to full charge.
-After the charging is complete and I've shut off and removed the charger, I'll top off the cells again as needed, either the same way shown in the video link above, or to the full water level indicator on the battery (if one exists).
-Securely reset the battery cell caps.
-Go find somewhere fun to drive!
I'll repeat this process a few times throughout the Spider-driving season, but monthly may not be a bad protocol to adopt, for sure at the start and end of the season, too.

Good topic, folks, and apparently one few of us are thinking about.

Steve.
Thank you Steve! It's a surprise to discover that we have such an old-fashioned battery. There's an entire generation unfamiliar with them and this is very helpful. I'm going to stick your post.
Best Regards
Pete
 

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Well Jetlag, Sir, there is a whole generation of automobile owners who have never had to remove the cap from a battery, much less knew of the history of it. (They probably don't know a carburetor from a percolator coffee pot, either. Zerk fitting? What's that?) And there is almost a whole generation of older automobile owners (let's say age 50 and up, which includes me) who have pretty much forgotten about doing it- haven't had to check batteries since, uh... 19... So rather than simply say fill it and move on, I offered up some context and perspective as to why, just like our auto shop teachers, our fathers, our grandfathers did for us back when we were young-uns. See, we don't have that sort of education anymore, from family or schools, so I got all serious and technical for the young-uns of today who might just care one little iota. And, of course, for those of us who have nearly forgotten how things were done in the past.

Steve.
Lord, I run into these batteries all the time, was not aware all out there is maintenance free. Out golf car has six of them, and checking water level on it is a regular thing. it was a good dissertation lol, just hard to believe we have moved past regular batteries this much. Percolator? what's that?? ?
 

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Make sure you clean around the area before opening the plugs to avoid letting dirt into the battery. Also do this on a well ventilated area, hydrogen gasses escape the battery.
Good advice, but you will be hard pressed to find anyone here admitting to having dirt on their batteries, lol
 

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... In next week's episode, we'll review the latest trends in rotary dial telephones...

Steve.
Great stuff! It's many, many years since my dad taught me all this for my first cars, and nearly as many since I had to do anything about batteries apart from buy new ones - I hadn't even noticed the battery was this type!
 

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I used to have dual stromberg percolators in the old days. Made horrible coffee and a pain in the butt to keep adjusted. I think I prefer the modern fuel injector Keurig system... But it's still nice to think back to topping off battery water and twisting a distributor cap a bit to advance the spark...
 

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Thanks Pete, and Jetlag, and the others, too. Happy trails!

Steve.
 
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stevet, you make good points. I may fold some of your comment into my battery article. I saw a few other 124 Spiders over the weekend at a Fiat Club outing, and realized while looking at a 2018 Abarth, that newer cars may have a maintenance-free Mopar battery, rather than the big Mazda Stop-Start battery (unless the dealer had replaced his battery).
 

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stevet, you make good points. I may fold some of your comment into my battery article. I saw a few other 124 Spiders over the weekend at a Fiat Club outing, and realized while looking at a 2018 Abarth, that newer cars may have a maintenance-free Mopar battery, rather than the big Mazda Stop-Start battery (unless the dealer had replaced his battery).
Sure thing, Dan.

Steve.
 

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Zerk fitting? What's that?
Thanks for reminding me that I must go round my Healey with the grease gun before laying the car up for the winter. Just the 18 nipples (as we call them over here ... I hadn't heard them referred to as Zerk fittings until relatively recently).
 

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In my

25 years of driving I’ve never heard of a battery water level. This came as a real shock to me!
You must be a young whipper snapper. I am 67 and growing up in Arizona all we had at that time were batteries that you had to "top off" the battery water level every so often. Maintenance free batteries were a thing of the future.
 

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... In next week's episode, we'll review the latest trends in rotary dial telephones, and our round table discussion will cover the dangers, both real and perceived, of dropping your beer can pull tab inside the can before drinking. But this week, we'll cover car battery maintenance. (Geez.)

This morning, I've done a few minutes of poking around the internet about car batteries that "still allow you to perform maintenance". I worded that deliberately, because after those few minutes I've concluded that owning a car battery that allows me to check the water level, and add water as necessary, is not necessarily a bad thing. "Maintenance free" wet cell batteries may not be as maintenance free as we'd think, they may still have ventilation provisions built into them to allow charging gasses to escape (charging gasses being hydrogen and oxygen, which when combined were previously the water inside the battery electrolyte), but may not allow provisions to replace water that is no longer inside the battery (which also leads to a shorter battery life). Note the battery electrolyte does not go away, just the water component from the electrolyte recipe, water is what may need periodic replacement.

Wet cell lead acid batteries, while charging, can cause the water in the cells to separate into hydrogen and oxygen gasses, especially in overcharging situations. Other nuggets of info:
-BE SAFE! Battery acid can blind you, burn you, and eat holes through stuff is splashes on. It's ph level is less than 2, very acidic, very nasty. The sites below offer safety info. Protect yourself and your work area.
-Your vehicle alternator doesn't necessarily "charge" your battery as much as it maintains the full charge of the battery. Think trickle charger for a battery in storage. You'd use a separate full power battery charger to charge a battery that is, for whatever reason (such as low charge from long term storage), at a below-full-charge state.
-In batteries that allow adding water, do not use tap water due to dissolved minerals and other materials that can be in the water, use only distilled water. It's a buck a gallon at the grocery store.
-Charge a battery only in a well vented area, remove all sources of spark or ignition (incl. the vehicle being shut off) to prevent explosion of venting hydrogen gas. (I was present for this event once, I never want to see it again.)
-Make sure the battery is sitting level (achieve, if needed, buy driving onto scrap wood blocks or similar), clean the top of the battery and remove the caps from the tops of the cells. The water level inside the cells needs to at least cover the top of the metal plates before charging. Differing water levels in the cells is possible, they may not all be at the same level. The electrolyte can warm and expand during charging so do not fill the cells more than just over the top of the plates prior to charging. Leave the caps loose while charging to allow hydrogen and oxygen gasses to escape. After charging, add more water as necessary. Sites I viewed suggested anywhere from 1/2 inch of water coverage above the plates, to filling with water to touch the bottom of the cell vent/fill holes (see linked video).

Video-
https://www.crownbattery.com/news/watering-your-lead-acid-battery-the-basics
https://www.concordia.ca/content/dam/concordia/services/safety/docs/EHS-DOC-146_LeadAcidBatteries.pdf

Since I have almost three seasons on my Spider's factory battery, and since this topic is fresh in my head, in the coming days I'll do this-
-Clean dirt away from the top of the battery. Make sure the top of the battery is level.
-Pull the caps and add distilled water as needed just to cover the plates a little bit.
-Put the caps back over the cells but leave them loose to vent charging gasses but keep dust and dirt out.
-Attach a battery charger per its instructions and recharge the battery to full charge.
-After the charging is complete and I've shut off and removed the charger, I'll top off the cells again as needed, either the same way shown in the video link above, or to the full water level indicator on the battery (if one exists).
-Securely reset the battery cell caps.
-Go find somewhere fun to drive!
I'll repeat this process a few times throughout the Spider-driving season, but monthly may not be a bad protocol to adopt, for sure at the start and end of the season, too.

Good topic, folks, and apparently one few of us are thinking about.

Steve.
Good info. Thanks
 

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Well Jetlag, Sir, there is a whole generation of automobile owners who have never had to remove the cap from a battery, much less knew of the history of it. (They probably don't know a carburetor from a percolator coffee pot, either. Zerk fitting? What's that?) And there is almost a whole generation of older automobile owners (let's say age 50 and up, which includes me) who have pretty much forgotten about doing it- haven't had to check batteries since, uh... 19... So rather than simply say fill it and move on, I offered up some context and perspective as to why, just like our auto shop teachers, our fathers, our grandfathers did for us back when we were young-uns. See, we don't have that sort of education anymore, from family or schools, so I got all serious and technical for the young-uns of today who might just care one little iota. And, of course, for those of us who have nearly forgotten how things were done in the past.

Steve.
Good reply. I agree.
 

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Thanks for posting this. I guess this means when I open the hood, I'll have a maintenance item to do besides detailing and cleaning the dirt that accumulates.

Larry
 

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Thanks for posting this. I guess this means when I open the hood, I'll have a maintenance item to do besides detailing and cleaning the dirt that accumulates.

Larry
again @Goaterguy mahalo for the reminder....I had checked it awhile back and decided to again last night. My number 6 cell or 1 cell (depending how you count, it was the last cell closest to the turbo) aka positive terminal...was lower than the others. I filled them all to the bottom of the black plastic going down from the top of each opening...its on the side facing the inside of the engine well.

ONE big issue I had: The battery was very clean (TOP) but when I unscrewed the caps...within the caps grooves..I had a lot of dirt. No matter how I tried I had some particles fall into the cell. (soon to be carbon and mess with my battery) Not a lot mind you but enough to piss me off.
I cleaned them the best I could with a wet rag. (worked well but almost impossible to keep some foreign particles from falling in...so frustrating)

I will be glad to replace it with a sealed battery when the time comes.

Just wanted to warn you all...

aloha mike
 
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Discussion Starter #37
The same happened to me. Maybe next time I'll unscrew the cap a tiny bit then blow some compressed air.
 

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Happened to me too.
 
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again @Goaterguy mahalo for the reminder....I had checked it awhile back and decided to again last night. My number 6 cell or 1 cell (depending how you count, it was the last cell closest to the turbo) aka positive terminal...was lower than the others. I filled them all to the bottom of the black plastic going down from the top of each opening...its on the side facing the inside of the engine well.

ONE big issue I had: The battery was very clean (TOP) but when I unscrewed the caps...within the caps grooves..I had a lot of dirt. No matter how I tried I had some particles fall into the cell. (soon to be carbon and mess with my battery) Not a lot mind you but enough to piss me off.
I cleaned them the best I could with a wet rag. (worked well but almost impossible to keep some foreign particles from falling in...so frustrating)

I will be glad to replace it with a sealed battery when the time comes.

Just wanted to warn you all...

aloha mike
Whoops. By dirt, I didn't mean in or around the battery.

I meant dirt in and around the engine compartment. On a white car, you would not believe how easily the dirt literally screams in your face - "HEY! LOOK AT WHAT I'VE DONE. YOU'RE NICE CLEAN CAR AIN'T SO NICE AND CLEAN SUCKER!!!"
 

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Surely the thing to do if you have dry dirt around the top of the battery is to vacuum it first, rather than using compressed air to blow it around?
 
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