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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance > Electrical Systems
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  #11  
Old 03-15-2013
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Re: Want device to pump debris out of shorted battery cell

No "expert" told me this was going to work. I'm looking for and speculating about ways to fix a common problem with batteries. Excuse me for thinking my $700 worth of house batteries should last more than 2 years or so. I never let the water get too low, try to charge them properly, don't discharge past 50%, and there's no way here in Caribbean to keep them at 80F or so all the time. Excuse me for trying to find a solution.
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  #12  
Old 03-15-2013
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Re: Want device to pump debris out of shorted battery cell

bill, there have been batteries remedies out there since the two-cent comic books and Popular Mechanix had ads for miracle stuff in the back, that could restore your dead car batteries. And somehow, never did.

Whoever, whatever, you found, is advising you to play with strong acid. Bear in mind that the internet is not necessarily a nice place, there are folks who intentionally publish recipes for fireworks (pretty & fun) that will instead blow up as you compound them. Folks who literally are trying to make you hurt yourself.

And you don't know what kind of kind stranger, squirrel, or outright nutjob might be behind most of the advice you find.

You've never seen a battery shop selling "slightly used" or "restored" batteries, have you? Never seen a fixit shop (remember those?) selling fixed batteries, or a service station offering to fix yours for twenty bucks instead of selling you a new one?

I have friend who grew up transplanted to a chicken farm during the depression. When I said something about pennyfoolish during a repair he said "You know, that's your job. I spent too many years where we had to cut corners, and sometimes I need someone to remind me, I don't have to do that now and it is going to come back to bite me if I do. So when you see me doing that, remind me." (He had picked up some galvanized bolts to repair something on deck, because stainless was so much pricier, and not at the local hardware store.)

Which is not to say I don't kludge. I once terminally insulted a Volkwagen mechanic by using baling wire to fix a roomate's Beetle. I think the piece on the throttle cable didn't bother him but the piece replacing a circlip in the distributor really got him upset. It had been there for a couple of thousand miles before it went into the shop and he heard "AND VAT IS THIS?!" from out of the shop. Hey, he needed the car to run.


Messing around with battery acid, for a procedure that no "credentialled" source endorses, or even suggests?

Might be a way to get the Landrover out of the Gobi Desert before the water runs out, but is generally not a good idea. You are not in the Gobi!

You looked, you tried, you also DID find a lot of folks here warning you it will be ineffective to dangerous. Which could be a good find. :-)

Should batteries go dead in two years? Of course not. What that tells you is that you need to examine the battery monitoring/charging system as a whole, find out what killed them, and fix it. It is not uncommon for one bad component (alternator, regulator) to kill a battery, or a battery bank. And instead of 4-6 years, sure, they're toast in one. Stuff goes wrong, can't always be fixed after it has broken. Batteries? Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. If you can't fix 'em by adding water and charging/equalizing, they're not going to get fixed.

Used a while longer, at a reduced capacity, maybe. But not fixed, and not worth messing with the acid, unless you are really comfortable with caustics and can empty out the entire battery and let it drain well before continuing. Gloves, googles, rubber apron--the works.

Last edited by hellosailor; 03-15-2013 at 11:53 AM.
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Old 03-23-2013
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Re: Want device to pump debris out of shorted battery cell

I don't know why everyone keeps saying "oh, my god, don't mess with battery acid". Sure, it's dangerous. Sure, you have to respect it, be careful. But I mess with it ALL THE TIME as I top off the cells, wipe up fluid that got vented, too often take old batteries out and put new ones in. And for other purposes on the boat I use muriatic acid, phosphoric acid, solvents, gasoline, diesel, propane, adhesives, paints, etc. We all do. There's nothing magical about battery acid.

Same thing with batteries in general. Everyone seems to be trying to discourage me from finding a fix for a shorted cell. Okay, maybe it's not feasible. What's the harm of asking, or trying ? If it doesn't work, I have to buy a new battery, which is what everyone is telling me to do anyway. Nothing lost.
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Old 03-23-2013
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Re: Want device to pump debris out of shorted battery cell

bill-
"What's the harm of asking, or trying ? "
There's certainly no harm in asking, and apparently you think everyone else is mad for disagreeing with you about the "trying" part of it.
There's a saying the Navy: "[Explicit word] happens". Maybe you'd heard civilian sailors say the same thing?
From "our" point of view, there is nothing to be gained, zero chance of success, from messing around trying to clear that internal short. And while we've all worked with acid and explosives (fuel, at least!) and fire, and mainly survived, it pays to remember "[Explicit word] happens!" and the less you mess around with acid, the less chance you have of getting splashed and burned by it.
If you're going to disassemble a battery cell, or poke around inside of one, the odds are something is going to splash. If you're going to do that while you are trying to look closely inside the cell, it is more likely to splash IN YOUR EYES.

I'm not saying you can't do this perfectly safely, but let me re-iterate: [Explicit word] happens!

So when there is zero chance of fixing the battery, and ANY chance of getting acid in your face...think about that. The best you can do is walk away having lost some time.
There's no way to win in that situation. Absolutely none.

If you're curious about how batteries are made, by all means, dump one out, wash it out, do an autopsy. There's no harm in asking, at all. Keep asking, until you find some reliable source that tells you they have actually done this with any benefit at all. Any success at all. Then, by all means, when you've got any real reason to think it might accomplish something, dig in.

And do let us know if you manage to accomplish anything. Or what the damage is, afterwards. Wait, let me find a nickel, I want to place a bet on this one.


(Oh, and my apologies for using that explicit word, I thought I was in a different forum, where quoting naval archives was allowed. I've redacted the post, just in case Rock Hudson, Doris Day, Gidget and the Beaver stop by.)

Last edited by hellosailor; 03-23-2013 at 01:19 PM.
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Old 03-23-2013
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Re: Want device to pump debris out of shorted battery cell

Quote:
Originally Posted by bdietrich View Post
I don't know why everyone keeps saying "oh, my god, don't mess with battery acid". Sure, it's dangerous. Sure, you have to respect it, be careful. But I mess with it ALL THE TIME as I top off the cells, wipe up fluid that got vented, too often take old batteries out and put new ones in. And for other purposes on the boat I use muriatic acid, phosphoric acid, solvents, gasoline, diesel, propane, adhesives, paints, etc. We all do. There's nothing magical about battery acid.
Bill,

Checking cells "often" and filling often means something is wrong. Every time you"check" the cells you drastically increase the risk of contamination. Contamination leads to reduced gassing voltages which leads to gassing at lower voltages and vented electrolyte, which leads to short life.

About six years ago I was working on a neighbors boat which suffered from chronic short battery life, 1-2 seasons, and should not have been. Everything was right. One day I forgot my head lamp and looked in some drawers for a flashlight. I discovered the customers hydrometer in a drawer with a bunch of rusty tools. It was a mess. I called the customer and asked him how often he checked the batteries. "Oh at least once per month." These batteries were 16 months old and gassing at float voltages. He had been contaminating the cells with a dirty hydrometer.

I got him to stop checking more than bi-yearly and to store his hydrometer in a dedicated & very clean Tupperware container. The replacement batteries are still going...

Quote:
Originally Posted by bdietrich View Post
Same thing with batteries in general. Everyone seems to be trying to discourage me from finding a fix for a shorted cell.
I am not trying to discourage you at all. I am simply trying to explain to you that if there is enough shed plate in the bottom of the battery, to short a cell, there is no fixing it because there is insufficient plate left to be of any use and you risk a danger of a catastrophic failure. Healthy batteries do not short across cells due to shed plate. Only batteries well beyond their safe useful life will short across plates due to accumulation. The manufacturers leave lots of space in the bottom of the cases for lead sulfate.


Quote:
Originally Posted by bdietrich View Post
Okay, maybe it's not feasible. What's the harm of asking, or trying ? If it doesn't work, I have to buy a new battery, which is what everyone is telling me to do anyway. Nothing lost.
No harm in asking at all. I would buy new batteries and then focus on proper care & charging to extend life.... Trying to remove lead sulfate from the bottom of the battery case is like thawing our the frozen body of Walt Disney. He's just not coming back to life cause he's already gone.......
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Last edited by Maine Sail; 03-23-2013 at 04:55 PM.
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