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Truck battery dead again

 
gardener
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I used to commute a lot. Then I stopped, but I do garden work and schlepping, so I need my supplies, but my average drive is 5 minutes. Reading upon things, it seems this can kill my truck battery pretty fast.  Which means I'll have to idle the thing for a while to keep it happy or go on joy rides??? Maybe I need to hook up a solar panel to get it fully charged? Never thought I'd have this problem. Suggestions?
 
pollinator
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I would probably suggest a small panel to trickle charge your battery to make up for internal losses etc. That way it won't be reliant on the alternator to try to bring it up to voltage quickly it will already be charged up. I have 2.5 watt ones on my vehicles but I'm just trying to make up for internal losses as my drives are longer. At 10 watts I probably would not even put a charge controller on it.   https://www.amazon.com/ECO-WORTHY-Portable-Backup-Alligator-Adapter/dp/B017K6PH1S/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1531020874&sr=8-5&keywords=10+watt+solar+panel+battery+charger&dpID=41BkOCLlOrL&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

best I got... Cheers
 
gardener
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Amit, how old is the battery?

Also, I think David's advice for a solar trickle charger is most excellent.
 
Amit Enventres
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It was 5 yo, and i got it replaced, thinking that was it.... problem still exists. Could partly be the battery is not a great one, but it's true: if I drive for 10 min, it's a long drive these days.
 
James Freyr
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Hmm. Battery age would've been the prime suspect but since it's been replaced, there's another possibility. Is it a standard lead-acid battery with two caps across the top? If it has caps, pry them off and look down the three holes on each side. They should be filled up to the bottom of the hole with liquid. If you can see metal plates down the holes, add distilled water. I once bought a brand new car battery and when I brought it home I popped the two caps off just to check the electrolyte level, and all six cells were way low as I could see the metal plates.

There's a few other possibilities too. The alternator may not be charging the battery. That could be as simple as a blown fuse, or the alternator could be bad. The easiest way to check this without an ohmmeter is once the engine is running, disconnect the black wire from the battery pole. If the engine keeps running, alternator working. If engine dies, something's up with the alternator. Another possibility is some electrical short somewhere, and chasing those down can be extremely difficult. The solar trickle charger ought to keep the battery maintained if there's some electrical gremlin somewhere.
 
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Hi. What size engine? Is it diesel? How many seconds of turning over before it fires, usually?
How old is it? Is the radiator fan electric or crankshaft driven?
What is your outside air temp when you start it, normally? What grade engine oil do you use?
Electrical or mechanical fuel pump?
 
Steve Farmer
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David Baillie wrote:I would probably suggest a small panel to trickle charge your battery to make up for internal losses etc.




This certainly wont hurt  and almost certainly will make up for internal losses.

To recharge after starting the engine, you'll need nearly an hour of full sun for every second your starter motor runs, so it's quite possible this will solve your probelm, but depends on the specifics of the panel, your truck, and how much sun you get. You could use a panel bigger than the solar trckle panels on the market, but you will need a charge controller in that case. Trickle chargers tend to be limited to 250 mA to avoid damaging the battery once it's full
 
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My pickup truck ( 93 Chev 1/2 ton) is parked probably 19 days out of 20, but when i need it, I need it. I was having dead battery issues even after replacing the battery. I think there is a tiny drain but I can't find it. I installed a battery shut off switch on the battery a couple of years ago. Now when I park it, I flip the switch off. I have left it parked for as long as two months and it starts every time.
 
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You would be better off taking the truck for a 30min - 1hr run and thrash it a few times once every week or 2. This will be better for the battery but also the rest of the truck. In modern diesels it clears out the dpf, in older petrols (gas) it keeps the carbs in good order and in any ice vehicle it prevents carbon buildup throughout the engine and exhaust system.

Using a solar panel can keep the battery in good condition but the rest of the truck could suffer from only doing the short journeys.
 
Amit Enventres
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I had the electrical system diagnosed and it really is the short trips and electrical drain. It seems so weird for me to go leave it idle or go on joy trips being I've tried to reduce my fossil fuel usage. I like the idea of an electrical shut off almost more than the solar panel. As my broken foot heals, i'm going to see if i can do more via other forms of transportation for the small trips, when the weather's nice. Thanks!
 
Steve Farmer
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Amit Enventres wrote:It seems so weird for me to go leave it idle or go on joy trips being I've tried to reduce my fossil fuel usage.




Whilst applauding your personal fuel efficiency objectives, Alun's reply above is worth noting. Especially if your truck is a diesel. Not getting the truck up to temperature for 20 mins or so now and then will cause all sorts of problems in your engine, which is designed to run efficiently when hot. A diesel that runs on tickover or short journeys only will suffer from glazed cylinder walls. This allows fuel into the sump and oil into the combustion chamber. Both bad for efficiency, emissions and the longevity of your engine.


If your truck is a gasoline model (also impossible with diesel but best to glow first which requires battery use), can you park facing downhill and bump start? Bear in mind power assisted steering and brakes will not feel normal until the engine is running.
 
pollinator
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A smart charger for deep cycle marine batteries would work great. An Anderson plugset and fused link wired to the battery would be convienient or mount the charger onboard.

Still, if you are into having solar on board, you can measure how much energy it takes to recharge with a battery charger after getting home. That is the place to start sizing. Small panels are expensive and mounts may be also, especially on vehicle.

We have a 110 watt demonstrator on casters that sits on the pad in front of our garage. It is basically a 6a 12v shop charger in full sun. 1-2 amps much of the day. That thing probably cost $1000 to build 12 years ago! Now it maintains batteries most of the time.

If you already have solar as a primary source, plugging in a suitable charger is a possible inexpensive and direct utility. It assumes there is sufficient power to power all other critical loads and reliably supply power to keep the battery happy.

Getting rid of any verified excess power drain is safer and way more efficient, even with an auxilliary solar charger.
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