CTEK - Learning

Charger and battery

The most important property of a battery charger is that it reaches the exact voltage during the charging cycle. If the voltage is too high, the battery boils. The battery then becomes unusable due to dried-out cells and crevice corrosion, which occur when there’s high acid concentration and overheating during charging. If the voltage is too low, you end up with an incompletely charged battery that will lose more and more capacity until it gradually becomes unusable.

Battery chargers and equipment

Interruptions and ripple from voltage and current can destroy sensitive equipment connected to the battery, such as:

  • Radio equipment in cars.
  • Tele equipment in caravans.
  • GPS and navigation instruments in boats.
  • Sensitive equipment in rescue vehicles.
  • Data and control boxes.

Battery chargers and governmental requirements

In the EU, all battery chargers must be CE marked. Third party testing and approval of equipment is required for your safety.

CTEK battery chargers are tested and approved by Intertek SEMKO AB and UL.

Battery chargers and safety

Battery chargers are often used in damp and dusty environments, such as:

  • Outdoors
  • In garages
  • In caravans and campers
  • In harbours and on boats

Whenever you’re using a battery charger outdoors, you must use a charger that’s approved for outdoor use. All CTEK battery chargers are approved for outdoor use (IP65 and IP44).

Battery charging

As vehicle technology continues to develop, more and more strain is placed on the battery. As a result, battery charging has become an essential part of car maintenance which should be considered as important as checking tyre pressures and oil levels.

There are various types of battery charger currently available – mostly smart chargers and trickle chargers. However, smart chargers present a much safer and efficient way of maintaining and prolonging the life of the battery.

Once a battery has reached its optimum charge levels, a trickle charger will simply send in a level of charge for a certain amount of time and then switch itself off, continually repeating the process until it is removed from the battery. This method of battery charging can potentially overcharge the battery, causing it to dry out or even start to gas, and could ultimately kill the battery.

CTEK’s smart chargers move into a pulse maintenance mode once the battery is fully charged. Rather than sending in a charge and estimating what the battery needs, a CTEK charger will stay in constant communication with the battery, reacting and charging only when it is needed.

In pulse maintenance mode, the battery will be allowed to naturally self discharge to a certain level before being fully charged once again. Not only does this avoid the risk of overcharging but, as the battery is being exercised as it would be during normal use, the lifespan of the battery is extended considerably.

Battery failure

Battery failure is often considered the number one cause for breakdowns around the world. As a result, motorists are paying unnecessarily for callout charges and, more expensively, for replacement batteries.

With modern vehicles full of complex and sensitive electrical equipment that constantly draws current from the battery, an ever increasing number of mechanical faults from new and older vehicles alike are battery related. But the expense and inconvenience of battery failure could be heavily reduced by regular battery maintenance.

CTEK’s unique range of smart chargers optimise the performance of lead-acid batteries through accurate readings of a battery’s charge levels, then ensuring the appropriate action is taken so the battery is always ready for use.

All CTEK chargers go through a number of stages to charge, condition and maintain the battery. This extends the battery’s life and eliminates the problem of battery failure. More importantly, it makes sure that vehicles start first time, every time and the problem of battery failure is eliminated.

Our chargers are easy to connect, spark proof and reverse polarity protected, so you can use them unsupervised and there’s no need to even disconnect it from the battery – simply ‘plug and play’ and the charger will do the rest.

Battery maintenance

With vehicle technology developing at a pace, even more strain is being placed on the battery to just keep the vehicle operating as it should. As a result, regular battery maintenance is more important today than it has ever been before.

Battery technology has come on leaps and bounds over the past couple of years and is continuing to do so. But these new developments mean that batteries need to be charged and maintained in a very specific way and not all chargers are able to do this.

Traditional battery chargers are generally unsuitable for battery maintenance as they treat all batteries in the same way and just provide a steady but unregulated current to the battery. This can easily lead to over- or undercharging of the battery which decreases its lifespan.

CTEK chargers make battery maintenance a quick, simple and extremely effective process. Our smart chargers constantly read and communicate with the battery so it gets the exact amount of charge it needs. This avoids any possibility of incorrectly charging the battery and, by ensuring the battery is conditioned as well as charged, its life is extended significantly.

Battery protection

Battery protection is extremely important as it helps motorists avoid the inconvenience and expense of a flat battery. This is especially important if vehicles such as seasonal farming vehicles, classics cars and motorcycles are left standing for prolonged periods of time.

Batteries which are left standing for a long time will slowly discharge which, if left untreated, will eventually kill the battery.

Here are our top battery protection tips to help you avoid battery failure in vehicles that aren’t used regularly.

When putting the vehicle away, either between seasons or over winter:

  • The battery should be checked for any cracks and disposed of or repaired professionally if needed.
  • The top of the battery, the terminal posts and connections should be carefully cleaned with water and baking soda to remove any dirt or moisture. Dirty or moist surfaces increase the likelihood of discharge.
  • Contact terminals should be clean, dry and lightly greased to protect against corrosion.
  • Traditional wet/flooded batteries (not maintenance free types) should have electrolyte levels checked and topped up with distilled water between the minimum and maximum levels.
  • To avoid a flat battery, maintain a constant, regular charge. If you have electricity in your garage or storage area you can use a smart battery charger that will maintain charge levels, keep the battery in good condition and ensure that the vehicle is ready when you need it.

Before restarting the vehicle:

  • Ensure that the battery terminals are clean and secure.
  • Check battery charge levels and recharge the battery if required.
  • It’s a common misconception that a jump start, followed by a long drive, fully recharges the battery from the alternator. This is not the case, as an alternator will only partly charge the battery. After this first drive, the battery will need to be charged or it will quickly drain again.

Battery protection needn’t be a chore, especially when connected to a CTEK smart charger. All CTEK chargers are fully automatic, spark proof and reverse polarity protected, and don’t need any specialist knowledge to use them.

Thanks to our patented pulse maintenance technology, our chargers can be connected to the battery for months at a time so you can simply connect and forget.

Car batteries

There are many different types of car battery available today, including wet cell, calcium and Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) . Each needs to be maintained in a slightly different way, but all of them can be charged and maintained with a CTEK 24V or 12V battery charger.

For car batteries, a 12V battery charger such as the MXS 5.0 will charge and condition the battery through a series of stages. First it removes the sulphur from the internal plates, then breaks it down and mixes it back into the acid solution to give the battery a new lease of life. For trucks and other larger vehicles, CTEK’s 24V battery chargers will perform the same task.

Wet cell, calcium and AGM are all different versions of the lead-acid battery, and have their own advantages, disadvantages and maintenance requirements.

Wet cell car batteries, or flooded batteries as they’re also known, still dominate a large part of the car battery market. The first wet cells were typically fragile glass containers with lead rods hanging from an open top. Now, developments in manufacturing techniques and safety have seen the wet cell progress to an affordable, reliable and – if recharged and maintained correctly –  long lasting vehicle battery.

Calcium batteries are also a big part of the battery market and have the same generic make up of wet cell batteries, except both the positive and negative plates are replaced by calcium alloy. This means that fluid loss is about 80% lower than a normal wet cell battery and the self discharge rate is also considerably lower, so there are huge advantages to these units.

AGM – or ‘dry’ batteries – are the latest step in the evolution of lead-acid batteries. Instead of using water or a gel, an AGM uses a fibreglass separator to hold the electrolyte in place.

Gel batteries use a gelified acid. Gel batteries can withstand deep discharging and are generally used in vehicles with demanding electrical equipment, electric wheelchairs and on boats.

All of these batteries use different technologies to suit the different needs of the vehicle. But they all have one thing in common – they need to be carefully maintained to ensure they always provide the energy needed. None of them are free from self discharge so they’ll all require a charge at some point and a CTEK 24V or 12V battery charger will see to that.

Unlike many battery chargers on the market, a CTEK 24V or 12V battery charger will react only to a battery’s specific needs, so every CTEK charger will charge, condition and prolong the life of all types of car battery.

Smart battery charger

CTEK designs and manufactures a range of smart battery chargers and accessories to suit all types of lead-acid batteries for vehicles including cars, bikes, marine vessels, agricultural vehicles and even lawnmowers.

All of our smart chargers are fully automatic, spark proof and reverse polarity protected, and you don’t need any special knowledge to use them. Our patented pulse maintenance technology also means that our chargers can be connected to the battery for months at a time, so you can simply connect and forget.

A CTEK smart battery charger goes through a series of stages during the charging process to desulphate, revive, charge, condition and maintain all types of lead-acid batteries. This prolongs their life and saves you time and money.

Our smart chargers constantly communicate with the battery throughout the whole process and they only supply charge depending on the battery’s exact needs. This prevents over- or undercharging, which can reduce the battery’s lifespan.

Each CTEK smart battery charger also regulates the mains voltage to protect any sensitive electrical and hi-fi equipment.

Linear chargers

Unfortunately, not all electric mains provides a constant 230V voltage. Even minor variations from the mains can cause the battery to be undercharged or to ‘gas’ (or boil). With undercharging, the negative plate is not fully converted, so some of the material will be inactive. With overcharging, the battery boils, causing it to dry out and the heat destroys the lead plates.

CTEK's primary switch mode battery charger is not affected by variations in the mains voltage, so it will always charge the battery effectively and efficiently.

Charger functionality

Charging is intended to regenerate the active materials – sulphuric acid (H2SO4), lead (Pb) and lead oxide (PbO2) – from the lead sulphate (PbSO4) formed during discharging (known as ‘sulphating’).

The lead sulphate is actually a necessary part of the entire process, but it’s when lead sulphate crystals grow too large that the problems start.

A charging curve (or a charging algorithm to be more exact) describes how the battery obtains its energy during the entire charging procedure. DIN standard 41773 provides guidelines for how this type of algorithm must be structured.

But most critical is knowledge of how a battery must be treated to ensure the best condition possible, aiming for the longest service life and highest capacity. There is no universal method that solves all problems optimally. The battery itself can be manufactured a number of different ways. It is also necessary to consider the battery and the way it is used together. Because of this, the number of algorithms is huge. There is a huge difference between a modern, multistage primary switched battery charger and a linear transformer charger, which is the type found at car accessory companies and discount markets.

A couple of interesting details from the curve:

  • Even though the battery charger is marked with a high Ampere rating, this is usually measured with a battery that is down at 5-6V. A more realistic figure is 75% of the marked current strength. But, this drops quickly when the battery voltage rises.
  • The primary switch mode battery charger may lag behind at first when it comes to how much energy it provides to the battery, but it quickly catches up.
  • The linear battery charger has trouble filling the battery, even though it is at high voltage. At that point, the battery charger provides a lot more heat than current and not much more charging in the battery.
  • A battery charger that cannot provide constant voltage cannot charge the battery completely. It instead comes up to the range when the battery gases and loses fluid. A rule of thumb is that 80% of charging is obtained during the first phase. All simple, regulated battery chargers go down to a lower voltage after reaching 14.4V, but it can then take weeks to obtain the final 20% of charging.

Battery check

Undertaking a battery check

Because of the complex technologies built into modern vehicles, the demand placed on a battery is greater than ever. Performing a simple battery check from time to time tells you what action you need to take and can save you from an inconvenient breakdown or the cost of a new battery.

You can find out the state of a battery’s charge by checking the voltage, but that doesn’t tell you if your battery is healthy. All batteries need charging from time to time and they should be cared for like any other part of a car, to stop them becoming damaged and shortening their lives. In the same way, overcharging can also cause considerable damage so always perform a battery check first .

The CTEK 12V BATTERY ANALYZER is designed carry out a battery check quickly and easily. It tests a battery in seconds and tells you whether it’s in good condition, if it needs charging, if it can hold a charge, or if it should be replaced.

Like all CTEK products, the BATTERY ANALYZER produces no heat or sparks and you don’t need specialist knowledge to use it. It’s compatible with any 12V lead-acid battery from 200A to 1,200A, so you just connect it and follow the onscreen instructions.

The CTEK MXS 5.0 TEST & CHARGE combines the award winning features of the CTEK MXS 5.0charger with an alternator and a battery check function. After you’ve checked the health of the vehicle charging system and the battery, the TEST & CHARGE will apply the most appropriate charging, reconditioning and maintenance steps to give it maximum performance power.

Adding a battery check to your list of regular vehicle maintenance inspections will help prevent premature battery failure and keep your battery at its optimum charge.

Finding the right car battery charger for you

A car battery charger shouldn´t just be taking up space in your garage or only used when your vehicle won´t start. Your battery should be cared for like any other part of your car and using the right battery charger can help you do this.

All batteries need charging from time to time and CTEK´s wide range of chargers are suitable for conditioning, charging and maintaining all types of lead-acid batteries. A 12V car battery charger is likely to meet your needs and there are quite a few to choose from.

A smart car battery charger doesn’t just charge, it also performs other functions, such as reconditioning to prolong the life of the battery and keep it in optimum condition. A CTEK smart battery charger will give your battery a new lease of life, for example if sulphur has built up on the plates inside the battery, or if it’s suffering from discharge because of infrequent or short journey use,

  • MXS 3.8 – One of CTEK´s entry level models, it provides all round charging through a 7-step charging cycle that includes a desulphation feature and maintenance charging.
  • MXS 5.0 – A state-of-the-art 8-step charger with a special reconditioning function. It also features battery diagnosis so you know the state of your battery’s charge and whether it can hold its charge properly. As with all CTEK chargers, it has an optimised charging mode for when more power is needed during cold weather.