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Posted: Feb 22, 2012

This Just In- All Batteries Need To Be Properly-Maintained!

Autoblog, Jalopnik, has a very interesting article today on the "bricking" issue some Tesla owners have encountered.  According to the article, a Tesla "bricks" when it's lithium-ion battery pack is completely discharged, rendering the car immobile and resulting in the entire battery pack needing replacement.  What is the cost of replacing the pack?  According to the Jalopnik story, somewhere in the range of $40,000.

Even though Jalopnik characterized this as a "Devastating Design Problem," the article did go on to indicate that Tesla has taken steps to warn customers that batteries should not be entirely discharged, including a warning in the manual and a battery reminder card given to customers who brought their cars in for service.  However, the Jalopnik story characterized those efforts as "understated warnings."

Although some folks may think only lithium-ion batteries can be damaged by deeply-discharging them, the truth is, lead-acid batteries that are totally discharged can also suffer negative consequences as a result.  Whenever any lead-acid battery is discharged below 12.4 volts and allowed to sit in that state, sulfation begins to form within the battery.  When this happens, battery performance and lifespan will begin to diminish.  If any lead-acid battery is left in this discharged state long enough, the sulfation will eventually ruin the battery's ability to accept or deliver any current.

While lead-acid batteries tend to be more forgiving than the lithium-ion batteries described in the article, not maintaining proper voltage in any battery is a recipe for failure.  Many newer vehicles either come from the factory with energy-hungry accessories, like GPS-based navigation and communication systems or have them installed by their owners, like car alarms and stereo systems.  Some OEMs know the electrical demands of their vehicles will be so significant, that battery maintainers are included with the purchase of the vehicle.

The Tesla story should serve as a cautionary tale for any battery owner, as batteries can be deeply-discharged in any vehicle.  When that happens, many battery chargers will not recognize or charge the battery, leading the owner to believe the battery has failed.  The truth is, many of these "bad" batteries can be recovered, but they may need a little help if they've been discharged beyond a charger's ability to recover it.

We created this YouTube video, which explains how to recover a deeply-discharged battery.  Other companies may void your warranty entirely if you discharge your battery below a specific minimum voltage level.  We didn't do that with our warranty, but it is a good idea to review the warranty terms and conditions of any battery you are considering, before you make a purchase.

Whether someone buys a vehicle that has significant electrical demands, modifies their existing vehicle to create those demands or just leaves their vehicle (or boat) unused for long periods of time, it is a good idea to practice proper battery maintenance.  When new and fully-charged our RedTops (and 34M BlueTop) will measure about 12.6-12.8 volts and our YellowTops and BlueTops (except the 34M) will measure about 13.0-13.2 volts.  Keep your battery properly-maintained and it will go a long way toward providing good service for you.

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