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Problems charging a garden tractor battery

DEZ

Jan 29, 2016
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I have a 3 year old John Deere garden tractor and a 3 year old battery installed in it. Not having used it for 4 months it was no surprise that the battery was totally dead and so I charged it today. Within 5 minutes, the 'fully charged' light on the charger illuminated! Not a good sign but I decised to try and start it. There is now definitely some life in the battery because the lights of the tractor work but apart from a highish frequency buzzing under my seat, there was no attempt to turn over the starter. Is this a battery that has essentially died on me? I suspect that this is the case and that there are just a few cells remaining that cannot produce enough charge to turn the starter. My concern is that if I replace the battery, will I be wasting money on a battery which did not need replacing? Advice will be welcomed.
 

shrtrnd

Jan 15, 2010
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Do you have a volt meter to check the battery voltage?
At rest the battery may read close to full voltage, but when you turn on the lights and/or try to start it, the voltage will drop radically on a bad battery.
I suspect you need a new battery, but if you have a good charger and a volt meter to inspect the voltage present, you should have a better idea of your situation.
 

Gryd3

Jun 25, 2014
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I have a 3 year old John Deere garden tractor and a 3 year old battery installed in it. Not having used it for 4 months it was no surprise that the battery was totally dead and so I charged it today. Within 5 minutes, the 'fully charged' light on the charger illuminated! Not a good sign but I decised to try and start it. There is now definitely some life in the battery because the lights of the tractor work but apart from a highish frequency buzzing under my seat, there was no attempt to turn over the starter. Is this a battery that has essentially died on me? I suspect that this is the case and that there are just a few cells remaining that cannot produce enough charge to turn the starter. My concern is that if I replace the battery, will I be wasting money on a battery which did not need replacing? Advice will be welcomed.
shrtrnd has great advice. Check the voltage and see what it does.
It's most likely a Lead-Acid battery, and they like to go dead like you described commonly by either drying out, or sulfating. The end result is the same. Less surface area of the plates in the battery making contact with the solution. It may still 'charge' and say 12V when you measure it resting, but as less and less surface area of the plates becomes available, it's similar to trying to start the tractor with a tiny battery xD
There are methods to 'repair' or partially recover a battery like this, but it's ill advised. If you want to prepare for a zombie apocalypse, it would be good to know. Otherwise, buying a new battery is ideal.

(You may need a friend to help you measure the voltage under stress... When the lights on the tractor turn on, you will notice the voltage drop. If it drops a LOT, then it's a dead battery. If it stays pretty stable, then try turning on more accessories on the tractor to see how it holds up. If the voltage still stays pretty stable, then you may have another problem on your hands)
 

elebish

Aug 16, 2013
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Sometimes a "dead" lead acid battery can be rejuvenated with a charger that has that feature, Typically a rejuvenator injects pulses in the battery to clean the plates that are restricting current flow.
 

Gryd3

Jun 25, 2014
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Sometimes a "dead" lead acid battery can be rejuvenated with a charger that has that feature, Typically a rejuvenator injects pulses in the battery to clean the plates that are restricting current flow.
Yes, you are right.
Desulfator, usually sends higher voltage pulses into the battery in an attempt to break up the build-up on the plates.
I didn't want to encourage this though because I'm unsure how this particular battery has failed.
 

elebish

Aug 16, 2013
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If you are using an electronic type pulse charger, it is possible that the battery voltage is too low to accept current from that charger. Try a cheap regular charger to get the voltage up a bit, then hook it back up the electronic charger.
 

Colin Mitchell

Aug 31, 2014
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You get two car batteries in series and pulse the tractor battery. The try to charge the battery 3 times and test it with the lamps.
If it does not start the tractor after 3 tries, one or more cells have sulphated up.
 

Gryd3

Jun 25, 2014
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You get two car batteries in series and pulse the tractor battery. The try to charge the battery 3 times and test it with the lamps.
If it does not start the tractor after 3 tries, one or more cells have sulphated up.
.. You're suggesting that someone shoots 24V into their Lead-Acid battery manually to attempt to break up the sulfate.

Please don't do this. The home-made desulfators can be dangerous. Manually doing this could vent a battery in your face.
Remember that the failure mode of this battery is still unknown.
It could very well be dry, and while a dry battery is serviceable I would strongly suggest against it.

Please use a known working battery to test the tractor, and if the machine fires up. Go buy a replacement battery.
Don't attempt desulphating your own battery or putting water in it. Although the methods do work, they need to be done with great care.
 

Colin Mitchell

Aug 31, 2014
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There is no problem at all with spiking a battery. You can see by the spark, how much current is flowing.
I have done it for 40 years and I still have half my face to prove it is not all that dangerous.
 

elebish

Aug 16, 2013
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A brother-in-law once connected a 12 volt battery across a 6 volt battery in an old car and the old 6 volt battery blew up and threw pieces of battery and acid all over. Luckily he was not hurt but it could have been fatal. The old battery may have had some ice in it because it was in winter time. Spiking the battery is ok but don't leave a higher voltage (over 14.4 volts) on the battery for more than a few seconds. The very old chargers used a 100 watt light bulb connected in series with the battery as a regulator. I have a charger that has the rejuvenator function and I have restored a number of batteries with it, including a battery out of a bulldozer that cost a bundle. That was years ago and that battery is still good and in use.
 
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