How to recondition a car battery when it is not dead?

How to recondition a car battery

No one likes the extra expenses, so when the car battery dies, it is undoubtfully an unpleasant thing. And then comes the brilliant idea – what if the battery could be revived?  So, you find yourself googling about how to recondition a car battery.

However, it is not the easiest task to find an useful information about the refurbishing of batteries. There are a lot of websites who guarantee they know the best method of how to do it. Most of the time they try to convince you that you must buy their e-book and you will be able to recondition car batteries in no time.

Unfortunately, they don’t provide any exact information, all they do is tattling. I had to dig in into the deeps of the web to get the answer to such a simple question – is it possible to recondition car batteries.

After making a deeper research I realized that when someone tells about “easy method to recondition batteries at home”, the truth is far from the reality, because every method demands work (or money).

Is it really possible to recondition a car battery?

The thing with the car batteries is, that when the chemical reactions in the lead-acid battery stops, there is nothing you can do about it. I explained about what happens to the battery when it is old, here.

You can’t revive the old battery, if it is really dead.

Of course, it depends of what do you call “reconditioning”. If we talk about reviving battery that was frequently used for years, or it was often being recharged, or even worse – the battery that stayed untouched for many years, the situation is tricky.

The thing is, that battery slowly deteriorates. The performance of battery degrades with long periods of inactivity. Higher temperature fastens this process.

After about 4 years of inactivity, the battery might hold only about 10 % of its primal capacity. This happens because of the sulfation.

So when we talk about how to recondition car batteries, we must have to understand, that reconditioning might only be done if the battery was not discharged too much. If it was left for a prolonged period of time, it can be revived, but keep in mind that it won’t serve as a new.

You will be able to recondition a car battery if that was affected by a reversible sulfation

Sulfation is the occurrence when small crystals forms on the negative plates of a battery. The process is not harmful and it does not make much negative impact for the battery, if your lead acid battery was serviced properly.

So if you took care of your cars battery, the sulfation which happens is called reversible or soft sulfation. This sulfation can be removed by using special chargers.

Permanent sulfation kills the batteries

Another type of the sulfation is called permanent sulfation (or a hard sulfation). It happens when battery was left discharged for a long time, and if the crystals on the negative plates can be easily removed with a help of chargers in case of reversible sulfation, with the hard sulfation situation is different.

The thing with the permanent sulfation is, when lead acid battery is left uncharged, large crystals formats inside the battery, and they can’t be removed. There is a chance to put the battery on life, but the restoration is not effective.

In theory, process of hard sulfation can be partially fixed, but the crystals can’t be totally removed. It means, that the battery that was affected by hard sulfation, will never serve like new.

It can’t go back to its initial state. So anyone, who tells you the opposite, are lying. No method will help you to recondition your old car battery in this case.

Different ways that might help you to restore the battery

There are different ways to revive your battery: you can use Epsom salt to replace the acid inside the battery, you might try charging battery with special smart chargers.

One of the ways how to recondition car battery, is by using Epsom salt

Epsom salt helps to recondition car battery
Epsom salt (Magnesium sulfate) can be bought on Amazon

Epsom salt is commonly used as a helper to restore a cars battery. Frequently it is a prefered method because it is quite easy to do, it is effective and cheap. Maybe using smart chargers is easier to do, but the chargers cost money, while the method of Epsom salt is pretty cheap.

If you are going to recondition car battery with Epsom salt you will need to deal with the battery directly. With the chargers however, you just need to plug it in and leave. (but you must be careful, as it might be dangerous and you must take all the necessary precautions).

Also, you can always try the smart chargers after using the method of Epsom salt, which might improve the outcome of reconditioning.

How does Epsom salt helps to recondition car battery? It helps to remove the sulfate from the plates in battery.

After you pour the solution of Epsom salt to the battery (first you have to remove old acid),  you need to charge the battery. When you charge the car battery after pouring in the Epsom salt, the salt will chemically split. One part of the acid will become H2S04 – an acid that is used in batteries, another part of the salt will become magnesium sulphide.

And the best part about it, is that it battery plates will be cleaned.  So after you charge your battery with newly added Epsom salt solution, you create a new battery acid and clean the plates at the same time.

You could also use the Epsom salt only for cleaning (put the solution inside, shake the battery for about 30 seconds, pour the fluid outside, and add new battery acid), but I recommend you to use Epsom salt for creating the acid, as it is more convenient ant cheaper.

How to recondition a car battery with epsom salt

What you will need: multimeter, distilled water, Epsom salt (Mangesium Sulfate), gloves, plastic container (to collect the old battery acid), screwdriver (that will be used to remove the caps), funnel.

Before everything, make sure you took the necessary security requirements (have gloves one, protective safety glasses). Be careful when dealing with the battery acid, protect your skin from it.

  • Step 1: a good idea is to check if the battery is dead by using multimeter. I explained how to do it in this article.
  • Step 2: so, when you organized everything and have the tools, locate the caps of battery and try to remove them.  In most cases there are 6 caps located on the battery (but there are also batteries with 2 bigger lids, under each of them there are 3 caps. After locating the lids, take a flat screwdriver or any other flat tool, and gently pop out the lids. Be careful, as the acid might harm your skin.
You need to open all 6 battery caps if you want to recondition a battery
There are 6 caps on the battery
  • Step 3: once the lids are removed, carefully take the battery and slowly pour the acid to the plastic container.
  • Step 4: mix about 10 ounces (about 280 grams) of baking soda with gallon (3.8 liters) of water. It is a good idea to mix it in small amounts. Then slowly pour the solution into every cap through the funnel. Baking soda will clean the inside of the battery.
  • Step 5: put the caps back and shake the battery for about 30 seconds. After that, remove the caps again and empty liquid battery to the container.
  • Step 6: mix 15 ounces of Epsom salt with a gallon of distilled water. Before that, heat the water. Salt will dissolve easily in a warm water.
  • Step 7: pour the solution of Epsom salt to the battery. Make sure you filled the every cap, it is very important. Pour slowly to understand how much more you need to fill.
  • Step 8: LEAVE THE BATTERY WITHOUT CAPS ON (for air to get out), and put it on charge. You can use any car battery charger, you should charge it for about 24 hours.
  • Step 9: after the charge cycle, check the battery with multimeter again to see if it had improved. Discharge the the battery by simply placing it inside a car and leaving the car lights on for a few hours (technically, you can connect something, that drains the energy, to the battery without putting it in the car). After it has discharged, recharge the car battery again for 24 hours. Test it with the multimeter, outcome should be better than the previous time.

If you decided to put the battery inside the car, you must be careful and don’t forget to put the caps on (better is to leave them open, as there still might be some air inside). If you inserted the battery with caps on for a discharging purpose, make sure the car stays straight and is not in incline or decline.

How about the smart chargers? Can it help recondition car battery?

Don’t expect smart chargers to expand old batteries’ lifetime significantly, these chargers are better for improving lifespan of a new battery. They also work on old batteries, but don’t expect miracles to happen. The time will come, when the old battery will not hold enough energy anymore because of the hard sulfation.

Then you will have to decide if you want to buy a new one or spend your time and try to revive the old one.

Smart charger will remove the soft sulfation. Probably, it is the best and easiest way to remove the reversible sulfation from the plates.

If you aren’t using smart charger already, it might be a good idea to buy one. A good charger maintains the battery properly, so the lifespan of car battery improves. Maybe it will cost you to buy a quality charger, but in the long term, you will save money because your battery will serve you more.

How to recondition car battery with smart charger

The first thing on your mind when you hear about the smart chargers, is probably this: is it worth it?

The short answer is: yes. Yes, they are better than casual battery chargers. Smart car battery chargers have microproccessor inside, that controlls amperage and voltage.

It means that smart charger frequently checks state of the battery during the charging proccess. These chargers also usually work in few charging stages, which also improves the performance of the process.

Smart battery chargers for cars are handy not only because they improvoe lifespan of the battery, charge the battery quicker, but they also have a very good feature – they are performing desulfation process.

If you read the article intently, you have already know that sulfation is responsible for the decline of the quality of battery. Smart chargers help to clean the plates.

There are a lot of different chargers, some are cheap, some are quite expensive. They are more effective than the cheapest ones, but probably you don’t want to spend a bunch of money on the most expensive chargers. It is important to find a charger that has the best relation between the price and the quality.

When the battery is really dead

If you tried all the methods that exist, and your battery is still dead, then there is not so much to do, because it is not possible to recondition lead-acid battery that is dead. When it is gone, it’s gone.

You should not waste your time spinning your head of how to recondition a car battery, because the only choice you have, is to buy a new one.

There are no miracles, when the item is broken, you can still fix it, but in this case refurbishing an old battery is expensive and impractical. The process itself of reviving the car battery can only be made by professionals, and even though it will probably cost more than to buy a new one.

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