Trickle charging refers to a charger that adopts a low current to charge the battery. Since all car batteries discharge automatically, their power will decrease over time. Typically, lead acid batteries have a self-discharge rate of about 5% per month. If you leave the car idle for too long, say months, the battery won’t even have enough power to start it. The alternator of the car can charge the battery when the car is in regular use. But it doesn’t work when the car is idle. It can’t charge a dead battery either. In this case, a car battery charger capable of trickle charging can come into play. It will keep the battery fully charged to avoid power loss and battery damage caused by its automatic discharge.
Trickle Chargers and Conventional Battery Chargers
We have once introduced the 3 Common Types of Car Battery Chargers in our previous blog, in which trickle chargers are included. Among multiple types of car battery chargers, not all of them have the trickle charging function. There are two main ratings in car battery chargers: output voltage and current. Voltage of the most common car batteries is 12V. Some types of smaller or larger vehicles may use 6V or even 24V batteries. But when it comes to the output current of a car battery charger, there will be multiple choices. Typically, the output current of a conventional car charger can be anywhere from 1 to 50 amperes. For some battery chargers with jump starting feature, their output current can reach as high as 100-200 amperes for a short period of time. That will be enough to start a car engine. And whether a battery charger is a trickle charger or not does not depend on how high the current can be. Instead, the current it provides needs to be as low as possible. Most trickle chargers provide the output current only between 1 and 3 amps.
The Working Principle and Characteristics of a Trickle Charger
Compared with conventional car battery chargers, trickle chargers can use a low current which is similar to the self-discharge rate of the battery to charge the battery. That’s why they’re called trickle chargers. The benefit of the low current and the slow charging mode of a trickle charger is that it will provide a thorough and reliable charge for the battery. This will help to maintain the health of the battery and prolong its service life.
Why Fast is Not Good?
The application for trickle charging is related to how lead acid batteries work. A lead acid battery maintains it power through chemical reaction between the lead plates and electrolyte within. When a lead acid battery discharges, the chemical reaction will turn the metal lead in the lead plates into lead sulfate, and the electrolyte will be turned into dilute sulfuric acid. On the contrary, when a lead acid battery is recharged, the chemical reaction will occur in the opposite way. Lead sulfate will be converted to lead again. The metal lead will release sulfate into the electrolyte. And the electrolyte will become more concentrated sulfuric acid.
Many people believe that by increasing the charging current, the chemical reaction in a lead acid battery can be accelerated as well as the charging of the battery. However, the problem is that this will raise the likelihood of the off-gassing of the batteries. This will put the battery at the risk of explosion. Therefore, trickle chargers were born with the consideration of the efficiency and safety in the battery charging process. Trickle chargers are capable of detecting the battery charging level and constantly adjusting the charging current in time. They can increase the charging current accordingly when the battery is almost dead and lower it to suit the state of the battery when it is about to be fully charged. In this way, the charging efficiency can be ensured to the maximum extent, and the generation and accumulation of gas within the battery caused by excessive charging current can be effectively avoided.
Even trickle chargers can be divided into two types: smart and ordinary. The trickle chargers with smart charging feature can automatically turn itself off or switch to float charging mode when the battery is fully charged. If it is an ordinary trickle charger without smart charging feature, it needs to be manually disconnected from the battery when it is fully charged. Otherwise, despite its low charging current, using trickle chargers for long time can lead to the overcharging and premature damage of the battery. We believe that as car users, the problem of lead acid battery overcharging has been well known.
Benefits of Owning a Trickle Charger
1. Keep your car ready to use
Whether you need to leave your car idle for a while or better maintain the battery during the winter months when its self-discharge rates are high, a trickle charger can always keep your car ready to use. With them, you don’t need to do time-consuming battery charging and maintenance before using your car.
2. Protect the battery and reduce costs
The higher self-discharge rate of lead acid batteries in winter may shorten the service life of the battery. The shortening of battery’s service life will undoubtedly bring an increase in the daily cost of the car. With the help of a trickle charger, lead acid batteries’ lifespan can be significantly extended. And it can reduce your unnecessary extra expense on your daily car use.
3. More convenient than a battery blanket or a battery thermal wrap
In winter, if you don’t have a trickle charger, you may need a battery blanket or a battery thermal wrap to keep your car battery warm and work properly. Using a trickle charger will be the most convenient way to keep the battery at a reasonable temperature. And it does not cost too much compared with these alternatives.
So, owning a trickle charger can let your lead acid battery work better. Especially in winter, a trickle charger can effectively make up for the lead acid battery’s loss of power due to the self-discharge. By doing this, a trickle charger can also be called a battery charger or a battery maintainer because it is able to always keep the battery in a healthy state. With its help, your car will always be available when you need it.