Gel batteries offer plenty of advantages over other forms of batteries on the market. However, they have precise requirements for charging them correctly and safely. So, what’s the best way to charge a gel battery without damaging it?
The best way to charge a gel battery is with constant voltage charging. That approach offers you two options: you can use float charging or fast charging to restore your gel battery’s charge to 100%. Float charging works slowly, but there’s no risk of overcharging. Meanwhile, fast charging works faster, but you must disconnect the charger once the battery is full.
This guide will walk you through the methods you can use to charge your gel battery. Then, you’ll discover what happens if your gel battery overcharges and whether or not a gel battery is worth all the effort required to charge it correctly.
How Are Gel Batteries Different From Other Types?
Firstly, it’s important to understand how gel batteries differ from the many other types available on the market. That way, you’ll get a better sense of why these batteries must be charged in a specific way that your existing charger might not be capable of.
In terms of its basic structure, a gel battery is similar to the conventional wet batteries you might already be familiar with.
Gel batteries have both a positive and a negative electrode, and both are surrounded by an electrolyte where the chemistry occurs. The difference here is that the electrolyte is in the form of a gel (hence the name) instead of a liquid.
That gel substance is the result of manufacturers adding silica to the electrolyte. Doing so gives gel batteries unique benefits in terms of vibration resistance and the absence of any liquid leaks, which makes the battery much safer overall when compared to other types.
Among all types of batteries, gel batteries fall into the ‘maintenance-free’ category. That means you don’t have to do anything to it once it’s mounted under your hood and connected to the car’s electrical system.
However, should you need to recharge the battery externally, you must follow the correct methods. There are several ways to charge a battery. Using the wrong one will very quickly damage your gel battery and render it useless, so it’s essential you choose the best approach.
What’s The Best Way To Charge A Gel Battery?
The safest and most effective way to charge a gel battery is by using a constant voltage charging approach. That’s because the approach enables you to regulate the charging voltage precisely at 14.4 V and not one bit higher, which would be dangerous for the gel battery.
Still, you have two options or ‘modes’ when it comes to constant voltage charging: float charging and fast charging. Both of those modes are effective for charging your gel battery, though you’ll have to be mindful of their slightly different approaches.
Here are the differences between charging your gel battery with float charging and fast charging:
- Float charging: Float charging is an excellent way to charge your gel battery without having to worry once it becomes full. That’s because a float charger will maintain the gel battery at full capacity and keep it ready for immediate use without the risk of overcharging and damaging it. However, it takes more time to bring the battery to 100%.
- Fast charging: As the name suggests, this is a much faster method of charging your gel battery. However, you have to be much more involved in the charging process. That’s because you’ll have to disconnect the charger once the battery is full to prevent overcharging from occurring. Alternatively, you can switch to float charging mode when the battery is full to keep it maintained for emergency use.
These days, there are plenty of battery chargers on the market that allow you to use multiple modes. Even better, you can invest in smart chargers that can sense what the gel battery needs and adjust the charging modes automatically.
Whatever approach you choose, the most crucial thing to remember is that you cannot let the battery overcharge under any circumstances. That will cause expensive and potentially dangerous consequences, as you’ll see in the following section.
What Happens If You Charge A Gel Battery The Wrong Way?
Charging a gel battery the wrong way will cause permanent damage to the battery. Worse still, the damage isn’t gradual and can happen even after one round of recharging.
For example, if you were to use an excessive charging voltage and overcharge the battery, you’ll cause gassing to occur inside the battery casing. That means the battery will lose its oxygen and hydrogen content which cannot be replaced, rendering the battery useless.
Simultaneously, your gel battery will dehydrate and lose its conductivity inside.
The bottom line is clear: charging your gel battery the wrong way will cause it to lose its ability to store and deliver an electrical charge.
Are Gel Batteries Worth It?
So far, you’ve read that gel batteries have very specific needs when it comes to charging. On top of that, you also read that gel batteries can get destroyed pretty quickly if they’re charged incorrectly or allowed to overcharge.
That begs the question: are gel batteries worth the effort necessary to maintain them? Firstly, you might be planning on buying a gel battery, or you might want to know if you should replace it with another type in the future.
The answer is yes, gel batteries are worth it despite their charging requirements.
Learning how to charge a gel battery correctly is worth the effort because they offer unique benefits like the following:
- Maintenance-free: First and foremost, gel batteries are superior to other types because they’re maintenance-free. That means you won’t have to worry about refilling the battery with any fluid as the case is sealed, and you don’t have to spend any time or effort maintaining it.
- Vibration resistance: Gel batteries are also renowned for their ability to tolerate strong vibrations. That’s excellent news for vehicles that spend a lot of time on unpaved surfaces or even off-road, as drivers won’t have to worry about affecting the battery’s overall condition.
- Lower self-discharge: Self-discharge happens to all batteries. Even when you don’t plug a battery into anything, it’ll gradually lose some of its power. That also happens with a gel battery but at a significantly slower rate.
- Extreme temperatures: Gel batteries are also suitable for use in environments with extreme climates. For example, batteries normally overheat when the weather outside is extremely hot. Despite that, a gel battery can function optimally and continue powering your vehicle or any other equipment that you’re using the gel battery with.
Overall, gel batteries are more than worth the effort it takes to charge them correctly. The benefits they provide outweigh the effort it takes to keep them maintained correctly.
There are several options you can choose from to charge your gel battery. However, using constant volt charging is the most effective and safest way to do that.
Float charging is the first way you can charge your gel battery. That will keep it at 100% without any danger of overcharging, so you don’t have to keep an eye on the charger. Still, fast charging is another option that’s faster, though you must be sure to shut the charger off when the battery is full.
Overcharging a gel battery will cause internal damage that renders the battery useless. That’s why you must be mindful of how you charge your gel battery at any time.