Battery maintenance for transit buses

A battery is only as good as the service and maintenance it receives.

Sure-fire tips for longer life

By Brad Bisaillon
As more advanced electrical applications are designed into today’s mass transit buses, there is increased use in battery technology to power these new electrical systems. Since reliance on batteries has significantly increased, the importance of following a regular battery maintenance schedule is critical in achieving the highest rated performance and lifecycle from your batteries. A battery is only as good as the service and maintenance it receives. Too often batteries are taken for granted with expectations that they will work anytime and anywhere, regardless of whether or not they have been properly maintained throughout their lifecycle.

Following the simple yet critical battery maintenance procedures outlined below will ensure electrical bus applications such as fare boxes, fire suppression systems and security cameras will operate at optimum levels day in and day out.

Tips for proper maintenance:

When needed, charge batteries following the
manufacturer’s charging instructions
Use charge lugs
Do not interrupt a charge cycle
Never charge a frozen battery
Avoid charging at temperatures above 120 degrees F
(49 degrees C)

Clean the battery and cable lugs with a solution of baking soda and water. It is imperative to properly maintain the entire battery connection because corrosion at either end of the connection will cause breakage and battery failure.
Rinse with water and dry
Thinly coat all cable connections with petroleum jelly or anti-corrosion spray

Tighten all wiring connections per the manufacturer’s specifications
Do not over-tighten which can result in post breakage
Avoid under-tightening which can result in post meltdown or fire
Make sure there is good contact with the terminals

Do not equalize AGM batteries
Connect battery to charger, set to equalize mode, and start the charge cycle
Take voltage readings every hour
Equalization is complete when voltage no longer rises
If charger does not have an equalization setting call the battery manufacturer’s technical support staff to determine setting

Safety considerations
Always wear protective clothing, safety glasses, and gloves when handling and/or performing battery maintenance
Never add acid to a battery
Keep batteries clean and dry. Keep sparks, flames and cigarettes away from batteries
Charge only in well ventilated areas
Skin contact with electrolyte should be avoided

There are very important steps that should be followed when storing batteries for an extended period of time.
Completely charge batteries before storing and monitor every six weeks while in storage
Flooded lead acid batteries gradually self-discharge during storage so be sure to monitor voltage every 4-6 weeks.
Stored batteries should be given a boost charge when they are at 70 percent state of charge or less. However, AGM batteries, having greater charge retention, only need a boost charge when necessary.
Store batteries in a cool, dry location avoiding areas where freezing temperatures are expected
Keep batteries fully charged to prevent freezing
When batteries are taken out of storage, recharge them before use
Avoid direct exposure to heat sources, such as radiators or heaters

Battery testing
Only use battery testing processes and equipment recommended by your battery manufacturers
Always take readings off the lead pad of the battery
Disconnect individual cables from each of the batteries before testing, otherwise you will get faulty readings

Committing to a regular maintenance schedule ensures your mass transit bus electrical applications will continue to operate at peak levels of performance and reliability. With proper care and maintenance an initial battery investment can be extended as well as keep the total cost of ownership to a minimum. This will keep your bus fleets on the road longer and maintain on-time schedules, contributing to the overall success of your mass transit operations. BRM
Brad Bisaillon is the sales manager, Strategic Accounts & Transportation for Trojan Battery.

One Response to “Battery maintenance for transit buses”

  1. We’ll point out that Firefly International Energy has a breakthrough sealed lead acid shipping in production, that at CityLink transit buses in Peoria, has demonstrated 5 yrs operational service life, and counting, with ZERO maintenance of the cells.

    Firefly Oasis 3D group 31, has demonstrated over 1200 Deep Discharge (80% depth of discharge) cycles in the lab with capacity EQUAL at end of test, stopped since the electric vehicle application this was ~7+ years of pack operation. Teardown of the 1200 cycle cell found zero internal wear, internals as good as new.

    Hot testing SAE (soc auto engineers ) J2185 test showed at 50c 122F testing the firefly Oasis 3D had 2-4x increases in charge cycling service life over any lead acid tested, flooded or sealed.

    The J2185 test results have lead on DOD subcontractor to convert healthy orders for desert service batteries to 450 purchased last year.

    Store the Firefly Oasis 3D fully discharged (accidentally) and it starts up right away taking charge, and in 5 cycles returns to 90% of spec capacity.