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Smart battery chargers for your car

Battery chargers are battery chargers. Need one for a common 12-volt battery? Buy one and hook it up. Done deal. Some of those chargers have automatic trickle functions. Others don’t. If they don’t, you’ll likely need a battery trickle charger. What if you have a deep cycle battery in your boat or RV? You’ll likely need a specialized charger. If you have a race car, there’s a chance you’re using 16-volt batteries. That, too, means you’ll need a special charger for the application.

But there’s more: If you trickle-charge batteries and you forget the charger is in place, or if you charge the battery too fast, you run the risk of toasting the battery (or worse). So what’s a body to do?

Power charger
Instead of baby-sitting batteries, give this some thought: Today, there are modern chargers available that can accomplish all of the above tasks. We tested Moroso’s smart (as in, intelligent) “Power Charger.” The Power Charger not only charges ordinary everyday 12-volt batteries but also will charge 16-volt batteries. You can also charge any type of battery, including Gel Cell, Sealed, Lead Acid, Wet/Deep Cycle and “Reactor” batteries. A smart battery charger also serves as a battery maintainer because the battery can be left to charge – keeping your battery at top working condition – while your car, RV, boat or motorcycle is in storage. 

If speed is what you’re after, you can be sure your battery is ready almost immediately. Moroso claims the Power Charger will provide near full battery recovery in approximately 14 minutes, based on an average voltage drop. Of course, complete charges take a little longer, but our own tests revealed wicked-fast results.

In terms of overall size, this charger isn’t that big: It measures 12 inches wide by 7 inches front to back, and it’s 7 inches tall. Because of the relatively small size, portability is simple. Solid-state LED indicators clearly show the current flow into the battery, so you know that it’s charging, or at 80 percent, or “Ready.” But what makes a smart battery charger so smart?

Using a smart battery charger
Most smart battery chargers hook up like a conventional job: black lead to negative, red to positive on the battery, then connect to an AC power supply. Flip the main switch (left side of the charger face) to 12 or 16 volts (depending on battery type) and watch the show. That’s where the “brains” take over. Once the charger is switched from OFF to ON (choosing the appropriate battery type, 12 or 16V), the green-yellow-red LEDs on the right side of the charger will indicate in sequence the battery charger self-test. After this sequence (which takes roughly two seconds), the red will come ON, indicating the beginning of the charge. If there is no battery connected, the yellow LED will flash briefly once each second, indicating that the AC power to the charger is connected.

With a battery connected, the charger will begin to charge the battery as indicated by the red charging LEDs. The length of time the charger remains in the “Charging Mode” depends upon the size and state of discharge of the battery. This is controlled by the charger’s internal solid-state circuitry that constantly monitors the state of the battery and provides the correct charge automatically. When the green “Ready” LED comes ON, the battery is ready to use. The battery may be connected to the charger in the “Ready” mode indefinitely in order to maintain the battery in a fully charged state while not in use without the risk of overcharging.

During the charging process, an LED Amp Meter indicates the current flowing into the battery. At the start of the charge if the battery is normally discharged, all four red LEDs will be on, and will go out in sequence as the charge current drops. When the last red LED goes off, the internal proportional timer will start. The green LED will show proportional to the time of the constant current time. If the battery voltage is less than half a volt, then the battery is considered very heavily discharged. In this case, the yellow charging LED will not show.

Inside a battery charger
Internally, the battery charger is equipped with a reset-able “BTS” or “Battery Type Switch.” This is an internal switch that can be set by the dealer or an authorized service technician. When shipped from the factory, the charger is set in the “normal mode,” which is for sealed lead acid or equivalent batteries. An internal switch allows the charge to be set for Gel Cell batteries or Minimal Gas Emission Batteries. Another option is to switch the battery over for use with vented liquid lead acid batteries (fast charge mode). Moroso points out this switching process is not for consumers, and must be set by an authorized technician or a dealer.

As you can see, with this charger, you really don’t need more than one charger for the job. Best of all, you don’t have to baby-sit the battery as it’s being charged.