How to save a few hundred dollars replacing your battery

How to save a few hundred dollars replacing your battery.

Isn’t it just wonderful when some things just work? Fridge’s, they should just work. Vacuum cleaners, they should just work. Get into a car and go to switch it on? It should just work! As a long-term gear head, I know the latter is a little unreasonable. But stay with me.

The key to getting into a 4X4 or any vehicle for that matter and being able to get going starts at a very vital part of the equation; a battery to turn the motor and bring it to life. Yes, I know about EV but I’m not yet convinced on that new fandangle stuff yet.

A couple of weeks ago I did a short blog on a few things you can do during lockdowns to keep the blues away. I touched on keeping your batteries topped up in that article and the fact I’ve been trialing a new battery charger from our mates at Projecta.

I’m pleased to say – It. Just. Works.

I took delivery of the test unit, a Projecta Charge N Maintain 8amp battery charger earlier on this year, when we were free to move around in Sydney. With the impending lockdowns, I took the time over the last few months to try this unit on 3 cars at home on a rotating basis.

Idle vehicles present a range of issues. First and most obvious, the battery (or batteries for us) typically gain charge from an alternator which is driven by the engine. In turn it creates elecricity to power some ancillaries of your vehicle and charge your cranking (starter) battery. It also pushes charge to your auxiliary or house battery, if you have one, through a separate charger hard wired to your vehicle.

A cranking battery should go a month with no use and still be able to turn your engine over in ideal conditions. Things like aftermarket accessories, even a GPS tracker will create draw which reduce that timeframe. If you have some other electrical issues the parasitic draw on your batteries could further reduce this timeframe again.

Yes, driving your vehicle regularly is great If you can do it – but this has obviously been a challenge for many recently! A short drive to the shops can help, but the hardest part on your battery is cranking the engine for startup, so arun down to the local shops at a couple of minutes each way is hardly going to provide enough charge to maintain the health of what at times will be a few hundred dollars’ worth of battery.

A trickle charger as I know it is just that – it provides a continuous trickle of charge when hooked up to your battery. But calling this Projecta unit this does it no justice. I’ve used these items for some time as I always have a car or two thatsits idle, either an infrequent driver or something being worked on, but I’ve neverhad anything like this one. The key is the 8 stage cycle that the charge pattern runs through. From rescue to float it’s designed to diagnose, adjust and keep your battery as healthy as possible.

What struck me was the simplicity. Unbox, attach the included fused hard-wire mounting kit to your battery, or use the high quality alligator clips also In the box to attach to the positive and negative terminals of your battery. You do have a few different charge modes you can use, but you don’t have too – it just gets on and does its job, even tailoring its output automatically for different battery sizes. 

One of the 3 vehicles I tested on had an old-hardwired kit on the battery. The connection was the same, so I just used it (and learnt along the way – more on this later) and for my wife’s car and the Raptor I alternated between them with Alligator Clips. I did have a couple of instances where an F2 Error presented when attached to the vehicle with the old hard wiring kit. A quick look at the instructions after the second time it happened showed the code to be related to a loose connection to the battery. Having never had the issue when using alligators on the other cars, it was pretty easy to diagnose the old wiring as the issue.

When I had the code appear in the second instance the battery was down to 2.2 volts. To my pleasant surprise, in resetting the unit it brought the battery back to life – I truly didn’t expect that to be the case at such a low reading.

Given the Raptor sits outside, I was happy that the unit was waterproof, with an IP65 rating. Despite this, I did sit it on top of the passenger tyre to keep it out of the elements anyway. This coupled with surprising light weight owed to the fact that unit doesn’t employ a transformer to convert 240v to 12V DC means its not a hard thing to handle, although in my space-challenged garage at times it did get in the way. It does however have mounting points to go on the wall, which I will use once I don’t have to alternate between various cars. A small complaint was that the only configuration I can mount it to the wall will see the display end up upside down – yes, OCD, I know and not really a fault of the unit.

Pretty simple, but so important to the enjoyment of our vehicles. The unit is pretty widely available for about $150. At this price, it’s a no-brainer and can save you a bit of coin on batteries, let alone the hassle of replacing or breaking down!

Pros

  • Ease of use, true plug and play
  • To charge back up from very low voltages

Cons

  • Was a little larger than I’d like when sitting on floor
  • Some extra length in the battery connection side would be appreciated

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Comments 9

  1. there is a transformer in the unit – just that its not as large as it might have been 10 years ago.

    The 240VAC is rectified to approx 350VDC. This is then run through a ‘chopper’ circuit, which includes a transformer to down convert it and then rectified approx 18VDC before presenting it to the smart charger circuitry. Does it convert 240VAC to 12VAC – technically no because the chopper creates a 350VAC down to approx 15VAC conversion across the transformer.

    The wording of the article would lead the average Joe to think there is no transformer, and that is incorrect.

    You’re relying on people not understanding how the unit works to try to get a marketing perception that is incorrect. If you think this is incorrect, the publish the cct diagram and associated data sheets in this article and prove otherwise.

    1. Dave,

      Thanks for your comment – I will go back to Projecta and get a confirmation on that. I’m definitely not as knowledgeable as you here obviously and relied on information I had at hand around that piece.

      For me the unit worked, and worked damn well so i’m stoked with it, and it’s lighter than anything i’ve used before despite the size actually being larger than prior units.

      I’ll come back to you

      Kal

    2. I have an older model 8 amp auto charger etc one day it stopped working, rang projector mob, said it was a old model and can’t fix. I liked it because it could drain& recharge etc, so what would stop it from working, ? Seems like it,s only an easy fix to me but I know nothing about them, if you can build it, why can’t you fix it, ? It,s a 7 stage auto 8000 mA fully.electronic switchmode charger
      John hanley

  2. What I’ve used for years to maintenance charge my 12V batteries (tractor, Quad, Landcruiser, generator etc) is a good quality 12v solar charger. It requires no mains power and is especially good for extended periods, clip it on and forget about it. Once a year or so I give the batteries a good charge on a mains-powered charger. Most of the solar chargers aren’t ‘waterproof’ but nonetheless they generally last forever and cost 20-100 depending on the quality. If you’re off grid like me with machinery scattered all over the place, it’s the best solution.

  3. I notice in the above picture diagram the hard wired cables have a fuse attached but not the alligator clips ??? Why is this, as both attach to the battery ???

    1. Hi Bob,

      here is the response i got from the Projecta team

      “The reason for the fuse on the hard wire kit is for exactly that reason, it is hard wired and will be left on permanently, on any permanent installation to a battery it is recommended to add a fuse, however with the Alligator clips it is only a temporary installation and therefore does not necessarily require a fuse.”

      Hope this helps

      Kal

  4. Obvious in the photo but not clarified in the article?

    The unit is labelled for lead acid batteries!

    Don’t attempt to use it on an AGM battery let alone a Lithium (unless you want to shorten the battery’s life…………)

    Not sure how many current vehicles are fitted with lead-acid batteries from new, but my cranking battery and my auxiliary in the tub are both AGM.

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