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I work at a car auction and we use deep cycle marine batteries with booster cables attached to hand trucks to wheel around the lot for boosting cars. I've been told by our battery distributor the best way to charge the batteries individually is at a low (2-5 amp) charge setting for 12-24+ hours.

We use a wheeled automotive battery charger that has several amp settings (2 amps up to 200 amps) in 6- and 12-volts. We have had problems in the past with batteries gassing and even exploding from being hooked up to the charger improperly (luckily no one has been injured).

The latest failed attempt at charging them all simultaneously involves two copper pipes hooked to the positive and negative leads of the charger (running on a 2amp setting) and the positive and negative booster cables of 4 batteries attached to the corresponding copper pipe. They don't seem to charge this way, even after several days. My guess is that the amperage is being divided among the 4 batteries, so they're only getting a very small trickle, if anything. I've been afraid to crank the charger up to 20amps or so to test this theory without finding out for sure if it is safe.

How can we safely charge multiple deep cycle batteries (we currently use 4) simultaneously using a wheeled automotive battery charger?

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The "right" way to charge 4 batteries simultaneously would be to buy 4 small "trickle charger" style battery chargers and charge each battery independently. This would allow you to safely leave all of the batteries that aren't in active use to charge at their own ideal rate. This is the approach that your distributor is recommending to you.

It is possible, though far from ideal, to charge several 12V batteries (monoblocks with 6 cells) in parallel. It works much better if they are all the same age and they must be the same brand and same capacity. What you really want is for them to have the same specific gravity in each cell in each monoblock. It sounds like you are using flooded batteries, so checking for proper electrolyte levels often will be very important.

I'd recommend the following guidelines for charging multiple lead acid batteries in parallel:

1) Ensure that the lead lengths between the charger and each cell are close to identical. You would not, for example, want to connect the charger directly to the posts of battery A, then connect battery B to the posts of battery A, etc.) Each length of wire will have a voltage drop associated with it while passing current. You want to ensure that, under charge, the terminal voltages of all batteries (measured at the post) are very close to the same.

2) Add current limiting (like a fuse or fusable link) in each connection (both sides) to each battery. This will provide a basic (not comprehensive!) level of protection against accidental reverse polarity connection).

3) Use a good quality low rate (10-20A) charger

Your copper pipe approach satisfies requirement #1. If you use leads with inline fuses (buy fuse holders from an auto parts store and splice them inline) and ensure that the pipes are mounted in such a way that nothing metallic could reasonably short the two pipes, you've got #2.

As for why your most recent experiment didn't work, it's tough to say without more information. Wheeled automototive battery chargers typically have zero regulation - they are simply a multi-tap transformer (different charge rates) and a rectifier. They are made primarily for jump-starting/battery assist type of applications and aren't a great fit for your application. Research good quality trickle/maintenance chargers, and select one with a 10-20A output (selectable). (#3) You can then more comfortably experiment with the charge rate that best matches your application.

Always wear eye protection when working around batteries.

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In my experience with batteries I have a few things to add. You might be interested in the pulse tech line of chargers. They have a unit that attaches to 12 individual 12 volt batteries and charges them simultaneously. Unlike conventional chargers they use higher voltage pulses to charge rather than continuous power.

http://www.pulsetech.net/PRO12RP-RediPulse12-Station-Battery--Maintenance-System-7390.aspx

Another thing you might want to consider is changing your batter cart itself with a multi-stage ultra capacitor bank. Use 6 in series to achieve 12 volts then 2 of the 6 cell packs in parallel that will be the equivalent of 2 incredible deep cycle battery that can recharge in my experience 20 to 50 seconds after starting the vehicle. Let the alternator recharge the capacitors and it will be full until the next car.

Here is a video of a single 6 cell battery so you can get an idea of what it will look like and can do.

Here is a link to the capacitors (on eBay), the cheapest I have found them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ For future reference. Links to eBay expire quickly. Try to post links to longer term sources, even if they are more expensive. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Alexeev Apr 8 '13 at 3:35

protected by clabacchio Apr 8 '13 at 11:18

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