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Honey Do List: Battery maintenance

Batteries can be a sore subject this time of year. They are a huge part of our lives now in so many different ways: Power tools, cell phones, cars and trucks, and, of course, lawnmowers. Here are a few tips on battery maintenance that may be useful.

USE IT OR LOSE IT. Mowers tend to sit idle for several months over the winter, and batteries will go bad. It’s a really good idea to crank your mower about once a month and let it run for a bit. Catch a decent day and take a drive around the yard, contemplating the coming spring honey-do list. If you are fortunate to have a climate-controlled storage area for your mower, that will help with battery life as well.

REMOVE AND STORE. It’s a good idea to remove your lawn mower battery for the winter and store it in a cool, dry place. Be sure to store it away from gas cans, the water heater or furnace. Disconnect the battery cable from the battery, starting with the negative cable (it will have a minus sign). Remove the battery and wipe it off with a cloth. Clean the battery terminal using a metal brush, or clean it with a battery cleaner product.

CHARGE IT. Trickle chargers are available that will feed your battery a small charge to keep it built up. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and set these up in a safe place away from any flammable liquids or materials.

If your engine won’t turn over, or clicks, your battery may be dead. If the mower makes no sound at all, the issue may be a safety switch or wiring problem. REMOVE THE KEY FROM THE SWITCH and then check the connections to the battery, making sure they are tight. There will be a red (positive, +) and a black (negative, -).

The battery can be tested with a multimeter. Test the battery’s voltage by setting the multimeter to DC. Touch the red probe to the positive terminal of the battery and the black probe to the negative terminal of the battery at the same time. Read the meter. If it has 12.7 DC volts or higher, the battery is good and something else is causing your starting problem. If the voltage reading is lower, the battery is discharged to some degree but may perk up after charging. If it reads 11.5 volts or lower, the battery is weak or damaged and needs replacing.

When buying a new battery, take the old one with you so it can be matched up and turned in for recycling.

Next week, we’ll look at proper charging techniques. Remember, help is just around the corner at your local hardware store.

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