If you’re having trouble keeping your lawn tractor battery charged, it’s in your best interest to understand when you need to replace it with a new one.
This is a common problem we see here in Michigan during the cold weather season. The battery is an often neglected part of lawn tractors in terms of maintenance. If you try to start your tractor, and the electric starter is not engaging, this would likely be a battery-related issue. It’s important to know proper battery storage and how to maintain your battery. Let us outline battery care in this handy guide.
Cold Climate Conditions
Not just Michigan, but most of the United States experiences low temperatures in the winter months. Cold temps can negatively affect the properties of the battery acid if it sits unused. In fact, all batteries will perform poorly in cold weather conditions. If the temperature falls below or between 0 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit frequent enough (the freezing point) you will need to properly store the battery to maximize the battery life.
Unless you use your tractor year-round for cutting, bagging and snow blowing or plowing, you will need to take proper care in storing your battery during the winter months. Homeowners should store the battery in a dry area of the garage (ideally if attached to the home). This should be fine as long as the temperature doesn’t reach the freezing point. If the garage is exposed to the elements, it’s recommended to store in the home interior, such as the basement, which will likely never fall below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
CCA (cold cranking amperes) – the amount of current a battery can provide at 0 degrees F (-18 degrees C). The rating is defined as the current a lead-acid battery at that temperature can deliver for 30 seconds and maintain at least 1.2 volts per cell (7.2 volts for a 12-volt battery). A high rating of CCA is better in cold weather. If you’re replacing the battery with a new one, always make sure you’re using the correct rated battery that the equipment manufacturer recommends. Refer to the dealer’s parts department to look up your model if there is any question.
Sulfation occurs when the molecules in the electrolyte (battery acid) become so discharged they start to build up on the lead charging plates inside your battery. Once the sulfation buildup coats the plates, you will immediately see decreased performance. Eventually, the coated plates will be nearly or completely covered and the battery will quit during use or will no longer hold a charge and will not start the equipment.
When to Replace Your Battery
- If the battery case is cracked or leaking
- If the battery case is bulging – usually due to storing/operating at too hot a temperature
- If the terminals are damaged in any way, or fully corroded
- If the electrolyte level is low – internal plates exposed to air will immediately sulfate
- If the battery was charged incorrectly – most cheap charger settings will cause this
- If the battery no longer holds a charge – usually due to sulfation after prolonged disuse (lack of maintaining the charged state)
Battery cables and terminals
The battery cables and terminals should be kept clean from corrosion. To clean them, use a hard wire brush. There is a product specifically for cleaning battery terminals in a spray can, but you can get the same effect using a home-made formula of baking soda and tap water. With the battery disconnected, pour the baking soda directly onto the terminal, and scour with a damp toothbrush. Dry completely with a clean rag.
Applying dielectric grease or petroleum jelly to the terminals will help create a good barrier, and help slow down any future corrosion. It’s important that when the cables are reconnected they are tight with the terminals, as this is another common no-start issue. If the cables have excessive wear or have been fully corroded, they will need to be replaced.
The greater the battery’s charge, the lower the freezing point (and vice-versa). Batteries will self-discharge due to the cold. The best method to keep your battery in fine working order and maximize its life is to use a battery tender. After storage, you should check the charge level of your battery occasionally during the cold season. If the charge drops below 50%, charge it back up fully. The reason being, to undercharge a battery would cause sulfation in the uncharged portion.
For example, if you charged the battery to only 80%, this allows the 20% battery chemistry to not be reactivated by the incomplete charging cycle. Ensure the battery voltage is back up to a full charge before its use in the spring. Always remember to turn the ignition key to OFF position; if left turned in the ON position for an extended period of time, the battery will fully discharge.
Deltran Battery Tenders®
This is the best product to maintain the battery in the off-season and year-round. Every Deltran Battery Tender® Battery Charger regardless of its size is programmed with a microprocessor that will correctly charge a battery then automatically switch to a maintenance/float mode. We carry two of their models, which are perfect to use on your lawn tractor and generator batteries.
Battery Tender Junior (SS33-502) is 12-volt charger at 0.75 amp with a 5-year warranty.
Battery Tender Plus (HO31670-HPE-000) is 12-volt charger at 1.25 amp with a 10-year warranty. Both models come with quick connect ring charging cables and alligator clips for an alternate connection.
Disclaimer: Unfortunately we cannot ship lead-acid filled batteries as our shipping service will not transport. Nor can we ship unfilled lead-acid batteries because they cannot be returned once they have been filled.
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Weingartz, family owned and operated, began in 1945 as a farm supply store for local Michigan families. In the 1970s, we began to focus exclusively on outdoor power equipment. Over time, we morphed into the “power equipment superstore” that now defines all of our locations. The staff and experts at Weingartz work diligently to provide the best service possible and give honest and helpful advice to each and every customer.
Weingartz also sells parts for all outdoor power equipment at https://weingartz.com/parts-lookup.
46061 Van Dyke Ave.
Utica, MI 48317
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