How a Car Battery Works
Have you ever wondered how a car battery actually works? If your cars battery is not working properly, it can cause you not only headaches, but it can also empty your wallet.
Let us first talk about how a battery works. A Battery not only releases electricity, it also absorbs it. A battery is made up of cells and depending on the voltage, depends on how many cells a battery will house. A 6 volt battery has 3 cells and a 12 volt battery requires 6 cells. In a 12 volt battery each cell is made up of 2 sets of electrodes made up of 8 overlapping metallic plates, equaling a total of 16 per cell. The plates form a compact grid. The bigger the grid, the more power it can generate.
There are two terminals, I am sure you are familiar with the Positive + and the Negative – terminals on batteries. The Positive grid is covered in lead oxide which carries electrons. The plates soak in a chemical bath of 64% water and 36% sulfuric acid and are very volatile. If you are not careful just a drop of it will eat through your clothing and burn your skin. It is very important to wear protective equipment anytime you are dealing with car batteries.
The key to a car battery is all the chemical reaction that occurs inside the battery cells. The reaction is repeated as the battery drains during use. The mix of water and sulfuric acid acts as electrolytes. Electrolyte is a substance that conducts electricity.
As the battery drains, the acid bath reacts to the chemicals on the plates. The lead covering one cell grid and the lead oxide covering the other cell grid. Dipping them in electrolyte bath releases particles called electrons. When they start racing through the grids, they create electricity.
As the electrons race from the positive grid in the first cell and out the negative grid, they produce 2 volts of electricity. So as the electrons race from cell to cell, by the time it reaches the positive cell, it produces 12 volts.
Your car battery is now fully loaded enough to start your car’s engine. Once your car has started, the car’s fuel system takes over and keeps the car’s motor running.
Then the car’s alternator takes over the electrical chores. The Battery continues to recharge by reversing the chemical reaction. Electrons produced by the car’s alternator now enter the battery through the negative grid of the cells and comes out the positive side. Then the chemical on the grids go back to normal. The battery is then recharged and ready to put out another 12 volts of electricity.
Now if you forget and leave your lights on, the chemical reaction moves in only one direction, which will drain your battery, not allowing the battery to recharge and you now have a dead battery.
If you live in cold temperature climates, during the winter months, it is very important to keep your battery fully charged. Due to the nature of their design, when a battery is not fully-charged, the sulfuric acid and distilled water inside the battery are not properly mixed and the distilled water can freeze. If you suspect this when your vehicle does not start on a cold morning, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO JUMP START OR CHARGE A BATTERY THAT MAY BE FROZEN.
The first thing you should do is to visually inspect the battery case. If you see cracks in the case, the may be damaged beyond repair and should be taken to a battery retailer for inspection. If this is the case, the battery will need replacing.