What is a battery charger and conditioner?
Battery chargers otherwise known as “trickle chargers” restore the capacity of lead acid batteries by targeting lead-sulphur deposits which reduce the battery’s ability to hold charge. These deposits build when a car is repeatedly driven on shorter trips or is left unused.
A battery conditioner restores the capacity of lead acid batteries by targeting lead-sulphur deposits which reduce the battery’s ability to hold charge. These deposits build when a car is repeatedly driven on shorter trips or is left unused.
Both are especially useful for second cars, classic cars or any vehicles that aren’t used regularly that you want to keep in a usable condition. Although alternators maintain batteries that are near a full state of charge they’re not designed to recharge a heavily discharged battery.
How do battery chargers and conditioners work?
Battery chargers top-up batteries at the same rate as self-discharge; the slow process uses a low voltage so the devices can be left for an extended period of time.
Battery conditioners typically dissolve sulphur deposits that build electrical resistance on the plates of batteries1.
The resistance prevents the battery from holding a full charge and can make it appear as though it’s dying.
High-frequency pulses are sent through the battery to bypass its lower current flow and, once a small charge occurs, a higher voltage can be used to regenerate full capacity.
Conditioners may also trickle charge the battery to improve its performance.
How long does a battery charger or conditioner take to work?
The amount of time needed to use a battery charger or conditioner will vary depend on the condition of the battery and the performance of your charger/conditioner.
A battery charger can take up to 48 hours to charge a battery to full capacity as most only use one to two amps of power. You can even leave some smarter trickle chargers for days or weeks at a time, but it’s best to check with the manufacturer if this is suitable.
A battery conditioner can take up to four weeks to break down lead-sulphate deposits and condition your battery to take a full charge. This does depend on how low the voltage has dropped and the length of time the battery has been left in this condition, though.