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Calcium (lead acid) batteries

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Does anyone have issues with Calcium batteries? I bought 2 not far apart a couple of years ago. Got them from the AA, after my last AA battery lasted 11 years. Now they seem to lose charge really fast - both my cars have failed to start this week. Lockdown and not driving? maybe, but when we've been away in the past for 6 weeks at least one car goes on the button...

The first time it happened I tried to charge the battery with my usual 12V charger - didn't work. Called out the AA thinking I had a dead cell, but he tested it, boosted it and it worked. That's when I found out that calcium batteries need a specific type of charger. $250 later, I can now charge the batteries....

I'm not impressed with them, and I'd like to get them replaced before the warranty runs out - but the AA do a battery test and say it's fine. I have only EVER needed to charge a battery on either car (E36 and Honda CRV) after a long period away - a couple of months. Now I'm doing it at least monthly.

BTW - both cars charging systems checked out OK.

Can anyone throw light on this?

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I wouldn't be surprised if they are reducing the quality of materials inside some of these 12v car batteries due to such high demand of the materials, this means they can reduce costs and make more, at the cost to the consumer so they don't last as long

I remember various instances of OEM batteries lasting 10-15 years in cars before being changed, wasn't uncommon to see a 90s or early 00s BMW with the OEM battery still working. Now you're lucky to get a half to a third of that lifespan. 

Something has definitely changed. 

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What he ^^^^ said :) When batteries were made here in NZ during the era of local assembly, they were big clunky things with lots of lead in the plates.  But as the motor industry progressed the demand was for smaller, lighter and cheaper so that is what the battery manufacturers provided. Now that all batteries are imported from Asian countries and improved design, materials and manufacturing techniques are employed. The end result is a battery that is only just big enough to do the job for the warranty period if used in a well maintained and easy to start vehicle.... I fkn love marketing :) 

I suspect that the AA has tapped into a lower cost source for their batteries to improve their margin. This may have the mildly embarrassing side effect of shorter battery life but the attitude is... never mind the quality... feel the width !! So if your vehicle is getting on in years and does not start as easily as it once did, you do a lot of short trips and use all the accessories thoughtfully provided by the manufacturer, you can look forward to buying a new battery from AA every three years.

This information is lifted directly from the AA website... Calcium batteries are the most commonly fitted battery; they also go by the name of ‘wet lead acid’ batteries. The basic ingredients are no different to the old style, but these batteries are more durable and have more starting power. They have a good shelf life and are maintenance free. But they require regular use, so when drained they must be recharged using a charger to bring them back to optimal health. Modern vehicle charging systems will struggle to recharge these fully when they’re drained.

What is not stated is that you need a special charger for calcium batteries, and that if your vehicle was not factory fitted with a calcium battery, the vehicle will most likely not be able to recharge the battery fully. Thus the battery will never be operating at optimum voltage and battery performance and service life will be reduced. It is a classic example of where a so called improvement (good shelf life and are maintenance free) that benefited sellers, was in fact a performance downgrade for buyers.

Cheers...

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AA Batteries these days are rubbish, even maintained with a modern seven-stage calcium/AGM capable charger. I now buy KOBA, good quality for the money.
 @jom if you're not driving the e36 regularly, best to hook up the batty on maintenance cycle on your fancy new charger.  HTH.

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42 minutes ago, Olaf said:

AA Batteries these days are rubbish, even maintained with a modern seven-stage calcium/AGM capable charger. I now buy KOBA, good quality for the money.
 @jom if you're not driving the e36 regularly, best to hook up the batty on maintenance cycle on your fancy new charger.  HTH.

The Repco battery charger has two different cable ends, one with croc clips and the other has ring terminals.  Guess what I've connected it to! All I need to do now is open the boot and plug it in.😁

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On 8/20/2021 at 3:20 PM, Michael. said:

I wouldn't be surprised if they are reducing the quality of materials inside some of these 12v car batteries due to such high demand of the materials, this means they can reduce costs and make more, at the cost to the consumer so they don't last as long

I remember various instances of OEM batteries lasting 10-15 years in cars before being changed, wasn't uncommon to see a 90s or early 00s BMW with the OEM battery still working. Now you're lucky to get a half to a third of that lifespan. 

Something has definitely changed. 

While I don't doubt that some of this is true, modern cars demand a lot more of the electrical system. So much so the G05 has a separate battery to run the active roll bars

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While it is certainly true that modern cars have more electronics and electrical devices that create load on the battery, most of these are unlikely to be active when the car is parked up. And it goes without saying that the manufacturers upgrade the battery capacity and charging system to handle the increased load when factory accessories and other automated systems are active. So it is not like the old days when you added a 500Watt sub and found your car wouldn't start after an afternoon listening to music with your mates at the beach :)

Generally speaking, I have found factory batteries to last at least 5-6 years if a car gets a half decent commute as this represents optimal charging. But repeated short trips when the car never gets up to temperature coupled with cold starts can kill a battery in a couple of years, regardless of the age of the car. The battery never gets fully recharged and basically the voltage just ratchets down until one morning you need a jump start. By that stage you have already lost a percentage of battery capacity, and each time it happens you lose a bit more, until eventually even recharging the battery can't revive it.

ed44c84b8129cc750004bc8882553900.jpg

Using a battery maintainer works and regular recharging to keep the battery above 85% charged works , but either method is a chore and a bore. I guess you have to weigh that against the cost of a new battery every couple of years 😐

Cheers...

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When the alternator regulator died in my e24 I replaced it with  a 14.7 volt one, that really helped to keep the calcium battery charged properly. Before that I would have to put it on the charger every couple of weeks or so to keep it topped up even with a 100km daily commute.

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Yusss... good move :) As this information does not seem to be collated in some easy to steal form, I have made a little chart to highlight the difference in charging requirements between the commonly available types of lead acid batteries. Calcium and silver are added to otherwise normal sealed lead acid batteries to give the manufacturers something to crow about in their advertising. The downside is that they are much more difficult to recharge, and the vehicles electrical system must be  specifically designed to work with a factory installed calcium or silver battery.... if its not, then they don't work :( 

ChargeVoltage.png.8aa51542d693f242933707ed5d40eb77.png

As it happens, my car has the usual AGM battery, but because the car gets very little use at this time of the year, I have had to come up with a method of keeping the battery fully charged. Not having the luxury of mains power in my garage, I tried maintaining it with a solar charger. The result was more like a negative charger... seemed to  introduce a decent parasitic drain, so I have abandoned that for the moment. Currently I am experimenting with a small portable generator to power my Protecta charger, and it seems to be working  :)  More results as they come to hand !!

Cheers...

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14 hours ago, jon dee said:

 the vehicles electrical system must be  specifically designed to work with a factory installed calcium or silver battery.... if its not, then they don't work :( 

So as my vehicles are not specifically designed for Calcium batteries, does this mean they are not "fit for purpose"?  The CGA beckons....

 

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It is generally accepted that automotive batteries (indeed, all batteries) should be replaced on a "like for like" basis. Battery manufacturers produce a wide range of shapes, ratings and types with helpful guide books, to try and ensure that consumers can buy a battery suitable for each application. With very few exceptions, problems only arise when the replacement battery type does not match the specifications of the original battery. As can be seen from the table above, there is very little variation between the four traditional lead acid types, but when minor amounts of calcium or silver are added to the lead the charging voltage is raised significantly.

As I had to buy a battery for my Mitsi recently, I scoured the internet for the best deal on a reputable brand. I found a number of sellers who had this type of information...

MrPositive had this to say.... Calcium batteries are in fact acid batteries. They differ to traditional lead acid batteries as their lead plate is impregnated with calcium. Calcium batteries offer both advantages and disadvantages in comparison to their traditional lead acid counterparts. They are more resistant to vibration, produce higher cold cranking amps (ccA), discharge much slower and are known to be less prone to sulphation. The disadvantages are that they are traditionally much more expensive than their lead acid counterparts, are much harder to charge once flat and are incompatible with some older vehicle electrical systems.

However, I also found many sellers who stated their batteries used calcium technology but made no reference to the need for the battery to be fitted to a vehicle that used a factory fitted calcium battery, or that a special charger is required. IMHO this cannot really be seen as deceptive, as calcium batteries are rapidly replacing traditional sealed lead acid batteries and are factory fitted to a wide range of new vehicles. Most people buying a replacement battery for a typical Asian car car less than 5 years old will require a calcium battery. Thus the onus for choosing the correct type of battery for an older vehicle now lies with the owner or service centre supplying the new battery.

Unfortunately, while a calcium battery requires at least 14.8 volts to charge correctly (some require more), the charge voltage for a traditional lead acid battery is just sufficient to partially charge the calcium battery and keep it running for a while. But running a battery partially charged is the best way to shorten its life.

I haven't checked it out but I have seen passing references to some BMW's being able to be coded for different types of batteries. Maybe worth looking into ?

Cheers...

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Well phark me !!! Talk about going down the rabbit hole :)  Since getting interested in this thread I have realised that I am guilty of doing the very thing that I advise against... not using the car often enough and letting it sit with a partially charged battery. So although I have never had any starting or battery related issues, I thought I better check the resting voltage... and yeah... sitting in the 12.1 to 11.9 volts range.  That is usually classified as dead but not fallen over yet :(

image.png.c7a3984ead934145087bb012f1cb82e2.png

Used my $300 TM portable generator (nice little unit by the way) to give it a quick boost for a couple of hours and it showed 12.7 volts... all good. The following morning it was back down to 12V... not good. Thought it would be better to pull the battery out and get it near an outlet so I could let the Projecta loose on it in rejuvenation mode. Twenty four hours later it came off the charger at 12.9V and half an hour later settled to 12.65V... liking it so far. However I have been monitoring it and the voltage is slowly dropping... down to 12.4V after a day, so obviously not a well battery.

In the meantime I did a bit of investigating. The battery is a BOSCH SM MegaPower 58014 80Ah 730CCA made in South Korea, and the internet tells me that this is a "calcium" battery. The internet also tells me that the BMW started using calcium batteries in the late 1990's and then switched to AGM batteries for a range of "electronics heavy" models around 2002... my 335i falls into that grouping. Both types of battery are acceptable so long as thy comply with the factory specifications. The DME has separate software settings for both types and I believe that the charging algorithms are different, meaning that both the battery Ah rating and type should be checked or amended when a new battery is being registered.

This is where the water gets a little murky... I have not been able to confirm the type of battery fitted to my car at the factory, but being a European assembled Japanese market car I expect that it was probably the AGM type. I think that the current battery was installed here in NZ and although there is a sticker on top of the battery with years and months in a grid, no-one bothered to mark the grid to show the month of installation 😐 So I am left wondering if the battery was ever correctly registered according to capacity and type ? Going by the recommended charging voltages shown higher in the thread, it could be that the car has been undercharging the battery and that has lead to some deterioration.

Any way, I am going to get a scanner that can check the battery history (if there is any recorded) and register it correctly. Until that arrives I will run the rejuvenation cycle again and then bung the battery back into the car. One good thing about lockdown is that there is plenty of time to mess around with stuff like this :)

Cheers,,,

 

 

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12 hours ago, jon dee said:

Any way, I am going to get a scanner that can check the battery history (if there is any recorded) and register it correctly. Until that arrives I will run the rejuvenation cycle again and then bung the battery back into the car. One good thing about lockdown is that there is plenty of time to mess around with stuff like this :)

Cheers,,,

 

 

If you have ISTA or INPA that will tell you what the car came with from the factory. Will also tell you if your battery was registered or not.

Edited by F10er

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3 hours ago, F10er said:

If you have ISTA or INPA that will tell you what the car came with from the factory. Will also tell you if your battery was registered or not.

Good suggestion... I don't have INPA but I do have a K+DCAN cable that is marked as INPA compatible. So what do I need to do ? Just download the INPA software and install on a Windows laptop ? I have an old laptop here running windows 10, but seeing as it was originally an XP laptop it is struggling to stay alive :( 

I'll see if it can download the software. Other than that are there any major obstacles ? I'm not a computer geek so generally speaking I like simple plug and play handheld tools, but since we have a few quiet days I have plenty of time to give INPA a shot.

Cheers...

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2 hours ago, jon dee said:

Good suggestion... I don't have INPA but I do have a K+DCAN cable that is marked as INPA compatible. So what do I need to do ? Just download the INPA software and install on a Windows laptop ? I have an old laptop here running windows 10, but seeing as it was originally an XP laptop it is struggling to stay alive :( 

I'll see if it can download the software. Other than that are there any major obstacles ? I'm not a computer geek so generally speaking I like simple plug and play handheld tools, but since we have a few quiet days I have plenty of time to give INPA a shot.

Cheers...

Bimmergeeks.net    I think they still have inpa in their downloads section. It is called "bmw standard tools" which has inpa (diagnostics) ncs expert (for coding) winkfp (for updating software) and tool32. I haven't used tool32 much, only to change the vin number of a used DSC module, but i think its also useful if you want to reset frm short circuit counters. They used to have ista as well but the BMW bullies threatened them will legal action. Im surprised they didn't order them to take down the standard tools download as well because that is all BMW factory software. How kind of them! You can still get ista for free here. https://www.e90post.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1847924 but unless you're an active member on there you can't get the links, again because of the BMW bullies. It's pretty easy to install. I'm a bit stupid and i managed to bluff my way through it.

Ista is by far the easiest to use.

 

Edited by F10er
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OK.... it was a bit of a battle but I got there in the end :) Main issue is that just because it is my laptop and I am the only one that uses it, I assumed that I would automatically be classed as the admin. But noooooo.... finally worked out that I had to actually log on in CMD as admin, and then the activations worked.

INPA seems to be working but I can't plug it into my car until I put the battery back in, and that won't be for a couple of days. Voltage seems to be settling at around 12.45 so not as bad as I thought. I'm going to give it another rejuvenation cycle and then see how it goes back in the car. I take it that I can check the battery details and make changes (if required) with INPA ? As in, I don't need to install ISTA to do that ?

Cheers...

 

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52 minutes ago, jon dee said:

OK.... it was a bit of a battle but I got there in the end :) Main issue is that just because it is my laptop and I am the only one that uses it, I assumed that I would automatically be classed as the admin. But noooooo.... finally worked out that I had to actually log on in CMD as admin, and then the activations worked.

INPA seems to be working but I can't plug it into my car until I put the battery back in, and that won't be for a couple of days. Voltage seems to be settling at around 12.45 so not as bad as I thought. I'm going to give it another rejuvenation cycle and then see how it goes back in the car. I take it that I can check the battery details and make changes (if required) with INPA ? As in, I don't need to install ISTA to do that ?

Cheers...

 

Yes you can check when or if it was registered with INPA, but to change the battery ah rating or type (agm or lead acid) you will have to use NCS expert. I can give you the steps if you need to change it.

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Bit of an update. Wasn't really happy with only getting around 12.45V in the battery after the first rejuvenation cycle. So I figured I would try a couple of things to see if I could get a better result. First I hooked up a 35Watt bulb and used that as a constant 3A load to drain the battery. It took 12 hours to get it down to 11.5V so I couldn't be bothered waiting to get it down to 10.5V which was my original target. Hooked it up to the charger and ran the rejuvenation cycle again with the final charge in CAL mode.

This time it is sitting at 12.85V twenty-four hours after coming of the charger. Still dropping very slowly and out of curiosity I will wait another twenty-four hours before hooking it back up in the car. In any event the charger has certainly perked the battery up and I will now register it as a new calcium battery. I'll update again when I have done that and driven the car a few times.

Cheers...

Mildly interesting fact #1: My car has holddown locations for no less than 5 alternative battery lengths.

Edited by jon dee
More info Stephanie...

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Just to tell how this battery drama of mine ended up. I tried for several hours to get my tired and near useless laptop to connect to the car using the INPA software, and failed. I think it was because INPA was looking for COM port1 and the D-CAN cable was determined to stay on port 2. I couldn't get the laptop to disclose where to go to change the COM port and in the end I gave up... but not before looking at the INPA software and the procedures necessary to change the battery type and/oy rating.

Phuc me !!! I don't think I have ever used such a non-intuitive, arcane and laborious method of doing anything on a computer :(  It felt like I was working with the gun laying computer on the Tirpitz. I am by no means a computer geek but I can usually struggle my way through most of the software I need to use... but INPA is pure no-man's land for me. And that only gets you halfway... to register the battery you have to go into another program that looks to have about the same level of ease of use difficulty.

So I flagged all that nonsense and installed Bimmercode on my phone. That hooked up straight away via a wireless adapter and set the battery details in 2 minutes flat :) Then I used MHD with the D-CAN cable to register the battery. So nothing wrong with the cable. I know that the ancient BMW software can probably explore the entrails of my DME in more detail than I will ever need, but I don't care. What I have can provide all the detail I will ever need for reading codes and doing basic resets... and it does it easily with a simple menu driven interface. Plus I can log parameters, calculate performance/power, display gauges and code many features on the DME.

No offense to you F10er as you have obviously mastered the black arts of BMW software. Maybe if the laptop I was using wasn't quite so old (born and raised on XP) I might have been able to achieve a better result for my efforts. !!!

Cheers...

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