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It seems like every year I'm needing to buy a new battery for my lawn tractor. A battery that worked perfectly well never seems to make it through the off-season in-tact.

Is this normal? Is there something I could do to make them last more than one season?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I don't have a lawn tractor, but presumably this is a lead acid battery? (i.e. similar to a car battery but smaller)

If so, when stored for long periods of time, they should be hooked up to a slow charger. Power requirements are minimal: what you need is more of a float charger to avoid self-discharge. (i.e. any lead acid battery charger will do, but set it to slow or float - do not use a fast charge setting)

A discharged lead acid battery will result in sulfur build up on the electrodes (in the form of lead sulfate). This is known as sulfation. Pulse conditioning is said to help. Also with wet batteries (i.e. not the various gel types), you can use de-sulfurization tablets in each cell which might work. Either way, it is better to avoid sulfation in the first place. So take the battery out during winter, and keep it permanently connected to a lead acid charger.

Better battery sellers will keep their lead acid battery stock on a "float charge" like this, although they may have some on display which aren't. They will either rotate them periodically, or they are relying on stock turnover to avoid discharge problems.

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+1 Great answer for something that's a bit outside our normal range of questions! –  bstpierre Feb 3 '12 at 18:18

I have no problems, as I use my tractor all year round. My current tractor battery is over 5 years old now, and still strong. Assuming you don't plow your driveway though...

It can help to pull the battery and store it in a warmer place, rather than leaving it all winter in a cold garage. A quick charge in the spring may be necessary to bring it back to form, although I have never found it necessary. For example, our boat battery spends winters in our basement, and has always been ready to go with no charge at all.

Make sure the water is topped off, unless it is a sealed battery. (Tractor batteries seem not to be so in my experience.) Use distilled water for this purpose.

Keep your battery posts clean. Bad contacts will prevent the battery from charging, and will make it seem like you have a dud for a battery. You can buy some stuff (from an auto parts store) to paint onto the posts to inhibit corrosion.

Check the wires to and from your battery. Are they loose or frayed? If so, tighten/replace them.

When you replace the battery, get a better battery than the default stock. For a few dollars more, the extra reserve amps will help to start your engine.

Take care of your tractor. Put stabilizer in the gas if left for some time. Change the oil at least once a year, more so if you push the beast or live in a dusty area. Keep the air filer clean.

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