Lawn Mower Battery Problem

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I have trouble starting my rider after it sits a while. If I put my 10A charger on it for some 10 minutes, the mower starts fine.
I find no evidence of a drain on the battery.
The battery is relatively new, one year. I replaced earlier battery with same problem.
The battery shows 10V when it won't start the mower.
The 10A charger causes my meter to show some 15V at the poles when charging.
If I let it go for a while, then disconnect the charger, my meter shows 11-12V at the battery poles,
The charger cuts back normally, but I would expect it to start at 10A, then drop eventually to close to 0. But, it starts out at only 2-3A! I am wondering if that is a give-away.
Any thoughts?
The old man
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The first thought is why do you have to charge it ? Have you checked the voltage with the motor running to see if the mower is charging it at over 13 volts ? Maybe closer to 14 or 15 volts.
If the battery is depleated, I would think it would also take much more than the 2 ot 3 amps the chatger is putting out.
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"I have trouble starting my rider after it sits a while. If I put my 10A charger on it for some 10 minutes, the mower starts fine. I find no evidence of a drain on the battery. "
Did you put an amp meter on it and measure the drain with the mower turned off? How long is awhile? With the mower off, the drain should be zero.
"The battery is relatively new, one year. I replaced earlier battery with same problem. "
What happens if you fully charge the battery with the charger, then let it sit unused? If it goes dead then in a short time, either there is a drain coming from a short somewhere or else it's a bad battery. You can rule out the short with an amp meter.
You should get a battery tender and keep it on the battery for the winter. If you do that, you can get many years out of a battery. If it sits and is allowed to discharge over the winter, that is the kiss of death.
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Dejavu?
Make sure you always operate the mower at full throttle. (Chances are the manual explains this necessity) Remember the engine rpm has nothing to do with the speed of travel and although you may think running the engine slower saves gas, if you don't run at full throttle it can't recharge the battery properly. This also has the advantage of spinning the blade(s) at top rpm which obviously yields a better cut.
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The manual indeed does say exactly that. I do observe the difference in cutting at full throttle.
I just figger that my charger should at least start out close to 10A, but it doesn't. I know the charger is ok because I use it all the time. I figger if the battery has insufficient juice to start the mower, then it must need a 'full' charge - meaning 10A or close to it. That doesn't seem to be the case however.
When idling at full throttle, my Vmeter shows about 13V at battery. I figger that it should be more. No idea how to deal with a faulty 'charge' part - I have been told there is NO alternator.
I guess I'll have to dangle two wires from the battery posts that I can connect my charger to every time I want to cut my grass. This at least would be quicker than my having to gain access to the battery every time. Wow!
Thanks for interest.
The old man
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"> I guess I'll have to dangle two wires from the battery posts that I

Look for something like this.
http://batterytender.com/default.php?cPath _3&osCsid}d1896a7a52b2e055ec28e28762f707
here's one from sears http://www.sears.com/sr/javasr/product.do?BV_UseBVCookie=Yes&vertical=AUTO&pid871220000&subcatttery+Chargers%2C+Boosters+%26+Cables
http://www.mawonline.com/batteryt.htm
The charging system on that mower should be something like this http://www.j-thomas.com/Catalog/150.htm
Look at parts number 40 which is the charging coil. 41 which is the regulator now that's on a 17 Kawasaki Engine about 75.00 in cost for both parts.
Of course before doing anything clean tighten all cables replace if damaged or worn.
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On Sun, 12 Jun 2005 12:18:53 GMT, "op4_camper"

Thanks a meg. The battery tender certainly looks interesting. Any idea what the 'cigarette adaptor' is for?
Thanks again.
G
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It appears to be a dead cell in your battery. Each cell is 2 volts, and when one poops out, you'll end up getting the problems you describe.
I assume you've checked the water, electrolyte level, cleaned the terminals and surrounding area of the battery, and tested the mower for shorts.
In case you haven't done all this, first you can check for shorts by using your meter. Connect one terminal of the battery to the mower. Then connect one probe from the meter to the other terminal, and the other to the disconnected battery terminal. With the mower OFF, you should get 0 volts. If you get any steady reading, even if it's very small, there's a short somewhere, possibly a dirty connection at the starter or ignition switch.
As for the rest, you should take the battery to a trusty automotive shop to test and fill the fluids. While you probably can get away with just adding distilled water, if needed, it's a good idea to check the electrolyte levels when the water gets low enough to affect starting.
This just might get things working again. If the cell is dead for good, it's time for a new battery.
Otherwise, usually a dead cell indicates the battery was discharged completely, probably numerous times. As this is your second battery with the same problem, it's possible there's either a short in your mower, or your charger, which appears to be meant for large car batteries, while smaller batteries are happier with low current trickle chargers. 10 amps is a mighty beefy current to push in a small battery.
A good trickle charger can be hooked up continuously to your battery without damage. A cheap crummy one can be hooked up for several hours without damage, but can seriously damage your battery if it keeps trying to charge it. A boat shop or RV supply store will have good trickle chargers aplenty. You might find one at a very well stocked auto parts store, but I suggest a boat shop, where you can ask the gurus there what's best.
You really shouldn't need one if the mower is charging properly, and it sounds like it is. Still, it's a handy thing to have around, especially if you don't use your mower during the winter months. Anyway, 13 volts is plenty for charging this battery, while 15 volts is close to cooking it. Your car doesn't even charge at 15 volts, more like 13.5 to 14.2 or there abouts, and a car battery is a good deal larger. Usually, these things charge using a dynamo, which is sort of like a built in generator. Performs the same basic function as an alternator, but not quite the same way, and not nearly as powerful, which, as I mentioned, is a GOOD thing.
So, check for shorts, check the battery fluids, and if none of this stuff works, you'll probably have to take your mower in to have it checked out, or do a makeshift dangling wires job so you can 'jump' your mower.
I very strongly DON'T recommend the latter. If you accidentally cause a short, you'll be extremely fortunate to be left with melted wires all through your mower. If you happen to be on Fate's sh_t list, you could end up with a fire and/or 3rd degree burns. It would take less than a second for a shorted wire to get red hot with even that smallish battery, and if your leg just happens to be in contact with it, the doctors will be scrubbing your leg with a hard bristle brush to get pieces of sock, jeans, rubber insulation, and melted copper out of your blackened flesh, all in all very unpleasant business. On the brighter side, you'll learn enough about burn treatment to keep your friends and family entertained, as well as nauseous, for hours on end.
It's definitely cheaper, easier, and less painful to find the problem and fix it properly.
Pagan
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wrote:

Thanks for tips.
My battery is one of those maintenance-free ones, so I cannot check electrolyte levels. I'll check the rest, though.
G

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<snip>

I've never been too wild about those. Maybe it's just me, but I've seen maintenance free batteries fail much more often than the older types.
Pagan
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wrote:

You say 'Then connect one probe from the meter to the other terminal, and the other to the disconnected battery terminal'. I assume you mean 'Then connect one probe from the meter to the other MOWER terminal, and the other to the disconnected battery terminal'.
Assuming I am right - I did that and voila! I get a meter reading of 3V give or take! Since the starter connections and ignition switch connections are all original (some 10Y) I certainly will next take a look there.
I'll let you know and thanks!
BTW, an overnight charge with my 10A charger (that shows only about 1A of charging) produced a meter reading across the isolated battery terminals of only 11V. Should be 12V+ I'm thinking.
G
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wrote:

As I said I showed voltage following the above. I next disconnect the headlights because that was simple to do. No change. Next I removed the ignition switch (somewhat difficult) and unplugged the wiring from it entirely. No change. Still voltage shows. I figure the starter is not involved since the ignition wires were disconnected thereby disconnecting the starter. Right?
Next I will check the wires from the battery to whatever.
Thanks.
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wrote:

I cut my lawn this PM. Before I started, the voltage across the battery poles read some 10V.
When I finished it was the same. I disconnected the one battery lead and did as discussed earlier and surprisingly discovered that my drain is now 7V! No wonder the battery goes dead on me.
I have left the battery disconnected.
G
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or
That's strange. With the ignition disconnected, you certainly should be getting zero volts. Sounds like there's a short either in the main cables or in your starter.
I don't know the specific setup with your mower, but with automotive engines, the positive leads of the battery are connected to both the starter and the ignition. The starter has a big, beefy wire going to it, while the ignition has the scrawny one. When you start your car, the ignition switch sends current to the solenoid on the starter, which allows current to go through the beefy wire directly into the motor.
If your mower does the same, there could be a problem with your starter and/or solenoid. On a real old motor, there could be years of dirt, dust, grass, goop and crud jiggling around in there, which may explain the different readings.
Really the only way to know for sure is to follow the battery cables through the mower, disconnecting wires and gadgets until you find what's sucking the life out of your battery. Instead of jumping to a likely culprit, it's best to follow the cables, starting from the disconnected battery terminal and moving towards (electrically speaking) the terminal connected to the battery.
Keep in mind that while it's rare to have more than one short in a case like this, it's not impossible. If you come across any significant voltage drops, but still haven't reached zero, you might as well keep going, since your already in there.
If you can't seem to find the problem, ask a friend or a shop to look into it. I've found that I'll sometimes miss a problem, especially when it's sitting right there in front of my face, while I'm off looking for relatively exotic things. Then I get mad at myself, call myself names, hurt my feelings, and quit talking to myself until I'm forgiven, which takes forever, since it feels sometimes I can read my mind.
If the warranty on the battery is still good, you might want to try getting it replaced. I'm pretty sure it's a goner. An overnight charging, especially with your brutish charger, should easily yield a good 12 volts. Most likely one of the cells in the battery got a kick of reversed charge when your battery was close to drained, ruining that cell. The fact that it's over 10 volts means the remaining 5 cells are well overcharged. A good trickle charger is looking even better right now. You'd get the same results with an overnight charge, without the overcharging.
Pagan
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wrote:

I am no longer 'in there' - since I re-assembled the monster before I cut my grass today. The mower is sitting there with the battery disconnected.
As it happens, I have to go out of town Thursday for a week or so. Got a marriage and a graduation to go to - popular doings this time of year. When I return I think I will send for the 'battery tender' I was told about. Seems like the thing to have. I may even buy a new Lowe's battery since the battery I have seems likely have a dead cell.
Then I will remove the front cowling to expose the starter/moter etc, and go from there. Seems likely a wire is shorted out somewhere.
See you then okay? I really appreciate your helps.
G
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wrote:

Hi Pagan -
I finally am getting back to my problem what with the 4th and all. I cut my grass this morning, so that I now have a week to explore my problem before I need to cut again. Hopefully.
I have exposed the starter and the solenoid. Also most of the wiring. I'll leave it thataway until I give up or find the problem. I might look strange cutting the grass with the innards exposed, but so be it. It will give the neighbors something to talk about.
There are two heavy red wires, one going from the battery + to the solenoid and one from the solenoid to the starter. The wires look fine - I don't see any wear.
The galling thing is - now when I place my meter between the battery + and the red wire normally connected there and is now removed (and which gave me voltage readings before that I interpreted as the amount of the short), the meter reads 0V no matter what I do to jiggle things etc, The implication is that right now I DO NOT have a short. This is somewhat born out by the fact that the battery is now fully charged (from cutting the grass this morning) to 12V whereas before the most I ever got was about 10V. I remember saying I thought this meant I had a dead cell,
The mower now sits completely connected up (sans the outside shell), I intend to see if the battery stays at 12V,
Do you have any other suggestions as to what I might measure with my meter as a further check?
Ain't this fun?
Thanks
Geezer - The old man aka the Bearded Wonder
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Intermittents are the toughest problems to diagnose and correct. If your battery holds its charge while in the current configuration ( shell parts removed ) and the drain returns when you replace them, it implies one of those now removed parts, when in place, is completing the high resistance short that drains your battery.
I'd suggest you carefully examine those parts as you replace them to see if they fit without touching anything in the electrical system (monitor the path that is now correctly reading 0 volts drop while replacing the parts. If it suddenly changes from 0 volts as you reinstall the shell parts, the one you touched last when it changes is causing your problem. There may even be evidence of the intermittent connection path on the inside of one of those parts. Look closely.
joe
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Hi again -
This is where I stand -
I have everything connected except the heavy wire connection to the starter. The battery is connected as is the solenoid. So far there is no discharge to the battery. Makes me think the problem is the starter.
What would you do? Buy a new starter? Live with it?
Thanks.
G
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Cancel that! Now the battery is slightly discharged. Now I think it must be the solenoid. Wonder what that costs?
G
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wrote:

Yeah, keep replacing parts and throwing money at it. I'm sure you will find the problem someday!
It sounds like you are in way over your head. You need to get a qualified professional to diagnose and repair it.
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