Riding Mower Battery Life

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I have a TroyBilt (MTD made) riding mower and the battery is dead after only 4 summers. I figured I used it no more than once a week for no more than 25 weeks a year. If I start engine twice each time I cut the lawn, that's 50 times a year and 200 times in 4 years. Compared to a car, it's about 3 and a half months of worth of starter usage. My question: which is the main cause of very short battery life?
1. Lawn mower batteries are not nearly as well made (1yr warranty vs 6-8 yrs for auto batt.), or 2. The mowers don't charge batteries properly, or 3. Lack of use in winter drains and damages the battery, or 4. Something else?
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I'm going with #1. We have orchards and use lawn tractors like farm tractors due to being able to maneuver them between the trees. I start mine more per day than most home owners would in a year. the only thing we have found to work is gel cell wheel chair batteries. they are the right size and seem to last many times longer than the lawn tractor batteries.
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On 04/03/2010 07:15 PM, panabiker wrote:

3) is definitely a possibility. Does the battery tend to need a charge in the spring? If so, you may want to consider putting the battery on a "battery tender" over the winter, and if it is stored in an area that could freeze, bring it inside your basement and set it on a board (not so much because "setting a battery on concrete makes a battery go dead faster" which may or may not be an old wives' tale, but to protect whatever you set it on from any possible acid leakage)
nate
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I agree with Nate and add that this likely is the cause. Lead-acid batteries develop sulfates on the plates that adversely affect the performance and longevity after a couple of months without a charge. If the battery is stored without a charge for a few winters, expect it to die sooner than it should compared to if it was properly maintained while not frequently used. Lead-acid batteries "hate" to be neglected. Use a trickle charger or battery tender during those months when it is not in use.
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There is a bit of "science" behind that "wives tale."
When the battery rests on a cold floor you can end up (especially while charging) with a significant thermal gradient between the top and the bottom of the cell.
The effect is nearly the equivalent of putting two batteries in parallel and keeping one battery some 30F warmer than the other.
One of the two batteries will not be charged correctly and fully or might end up being overcharged.
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John Gilmer wrote:

You could probably do a doctoral thesis on how that one gets passed from generation to generation. I remember storing batteries on planks as a kid, but had no idea why. Nobody in the family worked in a garage, and I didn't hang out with gearheads, so no idea where I picked it up, apparently by osmosis.
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aem sends...

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Your battery is warranted for one year, and has lasted four years, and you are complaining ??
Am I missing something here ? Four years even for a car battery is pretty decent, although some are warranted for 6 years, they don't usually last that long.
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On 04/03/2010 08:30 PM, James wrote:

Huh? Mine usually last 10 or so. Do you live in a very hot area?
nate
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Re: Auto batteries. Probably highly dependent on local temperature. Also leaving a lead acid battery without some sort of topping up or refresher charge for long periods (say two to three months over winter) at any temperature is deleterious. Here, in this cool climate am still using the original 12 volt battery in my 2002 Nissan V6 pickup. No problems yet, even down to minus 10 Celsius = about 10 to 12 deg F. Recently diagnosed a starting problem with a 14 year old Toyota car. All that was wrong was the original battery. But here we never get 90 degree F temps. An occasional temp of 80 degrees, some summer would get mention in the local press as something of a record etc. Also for example, most homes here don't have or need air conditioning although many vehicle are, somewhat unnecessarily, so equipped.. However when living in the Gulf area of the middle east batteries would often only last a couple to three years. Over there temps. often went, mid summer, above 40 degrees C (i.e. 110 to 120 F). Manual work was supposed to stop if temp. reached 50 C (about 130 F!). So, 'officially' it never did, never more than 49 deg. Celsius! {:-)
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On Sat, 03 Apr 2010 16:15:22 -0700, panabiker wrote:

Yeah, they do seem prone to failure. I gave up putting a battery in my lawn tractor at all - I just jump it from a junk car battery whenever I need to start it; the only things it needs the battery for are starting and the lights, and I never cut grass in the dark anyway :-)
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On Sat, 3 Apr 2010 16:15:22 -0700 (PDT), panabiker

True. The original in a former lawn tractor failed within a year.

Bad cable connections/ground, maybe.

Moved from NE to SW -- replaced the battery, put in a new battery and all was well.

Battery quality!
My eventual solution was to remove lawn turf and replace it will rocks.
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1 & 3. Remove the battery and keep it in a moderate temperature dry place. Keep it charged with a trickle charger.
Remember that batteries work from a chemical reaction. Use is a factor, but time counts too as the reaction is on going even in periods of non use. For the type of battery, four years is pretty good. The short battery life is your opinion but in reality, you've done OK with it.
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What did you do to maintain the battery in winter, a battery starts to sulfate the plates as voltage drops just a bit, and permanent damage occurs with just a small drop below full charge. Ive ruined expensive boat, car, and tool batteries in one winter by not maintaining them. This is where a float charger or topping it off regularly can add years to a battery. Your car is started regularly and the voltage stays up and in a normal range that keeps them from sulfating, store a car and its the same thing, the battery will sulfate itself to an early death fast. www.batteryuniversity.com has fairly complete info on all batteries. On your next battery maintain the voltage when its not used. But 4 years isnt that bad, ive bought new car batteries that were duds and lasted 6 months
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It all boils down to MATENINCE
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Perhaps maintenance would work better? http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/maintenance
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Yes, I agree with the above and others here who said not keeping the battery fully charged is a sure way to shorten the life. Batteries will slowly discharge by themselves and if you don't use it or recharge it, the life will be shortened. Solution is to buy a battery tender for the winter months.
Also agree that 4 years for a mower battery doesn't sound all that bad.
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On Apr 4, 8:27am, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

If I had a Battery Tender I would still have hundreds of dollars in good batteries, mine died fast and were almost new.
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no it's 3 sated it has been a long time sens the battery has been started just like a car if it has not been started for a long time it will need a jump start
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Thanks to all who replied. It seems that not keeping the battery charged over the winter was the main cause. I initially jumped the battery using my car and let the engine run for an hour, but I still couldn't restart it afterward, which led me conclude the battery was dead. Over the weekend, I used a charger to charge it at 1.5A for 12 hrs and 0.5A for another 12 hours. It does seem to be back to live now. I'll be more attentive to keep it charged in winter months.
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Heat is a big killer of batteries as well, many cars now have foam battery covers for that reason
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