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Sauntering out to oneâ€™s vehicle and twisting the key (or jabbing the start button) only to come up with a whole handful of nothing is one of the automotive worldâ€™s most frustrating experiences. Dead batteries are the bane of a gearheadâ€™s existence. Thankfully, most cars turn off their headlights or dome lights automatically these days. They emphatically did not when your author was a kid.
Storing a car (or recreation vehicle) over the winter months can also wreck a battery. Thatâ€™s why battery tenders â€“ not chicken tenders â€“ were invented. They are designed to facilitate a gentle flow of juice to a battery so it is not flatter than a Midwest cornfield come summer. Maintaining that level of charge is also important.
(Editorâ€™s note: As noted above, this post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our â€˜
90s sedan shopping habitsÂ operating expenses. Some of you donâ€™t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Piston Slaps, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)
Weâ€™ll lead off this post about battery tenders with a product from, erm, Battery Tender. One of the better-known brands dealing in this type of tool, the specific product you see here is on the more expensive side of their ledger â€“ but thereâ€™s a reason.
The â€˜Plusâ€™ version is a 1.25A battery charger designed to fully charge a battery and maintain it at proper storage voltage without the damaging effects caused by traditional trickle chargers that feed power into a battery whether itâ€™s needed or not. Reverse polarity protection saves the dolts amongst us, while the quick-connect harness helps in hard-to-reach areas.
Pros: Great ratings from recent customers, automatic maintenance mode, quick connects
Cons: Power cords could be longer
The product is advertised as combining a micro-processor controlled battery charger with an integrated battery and alternator testing function. Apparently, the charger has a special reconditioning function that will revive and restore deeply discharged and stratified batteries.
Declarations like â€˜But wait, thereâ€™s moreâ€™ always raise the suspicions of this jaded author but comments left by customers seem to bear out the claims. Being able to recondition a battery thatâ€™s gone flat is worth the cash. Its float/pulse maintenance mode also makes the charger a good fit for long-term maintenance of your vehicleâ€™s battery.
Pros: Compact size, big power
This option from a company with an inscrutable name (and a color scheme suspiciously like that of the established Battery Tender brand) is one of the most basic and straightforward battery tending units available. Itâ€™s essentially a household wall adapter and some leads.
Donâ€™t knock it for that, though. One would imagine this could be the perfect solution for those of us parking our rigs in a very small space. There is a quick disconnect harness so owners donâ€™t have to mess with unhooking the charger when repositioning the vehicle thatâ€™s being tended. It is listed as having overcharging protection for the battery to which it is supplying juice.
Pros: Very affordable, very easy to use
Cons: Two-foot leads are insufficient for most people
This solar-powered battery tender is definitely Greta-friendly, though it would be of little use in your authorâ€™s hometown where three feet of snow just fell in the span of about two days. But if you live in Phoenix, listen up.
Not everyone parks their vehicle close to a power source, so harnessing the power of the sun (that sounds like a cartoon villainâ€™s M.O.) to charge and tend a battery is an inspired idea. Available in several different wattages, the unit is said to have a premium strong solar glass to withstand high loads plus a durable ABS frame to avoid impact damage.
Pros: Free power from that big orange thing in the sky
Cons: Wonâ€™t work in miserable climates
This long-running brand is in the battery tender game with this rugged-looking but compact unit. It charges and maintains 12-volt or 6-volt batteries with easy connect battery clips and O-ring terminals. Itâ€™ll cease charging automatically when the battery is fully charged or topped off, switching to float mode monitoring.
Weighing 1.3 pounds, this battery tender is less than a foot long, meaning it should store easily in a cubby or down in the spare tire wheel well. Over 4,500 reviewers have given this thing a 4.1 star rating, with the majority of them praising its ability to keep the battery of their ATV or motorcycle in good nick.
Pros: Sensible price, typical polarity and overcharging features
Cons: Might be best for smaller batteries
Insofar as we can tell, the brand name on this battery tender has nothing to do with a certain seven-time F1 World Champion. Its auto voltage detection automatically determines if it is talking to a 6V or 12V battery. Both clamp and ring harnesses are included.
The seller asserts it is great for motorcycle, power sport, and boat batteries. This means one should shop around if youâ€™re looking for a unit to tend to the power needs of your Power Wagon or F-450 pickup truck. A float mode automatically maintains optimum battery charge once it is at the proper levels.
Pros: Light, compact, affordable
Cons: Not recommended for big vehicles
Hereâ€™s another in-line style battery tender, shipped with quick disconnects and an assortment of alligator clips and o-ring connectors. Measuring only 3.9 inches in length, itâ€™s easy to fling this in the glovebox of your car until itâ€™s needed. Also, weâ€™re pretty sure Foval was a villain on one of the Star Trek series.
According to the ad, this tender plays nicely with all lead-acid, flooded or sealed maintenance-free batteries. Like a good Hollywood rehab center it follows a 4-step program, working its way through initialization, bulk charge, absorption mode, and finally float mode. The paparazzo isnâ€™t interested in what Foval had for lunch, however.
Pros: Very small size
Cons: Intended for recreation vehicles
Weâ€™ll end our post with this stouter-than-others unit from NoCo, a brand which popped up as recommended by shoppers who were carping about other tenders they felt didnâ€™t work properly. Said to detect sulfation and acid stratification, this thing should rejuvenate a weak battery in addition to maintaining a strong one.
Plenty of customer feedback and real-world photos show some people semi-permanently installing this unit in a safe place under the hoods of their cars, occasionally plugging it into an electric source when parked in order to keep a 12V battery in good shape. Compliments abound about the product construction, including a design which does not allow the intrusion of water
Pros: Enthusiastically positive reviews, great for a full-sized car
Cons: On the expensive side
[Images by the manufacturer; Main photo credit: kurhan / ShutterStock.com]