The Automobile Storage Battery - Its Care And Repair
by O. A. Witte
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A practical book for the repairman. Gives in nontechnical language, the theory, construction, operation, manufacture, maintenance, and repair of the lead-acid battery used on the automobile. Describes at length all subjects which help the repairman build up a successful battery repair business. Also contains sections on radio and farm lighting batteries.

BY O. A. WITTE Chief Engineer, American Bureau of Engineering, Inc.


Third Edition Completely Revised and Enlarged Fourth Impression Published 1922 by


Copyright, 1918, 1919, 1920, and 1922, by American Bureau of Engineering, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Entered at Stationers' Hall, London, England.

First Impression April, 1918. Second Impression December, 1919. Third Impression October, 1920. Fourth Impression September, 1922.


Preface =======

Many books have been written on Storage Batteries used in stationary work, as in electric power stations. The storage battery, as used on the modern gasoline car, however, is subjected to service which is radically different from that of the battery in stationary work. It is true that the chemical actions are the same in all lead-acid storage batteries, but the design, construction, and operation of the starting and lighting battery, the radio battery, and the farm lighting battery are unique, and require a special description.

Many books have been written on Storage Batteries used in stationary work, as in electric power stations. The storage battery, as used on the modern gasoline car, however, is subjected to service which is radically different from that of the battery in stationary work. It is true that the chemical actions are the same in all lead-acid storage batteries, but the design, construction, and operation of the starting and lighting battery, the radio battery, and the farm lighting battery are unique, and require a special description.

This book therefore refers only to the lead-acid type of starting and lighting battery used on the modern gasoline Automobile, the batteries used with Radio sets, and the batteries used with Farm Lighting Plants. It is divided into two sections. The first section covers the theory, design, operating conditions, and care of the battery.

The second section will be especially valuable to the battery repairman. All the instructions given have been in actual use for years, and represent the accumulated experiences of the most up-to-date battery repair shops in the United States.

The first edition of this book met with a most pleasing reception from both repairmen and battery manufacturers. It was written to fill the need for a complete treatise on the Automobile Storage Battery for the use of battery repairmen. The rapid sale of the book, and the letters of appreciation from those who read it, proved that such a need existed.

The automobile battery business is a growing one, and one in which new designs and processes are continually developed, and in preparing the second and third editions, this has been kept in mind. Some of the chapters have been entirely rewritten, and new chapters have been added to bring the text up-to-date. Old methods have been discarded, and new ones described. A section on Farm lighting Batteries has been added, as the automobile battery man should familiarize himself with such batteries, and be able to repair them. A section on Radio batteries has also been added.

Special thanks are due those who offered their cooperation in the preparation and revision of the book. Mr. George M. Howard of the Electric Storage Battery Co., and Mr. C. L. Merrill of the U. S. Light & Heat Corporation very kindly gave many helpful suggestions. They also prepared special articles which have been incorporated in the book. Mr. Henry E. Peers consulted with the author and gave much valuable assistance. Mr. Lawrence Pearson of the Philadelphia Battery Co., Mr. F. S. Armstrong of the Vesta Accumulator Co., Messrs. P. L. Rittenhouse, E. C. Hicks and W. C. Brooks of the Prest-O-Lite Co., Mr. D. M. Simpson of the General Lead Batteries Co., Mr. R. D. Mowray and Mr. C. R. Story of the Universal Battery Co., Mr. H. A. Harvey of the U. S. Light and Heat Corporation, Mr. E. B. Welsh of the Westinghouse Union Battery Co., Mr. S. E. Baldwin of the Willard Storage Battery Co., Mr. H. H. Ketcham of the United Y. M. C. A. Schools, and Messrs. Guttenberger and Steger of the American Eveready Works also rendered much valuable assistance.

The Chapter on Business Methods was prepared by Mr. G. W. Hafner.

O. A. WITTE, Chief Engineer, American Bureau of Engineering, Inc. September, 1922


Contents ————


Gasoline and electricity have made possible the modern automobile. Steps in development of electrical system of automobile. Sources of electricity on the automobile.


The Simple Battery, or Voltaic Cell. Chemical Actions which Cause a Cell to Produce Electricity. Difference between Primary and Secondary, or Storage Cells. A Storage Battery Does Not "Store" Electricity. Parts Required to Make a Storage Battery.


Principal Parts of a "Starting and Lighting" Battery. Types of Plates Used. Molding the Plate Grids. Trimming the Grids. Mixing Pastes. Applying Pastes to the Plate Grids. Hardening the Paste. Forming the Plates. Types of Separators. Manufacture of Separators. Manufacture of Electrolyte. Composition and Manufacture of Jars. Types of Cell Covers. Single and Double Covers. Covers Using Sealing Compound Around the Cell Posts. Covers Using Lead Bushings Around the Cell Posts. The Prest-O-Lite Peened Post Seal. Batteries Using Sealing Nuts Around Cell Posts. Construction of Vent Tubes. Exide and U. S. L. Vent Tube Design. Vent Plugs, or Caps. Manufacture of the Battery Case. Assembling and Sealing the Battery. Terminal Connections. Preparing the Completed Battery for "Wet" Shipment. Preparing the Completed Battery for "Dry" Shipment. "Home-Made" Batteries.


Chemical Changes in the Battery. Plante's Work on the Storage Battery. Faure, or Pasted Plates. How Battery Produces Electricity. Chemical Actions of Charge and Discharge. Relations Between Chemical Actions and Electricity.


What a "Discharge" Consists of. Voltage Changes During Discharge. Why the Discharge Is Stopped When the Cell Voltage Has Dropped to 1.7 on Continuous Discharge. Why a Battery May Safely be Discharged to a Lower Voltage Than 1.7 Volts per Cell at High Rates of Discharge. Why Battery Voltage, Measured on "Open Circuit" is of Little Value. Changes in the Density of the Electrolyte. Why Specific Gravity Readings of the Electrolyte Show the State of Charge of a Cell. Conditions Which Make Specific Gravity Readings Unreliable. Why the Specific Gravity of the Electrolyte Falls During Discharge. Why the Discharge of a Battery Is Stopped When the Specific Gravity Has Dropped to 1.150. Chemical Changes at the Negative Plates During Discharge. Chemical Changes at the Positive Plates During Discharge.


Voltage Changes During Charge. Voltage of a Fully Charged Cell. Changes in the Density of the Electrolyte During Charge. Changes at the Negative Plates During Charge. Changes at the Positive Plates During Charge.


Definition of Capacity. Factors Upon Which the Capacity of a Battery Depend. How the Area of the Plate Surfaces Affects the Capacity. How the Quantity, Arrangement, and Porosity of the Active Materials Affect the Capacity. How the Quantity and Strength of the Electrolyte Affect the Capacity. Why Too Much Electrolyte Injures a Battery. Why the Proportions of Acid and Water in the Electrolyte Must Be Correct if Specific Gravity Readings Are to Be Reliable.


Effect of Internal Resistance. Resistance of Grids. Resistance of Electrolyte. Resistance of Active Materials.


Care of Battery Box. How to Clean the Battery. How to Prevent Corrosion. Correct Battery Cable Length. Inspection of Battery to Determine Level of Electrolyte. How to Add Water to Replace Evaporation. When Water Should Be Added. How Electrolyte Is Lost. Danger from Adding Acid Instead of Water. Effect of Adding Too Much Water. When Specific Gravity Readings Should Be Taken. What the Various Specific Gravity Readings Indicate. Construction of a Syringe Hydrometer. How to Take Specific Gravity Readings. Why Specific Gravity Readings Should Not Be Taken Soon After Adding Water to Replace Evaporation. Troubles Indicated by Specific Gravity Readings. How to Make Sure That Sections of a Multiple-Section Battery Receive the Same Charging Current. How Temperature Affects Specific Gravity Readings. How to Make Temperature Corrections in Specific Gravity Readings. Battery Operating Temperatures. Effect of Low and High Temperatures. Troubles Indicated by High Temperatures. Damage Caused by Allowing Electrolyte to Fall Below Tops of Plates. I-low to Prevent Freezing. Care of Battery When Not in Use. "Dope" or "Patent" Electrolyte, or Battery Solutions.


Normal and Injurious Sulphation.— How Injurious Sulphate Forms. Why An Idle Battery Becomes Sulphated. Why Sulphated Plates Must Be Charged at a Low Rate. How Over discharge Causes Sulphation. How Starvation Causes Sulphation. How Sulphate Results from Electrolyte Being Below Tops of Plates. How Impurities Cause Sulphation. How Sulphation Results from Adding Acid Instead of Water to Replace Evaporation. Why Adding Acid Causes Specific Gravity Readings to Be Unreliable. How Overheating Causes Sulphation.

Buckling.-How Overdischarge Causes Buckling. How Continued Operation with Battery in a Discharged Condition Causes Buckling. I-low Charging at High Rates Causes Buckling, How Non-Uniform Distribution of Current Over the Plates Causes Buckling. How Defective Grid Alloy Causes Buckling.

Shedding, or Loss of Active Material.— Normal Shedding. How Excessive Charging Rate, or Overcharging Causes Shedding. How Charging Sulphated Plates at Too High a Rate Causes Shedding. How Charging Only a Portion of the Plate Causes Shedding. How Freezing Causes Shedding. How Overdischarge Causes Loose Active Material. How Buckling Causes Loose Active Material.

Impurities.— Impurities Which Cause Only Self-Discharge. Impurities Which Attack the Plates. How to Remove Impurities. Corroded Grids.-How Impurities Cause Corroded Grids. How Sulphation Causes Corroded Grids. How High Temperatures Cause Corroded Grids. How High Specific Gravity Causes Corroded Grids. How Age Causes Corroded Grids.

Negatives.— How Age and Heat Cause Granulated Negatives. Heating of Charged Negatives When Exposed to the Air. Negatives with Very Hard Active Material. Bulged Negatives. Negatives with Soft, Mushy, Active Material. Negatives with Rough Surfaces. Blistered Negatives.

Positives.— Frozen Positives. Rotten, Disintegrated Positives. Buckled Positives. Positives Which Have Lost Considerable Active Material. Positives with Soft Active Material. Positives with Hard, Shiny Active Material. Plates Which Have Been Charged in the Wrong Direction.

Separator Troubles.— Separators Not Properly Expanded Before Installation. Improperly Treated Separators. Rotten and Carbonized Separators. Separators with Clogged Pores. Separators with Edges Chiseled Off.

Jar Troubles.— Jars Damaged by Rough Handling. Jars Damaged by Battery Being Loose. Jars Damaged by Weights Placed on Top of Battery. Jars Damaged by Freezing of Electrolyte. Jars Damaged by Improperly Trimmed Plate Groups. Improperly Made Jars. Jars Damaged by Explosions in Cell.

Battery Case Troubles.— Ends of Case Bulged Out. Rotted Case.

Troubles with Connectors and Terminals.—Corroded and Loose Connectors and Terminals.

Electrolyte Troubles.— Low Gravity. High Gravity. Low Level. High Level. Specific Gravity Does Not Rise During Charge. "Milky" Electrolyte. Foaming of Electrolyte.

General Battery Troubles.— Open Circuits. Battery Discharged. Dead Cells. Battery Will Not Charge. Loss of Capacity. Loss of Charge in an Idle Battery.


List of Tools and Equipment Required by Repair Shop. Equipment Needed for Opening Batteries. Equipment for Lead Burning. Equipment for General Work on Cell Connectors and Terminals. Equipment for Work on Cases. Tools and Equipment for General Work. Stock. Special Tools. Charging Equipment. Wiring Diagrams for Charging Resistances and Charging Circuits. Motor-Generator Sets. Suggestions on Care of Motor-Generator Sets. Operating the Charging Circuits. Constant Current Charging. Constant Potential Charging. The Tungar Rectifier. Principle of Operation of Tungar Rectifier. The Two Ampere Tungar. The One Battery Tungar. The Two. Battery Tungar. The Four Battery Tungar. The Ten Battery Tangar. The Twenty Battery Tungar. Table of Tungar Rectifiers. Installation and Operation of Tungar Rectifier. The Mercury Are Rectifier. Mechanical Rectifiers. The Stahl Rectifier. Other Charging Equipment. The Charging Bench. Illustrations and Working Drawings of Charging Benches. Illustrations and Working Drawings of Work Benches. Illustrations and Working Drawings of Sink and Wash Tanks. Lead Burning Outfits. Equipment for Handling Sealing Compound. Shelving and Racks. Working Drawings of Receiving Racks, Racks for Repaired Batteries, Racks for New Batteries, Racks for Rental Batteries, Racks for Batteries in Dry Storage, Racks for Batteries in "Wet" Storage. Working Drawings of Stock Bins. Working Drawings for Battery Steamer Bench. Description of Battery Steamer. Plate Burning Rack. Battery Terminal Tongs. Lead Burning Collars. Post Builders. Moulds for Casting Lead Parts. Link Combination Mould. Cell Connector Mould. Production Type Strap Mould. Screw Mould. Battery Turntable. Separator Cutter. Plate Press. Battery Carrier. Battery Truck. Cadmium Test Set and How to Make the Test. Paraffine Dip Pot. Wooden Boxes for Battery Parts. Acid Car boys. Drawing Acid from Carboys. Shop Layouts. Floor Grating. Seven Architects' Drawings of Shop Layouts. The Shop Floor. Shop Light.


Complete instructions for giving a bench charge. Instructions for Burning Cell Connectors and Terminals. Burning Plates to Strap and Posts. Post Building. Extending Plate Lugs. Moulding Lead Parts. Handling and Mixing Acid. Putting New Batteries Into Service (Exide, Vesta, Philadelphia, Willard, Westinghouse, Prest-O-Lite). Installing Battery on Car. Wet and Dry Storage of Batteries. Age Codes (Exide, Philadelphia, Prest-O-Lite, Titan, U.S.L., Vesta, Westinghouse, Willard). Rental Batteries. Terminals for Rental Batteries. Marking Chapter Page Rental Batteries. Keeping a Record of Rental Batteries. General Rental Policy. Radio Batteries. Principles of Audion Bulb for Radio. Vesta Radio Batteries. Westinghouse Radio Batteries. Willard Radio Batteries. Universal Radio Batteries. Exide Radio Batteries. Philadelphia Radio Batteries. U.S.L. Radio Batteries. Prest-O-Lite Radio Batteries. "Dry" Storage Batteries. Discharge Tests. 15 Seconds High Rate Discharge Test. 20 Minutes Starting Ability Discharge Test. "Cycling" Discharge Tests. Discharge Apparatus. Packing Batteries for Shipping. Safety Precautions for the Repairman. Testing the Electrical System of a Car. Complete Rules and Instructions for Quickly Testing, Starting and Lighting System to Protect Battery. Adjusting Generator Outputs. How and When to Adjust Charging Rate. Re-insulating the Battery. Testing and Filling Service. Service Records. Illustrations of Repair Service Record Card. Rental Battery Stock Card.


Purchasing Methods. Stock Records. The Use and Abuse of Credit. Proper Bookkeeping Records. Daily Exhibit Record. Statistical and Comparative Record.


"Service." Calling and Delivering Repaired Batteries. How to Diagnose Batteries That Come In. Tests on Incoming Batteries. General Inspection of Incoming Batteries. Operation Tests for Incoming Batteries. Battery Trouble Charts. Causes of Low Gravity or Low Voltage. Causes of Unequal Gravity Readings. Causes of High Gravity. Causes of Low Electrolyte. How to Determine When Battery May Be Left on Car. How to Determine When Battery Must Be Removed from Car. How to Determine When It Is Unnecessary to Open a Battery. How to Determine When Battery Must Be Opened.


How to Open a Battery.— Cleaning Outside of Battery Before Opening. Drilling and Removing Connectors and Terminals. Removing the Sealing Compound by Steam, Hot Water, Hot Putty Knife, Lead Burning Flame, and Gasoline Torch. Lifting Plates Out of Jars. Draining Plates. Removing Covers. Scraping Sealing Compound from the Covers. Scraping Sealing Compound from Inside of Jars.

What Must Be Done with the Opened Battery?— Making a Preliminary Examination of Plates. When to Put in New Plates. When Old Plates May Be Used Again. What to Do with the Separators. Find the Cause of Every Trouble. Eliminating "Shorts." Preliminary Charge After Eliminating Shorts. Washing and Pressing Negatives. Washing Positives. Burning on New Plates. Testing Jars for Cracks and Holes. Removing Defective Jars. Repairing the Case.

Reassembling the Elements.— Putting in Now Separators. Putting Elements Into Jars. Filling Jars with Electrolyte. Putting Chapter Page on the Covers. Sealing the Covers. Burning on the Connectors and Terminals. Marking the Repaired Battery. Cleaning and Painting the Case. Charging the Rebuilt Battery. Testing.


Exide Batteries.— Types. Type Numbers. Methods of Holding Jars in Case. Opening Exide Batteries. Work on Plates, Separators, Jars, and Case. Putting Plates in Jars. Filling Jars with Electrolyte. Sealing Covers. Putting Cells in Case. Burning on the Cell Connectors. Charging After Repairing. Tables of Exide Batteries.

U.S.L. Batteries.— Old and New. U.S.L. Covers. Special Repair Instructions. Tables of U.S.L. Batteries.

Prest-O-Lite Batteries.— Old and New Prest-O-Lite Cover Constructions. The "Peened" Post Seal. Special Tools for Work on Prest-O-Lite Batteries. The Peening Press. Removing Covers. Rebuilding Posts. Locking, or "Peening" the Posts. Precautions in Post Locking Operations. Tables of Prest-0-Lite Batteries.

Philadelphia Diamond Grid Batteries.— Old and New Types. The Philadelphia "Rubber-Lockt" Cover Seal. Philadelphia Rubber Case Batteries. The Philadelphia Separator. Special Repair Instructions.

Eveready Batteries.— Why the Eveready Batteries Are Called "Non-Sulphating" Batteries. Description of Parts of Eveready Battery. Special Repair Instructions.

Vesta Batteries.— Old and New Vesta Isolators. The Vesta Type "D" Battery. The Vesta Type "DJ" Battery. Vesta Separators. The Vesta Post Seal. Special Repair Instructions for Old and New Isolators and Post Seal.

Westinghouse Batteries.— The Westinghouse Post Seal. Westinghouse Plates. Types of Westinghouse Batteries. Type "A" Batteries. Type "B" Batteries. Type "C" Batteries. Type "E" Batteries. Type "H" Batteries. Type "J" Batteries. Type "0" Batteries. Type "F" Batteries.

Willard Batteries.— Double and Single Cover Batteries. Batteries with Sealing Compound Post Seal. Batteries with Lead Inserts in Cover Post Holes. Batteries with Rubber Casket Post Seal. Special Repair Instructions for Work on the Different Types of Post Seal Constructions. Willard Threaded Rubber Separators.

Universal Batteries.— Types. Construction Features. Putting New Universal Batteries Into Service.

Titan Batteries.— The Titan Grid. The Titan Post Seal.


Comparison of Operating Conditions of Farm Lighting Batteries with Automobile Batteries. Jars for Farm Lighting Batteries. Separators. Electrolyte. Charging Equipment. Relation of the Automobile Battery Man to the Farm Lighting Plant. Rules Governing the Selection of a Farm Lighting Plant. Location and Wiring of Farm Lighting Plant. Installation. Care of Plant in Service. Care of Battery. Charging Farm Lighting Batteries. Rules Governing Discharging of Farm Lighting Batteries. Troubles Found in Farm Lighting Batteries. Inspection and Tests on Farm Lighting Batteries. Description of Prest-O-Lite Farm Lighting Battery. Rebuilding Prest-O-Lite Farm Lighting Batteries. Description of Exide Farm Lighting Batteries. The Delco-Light Battery. Rebuilding and Repairing Exide Farm Lighting Batteries. Westinghouse Farm Lighting Batteries. Willard Farm Lighting Batteries.


Condensed Dictionary of Words and Terms Used in Battery Work.



Photographs showing factory processes.

BUYERS' INDEX. (Omitted.)

For the Convenience of Our Readers We Have Prepared a List of Companies from Whom Battery Shop Equipment May Be Obtained.

ADVERTISEMENTS (Omitted. Outdated; high bandwidth)


Section I ————-

Working Principles, Manufacture, Maintenance, Diseases, and Remedies


The Automobile Storage Battery



Gasoline and electricity have made possible the modern automobile. Each has its work to do in the operation of the car, and if either fails to perform its duties, the car cannot move. The action of the gasoline, and the mechanisms that control it are comparatively simple, and easily understood, because gasoline is something definite which we can see and feel, and which can be weighed, or measured in gallons. Electricity, on the other hand, is invisible, cannot be poured into cans or tanks, has no odor, and, therefore, nobody knows just what it is. We can only study the effects of electricity, and the wires, coils, and similar apparatus in which it is present. It is for this reason that an air of mystery surrounds electrical things, especially to the man who has not made a special study of the subject.

Without electricity, there would be no gasoline engine, because gasoline itself cannot cause the engine to operate. It is only when the electrical spark explodes or "ignites" the mixture of gasoline and air which has been drawn into the engine cylinders that the engine develops power. Thus an electrical ignition system has always been an essential part of every gasoline automobile.

The first step in the use of electricity on the automobile, in addition to the ignition system, consisted in the installation of an electric lighting system to replace the inconvenient oil or gas lamps which were satisfactory as far as the light they gave was concerned, but which had the disadvantage of requiring the driver to leave his seat, and light each lamp separately, often in a strong wind or rain which consumed many matches, time, and frequently spoiled his temper for the remainder of the evening. Electric lamps have none of these disadvantages. They can be controlled from the driver's seat, can be turned on or off by merely turning or pushing a switch-button, are not affected by wind or rain, do not smoke up the lenses, and do not send a stream of unpleasant odors back to the passengers.

The apparatus used to supply the electricity for the lamps consisted of a generator, or a "storage" battery, or both. The generator alone had the disadvantage that the lamps could be used only while the engine was running. The battery, on the other hand, furnished light at all times, but had to be removed from the car frequently, and "charged." With both the generator and battery, the lights could be turned on whether the engine was running or not, and, furthermore, it was no longer necessary to remove the battery to "charge," or put new life into it. With a generator and storage battery, moreover, a reliable source of electricity for ignition was provided, and so we find dry batteries and magnetos being discarded in a great many automobiles and "battery ignition" systems substituted.

The development of electric lighting systems increased the popularity of the automobile, but the motor car still had a great drawback-cranking. Owing to the peculiar features of a gasoline engine, it must first be put in motion by some external power before it will begin to operate under its own power. This made it necessary for the driver to "crank" the engine, or start it moving, by means of a handle attached to the engine shaft. Cranking a large engine is difficult, especially if it is cold, and often results in tired muscles, and soiled clothes and tempers. It also made it impossible for the average woman to drive a car because she did not have the strength necessary to "crank" an engine.

The next step in the perfection of the automobile was naturally the development of an automatic device to crank the engine, and thus make the driving of a car a pleasure rather than a task. We find, therefore, that in 1912, "self-starters" began to be used. These were not all electrical, some used tanks of compressed air, others acetylene, and various mechanical devices, such as the spring starters. The electrical starters, however, proved their superiority immediately, and filled such a long felt want that all the various makes of automobiles now have electric starters. The present day motor car, therefore, uses gasoline for the engine only, but uses electricity for ignition, starting, lighting, for the horn, cigar lighters, hand warmers on the steering wheel, gasoline vaporizers, and even for shifting speed changing gears, and for the brakes.

On any car that uses an electric lighting and starting system, there are two sources of electricity, the generator and the battery, These must furnish the power for the starting, or "cranking" motor, the ignition, the lights, the horn, and the other devices. The demands made upon the generator are comparatively light and simple, and no severe work is done by it. The battery, on the other hand is called upon to give a much more severe service, that of furnishing the power to crank the engine. It must also perform all the duties of the generator when the engine is not running, since a generator must be in motion in order to produce electricity.

A generator is made of iron, copper, carbon, and insulation. These are all solid substances which can easily be built in any size or shape, and which undergo very little change as parts of the generator. The battery is made mainly of lead, lead compounds, water and sulphuric acid. Here we have liquids as well as solids, which produce electricity by changes in their composition, resulting in complicated chemical as well as electrical actions.

[Fig. 1 The Battery]

The battery is, because of its construction and performance, a much abused, neglected piece of apparatus which is but partly understood, even by many electrical experts, for to understand it thoroughly requires a study of chemistry as well as of electricity. Knowledge of the construction and action of a storage battery is not enough to make anyone an expert battery man. He must also know how to regulate the operating conditions so as to obtain the best service from the battery, and he must be able to make complete repairs on any battery no matter what its condition may be.



There are two ways of "generating" electricity on the car: 1. Magnetically, 2. Chemically. The first method is that used in a generator, in which wires are rotated in a "field" in which magnetic forces act. The second method is that of the battery, and the one in which we are now interested.

If two unlike metals or conducting substances are placed in a liquid which causes a greater chemical change in one of the substances than in the other, an electrical pressure, or "electromotive" force is caused to exist between the two metals or conducting substances. The greater the difference in the chemical action on the substances, the greater will be the electrical pressure, and if the substances are connected together outside of the liquid by a wire or other conductor of electricity, an electric current will flow through the path or "circuit" consisting of the liquid, the two substances which are immersed in the liquid, and the external wire or conductor.

As the current flows through the combination of the liquid, and the substances immersed in it, which is called a voltaic "cell," one or both of the substances undergo chemical changes which continue until one of the substances is entirely changed. These chemical changes produce the electrical pressure which causes the current to flow, and the flow will continue until one or both of the substances are changed entirely. This change due to the chemical action may result in the formation of gases, or of solid compounds. If gases are formed they escape and are lost. If solids are formed, no material is actually lost.

Assuming that one of the conducting substances, or "electrodes," which are immersed in the liquid has been acted upon by the liquid, or "electrolyte," until no further chemical action can take place, our voltaic cell will no longer be capable of causing a flow of electricity. If none of the substances resulting from the original chemical action have been lost as gases, it may be possible to reverse the entire set of operations which have taken place. That is, suppose we now send a current through the cell from an outside source of electricity, in a direction opposite to that in which the current produced by the chemical action between the electrodes and electrolyte flowed. If this current now produces chemical actions between electrodes and electrolyte which are the reverse of those which occurred originally, so that finally we have the electrodes and electrolyte brought back to their original composition and condition, we have the cell just as it was before we used it for the production of an electrical pressure. The cell can now again be used as a source of electricity as long as the electrolyte acts upon the electrodes, or until it is "discharged" and incapable of any further production of electrical pressure. Sending a current through a discharged cell, so as to reverse the chemical actions which brought about the discharged conditions, is called "charging" the cell.

[Fig. 2 A complete cell; Negative group; Positive group]

Cells in which an electrical pressure is produced as soon as the electrodes are immersed in the electrolyte are called it "primary" Cells. In these cells it is often impossible, and always unsatisfactory to reverse the chemical action as explained above. Cells whose chemical actions are reversible are called "storage" or "secondary" cells. In the "storage" cells used today, a current must first be sent through the cell in order to cause the chemical changes which result in putting the electrodes and electrolyte, in such a condition that they will be capable of producing an electrical pressure when the chemical changes caused by the current are complete. The cell now possesses all the characteristics of a primary cell, and may be used as a source of electricity until "discharged." It may then be "charged" again, and so on, the chemical action in one case causing a flow of current, and a reversed flow of current causing reversed chemical actions.

We see from the above that the "storage" battery does not "store" electricity at all, but changes chemical into electrical energy when "discharging," and changes electrical into chemical energy when "charging," the two actions being entirely reversible. The idea of "storing" electricity comes from the fact that if we send a current of electricity through the cell for a certain length of time, we can at a later time draw a current from the cell for almost the same length of time.

[Fig. 3 Complete Element]

Fig. 3. A complete element, consisting of a positive and negative group of plates and separators ready for placing in the hard rubber jars.

Three things are therefore required in a storage cell, the liquid or "electrolyte" and two unlike substances or electrodes, through which a current of electricity can pass and which are acted upon by the electrolyte with a chemical action that is greater for one substance than the other. In the storage cell used on the automobile today for starting and lighting, the electrodes are lead and peroxide of lead, and the electrolyte is a mixture of sulphuric acid and water. The peroxide of lead electrode is the one upon which the electrolyte has the greater chemical effect, and it is called the positive or "+" electrode, because when the battery is sending a. current through an external circuit, the current flows from this electrode through the external circuit, and back to the lead electrode, which is called the negative, or electrode.

When starting and lighting systems were adopted in 1912, storage batteries had been used for many years in electric power stations. These were, however, large and heavy, and many difficult problems of design had to be solved in order to produce a battery capable of performing the work of cranking the engine, and yet be portable, light, and small enough to occupy only a very limited space on the automobile. As a result of these conditions governing the design, the starting and lighting battery of today is in reality "the giant that lives in a box." The Electric Storage Battery Company estimates that one of its types of batteries, which measures only 12-5/8 inches long, 7-3/8 wide, and 9-1/8 high, and weighs only 63-1/2 pounds, can deliver enough energy to raise itself to a height of 6 miles straight up in the air. It must be able to do its work quickly at all times, and in all sorts of weather, with temperatures ranging from below 0 deg. to 100 deg. Fahrenheit, or even higher.

The starting and lighting battery has therefore been designed to withstand severe operating conditions. Looking at such a battery on a car we see a small wooden box in which are placed three or more "cells," see Fig. 1. Each "cell" has a hard, black rubber top through which two posts of lead project. Bars of lead connect the posts of one cell to those of the next. To one of the posts of each end cell is connected a cable which leads into the car, and through which the current leaves or enters the battery. At the center of each cell is a removable rubber plug covering an opening through which communication is established with the inside of the cell for the purpose of pouring in water, removing some of the electrolyte to determine the condition of the battery, or to allow gases formed within the cell to escape. Looking down through this opening we can see the things needed to form a storage battery: the electrolyte, and the electrodes or "plates" as they are called. If we should remove the lead bars connecting one cell to another, and take off the black cover, we should find that the posts which project out of the cells are attached to the plates which are broad and flat, and separated by thin pieces of wood or rubber., If we lift out the plates we find that they are connected alternately to the two lead posts, and that the two outside ones have a gray color. If we pull the plates out from each Other, we find that the plates next to the two outside ones, and all other plates connected to the same lead post as these have a chocolate-brown color. If we remove the jar of the cell, we find that it is made of hard rubber. Pouring out the electrolyte we find several ridges which hold the plates off the bottom of the jar. The pockets formed by these ridges may contain some soft, muddy substance. Thus we have exposed all the elements of a cell, posts, plates, "separators," and electrolyte. The gray colored plates are attached to the "negative" battery post, while the chocolate-brown colored ones are connected to the "positive" battery post. Examination will show that each of the plates consists of a skeleton metallic framework which is filled with the brown or gray substances. This construction is used to decrease the weight of the battery. The gray filler material is pure lead in a condition called "spongy lead." The chocolate-brown filler substance is peroxide of lead.

We have found nothing but two sets of plates—one of pure lead, the other of peroxide of lead, and the electrolyte of sulphuric acid and water. These produce the heavy current necessary to crank the engine. How this is done, and what the chemical actions within the cell are, are described in Chapter 4.



To supply the great number of batteries needed for gasoline automobiles, large companies have been formed. Each company has its special and secret processes which it will not reveal to the public. Only a few companies, however, supply batteries in any considerable quantities, the great majority of cars being supplied with batteries made by not more than five or six manufacturers. This greatly reduces the number of possible different designs in general use today.

The design and dimensions of batteries vary considerably, but the general constructions are similar. The special processes of the manufacturers are of no special interest to the repairman, and only a general description will be given here.

A starting and lighting battery consists of the following principal parts:

1. Plates 2. Separators 3. Electrolyte 4. Jars 5. Covers 6. Cell Connectors and Terminals 7. Case Plates

Of the two general types of battery plates, Faure and Plante, the Faure, or pasted type, is universally used on automobiles. In the manufacture of pasted plates there are several steps which we shall describe in the order in which they are carried out.

Casting the Grid. The grid is the skeleton of the plate. It performs the double function of supporting the mechanically weak active material and of conducting the current. It is made of a lead antimony alloy which is melted and poured into a mould. Pure lead is too soft and too easily attacked by the electrolyte, and antimony is added to give stiffness, and resistance to the action of the electrolyte in the cell. The amount of antimony used varies in different makes but probably averages 8 to 10%.

The casting process requires considerable skill, the proper composition of the metal and the temperature of both metal and moulds being of great importance in securing perfect grids, which are free from blowholes, and which have a uniform structure and composition. Some manufacturers cast two grids simultaneously in each mould, the two plates being joined to each other along the bottom edge.

Trimming the Grids. When the castings have cooled, they are removed from the moulds and passed to a press or trimming machine which trims off the casting gate and the rough edges. The grids are given a rigid inspection, those having shrunken or missing ribs or other defects being rejected. The grids are now ready for pasting.

[Fig 4. Grid, Trimmed, and Ready for Pasting]

Fig. 4 shows a grid ready for pasting. The heavy lug at one upper corner is the conducting lug, for carrying the current to the strap, Fig. 5, into which the lugs are burned when the battery is assembled. The straps are provided with posts, to which the intercell connectors and terminal connectors are attached. The vertical ribs of the grids extend through the plate, providing mechanical strength and conductivity, while the small horizontal ribs are at the surface and in staggered relation on opposite faces. Both the outside frames and the vertical ribs are reinforced near the lug, where the greatest amount of current must be carried.

The rectangular arrangement of ribs, as shown in Fig. 4, is most generally used, although, there are other arrangements such as the Philadelphia "Diamond" grid in which the ribs form acute angles, giving diamond shaped openings, as shown in Fig. 6.

Pastes. There are many formulas for the pastes, which are later converted into active material, and each is considered a trade secret by the manufacturer using it. The basis of all, however, is oxide of lead, either Red Lead (Pb30 4), Litharge (PbO), or a mixture of the two, made into a paste with a liquid, such as dilute sulphuric acid. The object of mixing the oxides with the liquid is to form a paste of the proper consistency for application to the grids, and at the same time introduce the proper amount of binding, or setting agent which will give porosity, and which will bind together the active material, especially in the positive plate. Red lead usually predominates in the positive paste, and litharge in the negative, as this combination requires the least energy in forming the oxides to active material.

[Fig. 5 Plate Straps and Posts]

The oxides of lead used in preparing the pastes which are applied to the grids are powders, and in their dry condition could not be applied to the grids, as they would fall out. Mixing them with a liquid to make a paste gives them greater coherence and enables them to be applied to the grids. Sulphuric acid puts the oxides in the desired pasty condition, but has the disadvantage of causing a chemical action to take place which changes a considerable portion of the oxides to lead sulphate, the presence of which makes the paste stiff and impossible to apply to the grids. When acid is used, it is therefore necessary to work fast after the oxides are mixed with sulphuric acid to form the paste.

In addition to the lead oxides, the pastes may contain some binding material such as ammonium or magnesium sulphate, which tends to bind the particles of the active material together. The paste used for the negatives may contain lamp black to give porosity.

Applying the Paste. After the oxides are mixed to a paste they are applied to the grids. This is done either by hand, or by machine In the hand pasting process, the pastes are applied from each face of the grid by means of a wooden paddle or trowel, and are smoothed off flush with the surface of the ribs of the grid. This work is done quickly in order that the pastes may not stiffen before they are applied.

U. S. L. plates are pasted in a machine which applies the paste to the grid, subjecting it at the same time to a pressure which forces it thoroughly into the grid, and packs it in a dense mass.

Drying the Paste. The freshly pasted plates are now allowed to dry in the air, or are dried by blowing air over them. In any case, the pastes set to a hard mass, in which condition the pastes adhere firmly to the grids. The plates may then be handled without a loss of paste from the grids.

[Fig. 6 Philadelphia diamond grid]

Forming. The next step is to change the paste of oxides into the active materials which make a cell operative. This is called "forming" and is really nothing but a prolonged charge, requiring several days. In some factories the plates are mounted in tanks, positive and negative plates alternating as in a cell. The positives are all connected together in one group and the negatives in another, and current passed through just as in charging a battery. In other factories the positives and negatives are formed in separate tanks against "dummy" electrodes.

The passing of the current slowly changes the mixtures of lead oxide and lead sulphate, forming brown peroxide of lead (PbO2), on the positive plate and gray spongy metallic lead on the negative. The formation by the current of lead peroxide and spongy lead on the positive and negative plates respectively would take place if the composition of the two pastes were identical. The difference in the composition of the paste for positive and negative plates is for the purpose of securing the properties of porosity and physical condition best suited to each.

[Fig. 7 Formed plate, ready to be burned to plate connecting strap]

When the forming process is complete, the plates are washed and dried, and are then ready for use in the battery. If the grids of two plates have been cast together, as is done by some manufacturers, these are now cut apart, and the lugs cut to the proper height. The next step is to roll, or press the negatives after they are removed from the forming bath so as to bring the negative paste, which has become roughened by gassing that occurred during the forming process, flush with the surface of the ribs of the grid. A sufficient amount of sulphate is left in the plates to bind together the active material. Without this sulphate the positive paste would simply be a powder and when dry would fall out of the grids like dry dust. Fig. 7 shows a formed plate ready to be burned to the strap.


In batteries used both for starting and for lighting, separators made of specially treated wood are largely used. See Fig. 8. The Willard Company has adopted an insulator made of a rubber fabric pierced by thousands of cotton threads, each thread being as long as the separator is thick. The electrolyte is carried through these threads from one side of the separator to the other by capillary action, the great number of these threads insuring the rapid diffusion of electrolyte which is necessary in batteries which are subjected to the heavy discharge current required in starting.

In batteries used for lighting or ignition, sheets of rubber in which numerous holes have been drilled are also used, these holes permitting diffusion to take place rapidly enough to perform the required service satisfactorily, since the currents involved are much smaller than in starting motor service.

[Fig. 8]

Fig 8. A Pile of Prepared Wooden Seperators Ready to be Put Between the Positive and Negative Plates to Form the Complete Element.

For the wooden separators, porous wood, such as Port Orford cedar, basswood, cypress, or cedar is used. Other woods such as redwood and cherry are also used. The question is often asked "which wood makes the best separators?" This is difficult to answer because the method of treating the wood is just as important as is the kind of wood. The wood for the separators is cut into strips of the correct thickness. These strips are passed through a grooving machine which cuts the grooves in one side, leaving the other side smooth. The strips are next sawed to the correct size, and are then boiled in a warm alkaline solution for about 24 hours to neutralize any organic acid, such as acetic acid, which the wood naturally contains. Such acids would cause unsatisfactory battery action and damage to the battery.

The Vesta separator, or "impregnated mat," is treated in a bath of Barium salts which form compounds with the wood and which are said to make the separators strong and acid-resisting.

[Fig. 9 Philco slotted retainer]

Some batteries use a double separator, one of which is the wooden separator, while the other consists of a thin sheet of hard rubber containing many fine perforations. This rubber sheet is placed between the positive plate and the wooden separator. A recent development in the use of an auxiliary rubber separator is the Philco slotted retainer which is placed between the separators and the positives in Philadelphia Diamond Grid Batteries. Some Exide batteries also use slotted rubber separators. The Philco slotted retainer consists of a thin sheet of slotted hard rubber as shown in Fig. 9. The purpose of the retainer is to hold the positive active material in place and prevent the shedding which usually occurs. The slots in the retainer are so numerous that they allow the free passage of electrolyte, but each slot is made very narrow so as to hold the active material in the plates.


Little need be said here about the electrolyte, since a full description is given elsewhere. See page 222. Acid is received by the battery manufacturer in concentrated form. Its specific gravity is then 1.835. The acid commonly used is made by the "contact" process, in which sulphur dioxide is oxidized to sulphur trioxide, and then, with the addition of water, changed to sulphuric acid. The concentrated acid is diluted with distilled water to the proper specific gravity.


The jars which contain the plates, separators, and electrolyte are made of a tough, hard rubber compound. They are made either by the moulding process, or by wrapping sheets of rubber compound around metal mandrels. In either case the jar is subsequently vulcanized by careful heating at the correct temperature.

The battery manufacturers do not, as a rule, make their own jars, but have them made by the rubber companies who give the jars a high voltage test to detect any flaws, holes, or cracks which would subsequently cause a leak. The jars as received at the battery maker's factory are ready for use.

Across the bottom of the jar are several stiff ribs which extend up into the jar so as to provide a substantial support for the plates, and at the same time form several pockets below the plates in which the sediment resulting from shedding of active material from the plates accumulates.


No part of a battery is of greater importance than the hard rubber cell covers, from the viewpoint of the repairman as well as the manufacturer. The repairman is concerned chiefly with the methods of sealing the battery, and no part of his work requires greater skill than the work on the covers. The manufacturers have developed special constructions, their aims being to design the cover so as to facilitate the escape of gas which accumulates in the upper part of a cell during charge, to provide space for expansion of the electrolyte as it becomes heated, to simplify inspection and filling with pure water, to make leak proof joints between the cover and the jar and between the cover and the lead posts which project through it, and to simplify the work of making repairs.

Single and Double Covers. Modern types of batteries have a single piece cover, the edges of which are made so as to form a slot or channel with the inside of the jar, into which is poured sealing compound to form a leak proof joint. This construction is illustrated. in Exide, Fig. 1.5; Vesta, Fig. 264; Philadelphia Diamond Grid, Fig. 256; U. S. L., Figs. 11 and 244; and Prest-0-Lite, Fig. 247, batteries. Exide batteries are also made with a double flange cover, in which the top of the jar fits between the two flanges. In single covers, a comparatively small amount of sealing compound is used, and repair work is greatly simplified.

In the Eveready battery, Fig. 262, compound is poured over the entire cover instead of around the edges. This method requires a considerable amount of sealing compound.

The use of double covers is not as common as it was some years ago. This construction makes use of two flat pieces of hard rubber. In such batteries a considerable amount of sealing compound is used. This compound is poured on top of the lower cover to seal the battery, the top cover serving to cover up the compound and brace the posts. Fig. 10 illustrates this construction.

[Fig. 10 Cross-section of Gould double cover battery]

Sealing Around the Posts. Much variety is shown in the methods used to secure a leak proof joint between the posts and the cover. Several methods are used. One of these uses the sealing compound to make a tight joint. Another has lead bushings which are screwed up into the cover or moulded in the cover, the bushings being burned together with the post and cell connector. Another method has a threaded post, and uses a lead alloy nut with a rubber washer to make a tight joint. Still another method forces a lead collar down over the post, and presses the cover down on a soft rubber gasket.

Using Sealing Compound. Some of the batteries which use sealing compound to make a tight joint between the cover and the post have a hard rubber bushing shrunk over the post. This construction is used in Gould batteries, as shown in Fig. 10, and in the old Willard double cover batteries. The rubber bushing is grooved horizontally to increase the length of the sealing surface.

[Fig. 11 U.S.L. cover]

Other batteries that use sealing compound around the posts have grooves or "petticoats" cut directly in the post and have a well around the post into which the sealing compound is poured. This is the construction used in the old Philadelphia Diamond Grid battery, as shown in Fig. 254.

Using Lead Bushings. U. S. L. batteries have a flanged lead bushing which is moulded directly into the cover, as shown in Fig. 11. In assembling the battery, the cover is placed over the post, and the cell connector is burned to both post and bushing.

[Fig. 12 Lead bushing screwed into cover]

In older type U. S. L. batteries a bushing was screwed up through the cover, and then burned to the post and cell connector.

An old type Prest-O-Lite battery used a lead bushing which screwed up through the cover similarly to the U. S. L. batteries. Fig. 12 illustrates this construction. The SJWN and SJRN Willard Batteries used a lead insert. See page 424.

The modern Vesta batteries use a soft rubber gasket under the cover, and force a lead collar over the post, which pushes the cover down on the gasket. The lead collar and post "freeze" together and make an acid proof joint. See page 413. The Westinghouse battery uses a three part seal consisting of a lead washer which is placed around the post, a U shaped, soft gum washer which is placed between the post and cover, and a tapered lead sleeve, which presses the washer against the post and the cover. See page 417.

[Fig. 13 Cross section of old type Willard battery]

The Prest-O-Lite Peened Post Seal. All Prest-O-Lite batteries designated as types WHN, RHN, BHN and JFN, have a single moulded cover which is locked directly on to the posts. This is done by forcing a solid ring of lead from a portion of the post down into a chamfer in the top of the cover. This construction is illustrated in Fig. 247.

Batteries Using Sealing Nuts. The Exide batteries have threaded posts. A rubber gasket is placed under the cover on a shoulder on the post. The nut is then turned down on the post to force the cover on the gasket. This construction is illustrated in Fig. 239. The Titan battery uses a somewhat similar seal, as shown in Fig. 293.

Some of the older Willard batteries have a chamfer or groove in the under, side of the cover. The posts have a ring of lead in the base which fits up into the groove in the cover to make a tight joint. This is illustrated in Fig. 13. The later Willard constructions, using a rubber gasket seal and a lead cover insert, are illustrated in Figs. 278 and 287.

Filling Tube or Vent Tube Construction. Quite a number of designs have been developed in the construction of the filling or vent tube. In double covers, the tube is sometimes a separate part which is screwed into the lower cover. In other batteries using double covers, the tube is an integral part of the cover, as shown in Fig. 10. In all single covers, the tube is moulded integral with the cover.

[Fig. 14a Vent hold in U.S.L. battery]

Several devices have been developed to make it impossible to overfill batteries. This has been done by the U. S. L. and Exide companies on older types of batteries, their constructions being described as follows:

In old U. S. L. batteries, a small auxiliary vent tube is drilled, as shown in Fig. 14. When filling to replace evaporation, this vent tube prevents overfilling.

[Fig. 14b Filling U.S.L. battery]

A finger is placed over the auxiliary vent tube shown in Fig. 14. The water is then poured in through the filling or vent tube. When the water reaches the bottom of the tube, the air imprisoned in the expansion chamber can no longer escape. Consequently the water can rise no higher in this chamber, but simply fills up the tube. Water is added till it reaches the top of the tube. The finger is then removed from the vent tube. This allows the air to escape from the expansion chamber. The water will therefore fall in the filling or vent tube, and rise slightly in the expansion chamber. The construction makes it impossible to overfill the battery, provided that the finger is held on the vent hole as directed.

[Fig. 14c Filling U.S.L. battery (old types)]

Figure 15 shows the Non-Flooding Vent and Filling Plug used in the older type Exide battery, and in the present type LXRV. The new Exide cover, which does not use the non-flooding feature, is also shown. The old construction is described as follows:

[Fig. 15a Sectional view of cover in older type Exide battery. Top view of cover and filling plug, plug removed]

[Fig. 15b Old and new Exide covers]

From the illustrations of the vent and filling plug, it will be seen that they provide both a vented stopper (vents F, G, H), and an automatic device for the preventing of overfilling and flooding. The amount of water that can be put into the cell is limited to the exact amount needed to replace that lost by evaporation. This is accomplished by means of the hard rubber valve (A) within the cell cover and with which the top of the vent plug (E) engages, as shown in the illustrations. The action of removing the plug (E) turns this valve (A), closing the air passage (BB), and forming an air tight chamber (C) in the top of the cell. When water is poured in, it cannot rise in this air space (C) so as to completely fill the cell. As soon as the proper level is reached, the water rises in the filling tube (D) and gives a positive indication that sufficient water has been added. Should, however, the filling be continued, the excess will be pure water only, not acid. On replacing the plug (E), valve (A) is automatically turned, opening the air passages (BB), leaving the air chamber (C) available for the expansion of the solution, which occurs when the battery is working.

Generally the filling or vent tube is so made that its lower end indicates the correct level of electrolyte above the plates, In adding water, the level of the electrolyte is brought up to the bottom of the filling tube. By looking down into the tube, it can be seen when the electrolyte reaches the bottom of the tube.

Vent Plugs, or Caps. Vent plugs, or caps, close up the filling or vent tubes in the covers. They are made of hard rubber, and either screw into or over the tubes, or are tightened by a full or partial turn, as is done in Exide batteries. In the caps are small holes which are so arranged that gases generated within the battery may escape, but acid spray cannot pass through these holes. It is of the utmost importance that the holes in the vent caps be kept open to allow the gases to escape.


The wooden case in which the cells are placed is usually made of kiln dried white oak or hard maple. The wood is inspected carefully, and all pieces are rejected that are weather-checked, or contain worm-holes or knots. The wood is sawed into various thicknesses, and then cut to the proper lengths and widths. The wood is passed through other machines that cut in the dovetails, put the tongue on the bottom for the joints, stamp on the part number, drill the holes for the screws or bolts holding the handles, cut the grooves for the sealing compound, etc. The several pieces are then assembled and glued together. The finishing touches are then put on, these consisting of cutting the cases to the proper heights, sandpapering the boxes, etc. The cases are then inspected and are ready to be painted.

A more recent development in case construction is a one-piece hard rubber case, in which the jars and case are made in one piece, the cell compartments being formed by rubber partitions which form an integral part of the case. This construction is used in several makes of Radio "A" batteries, and to some extent in starting batteries.

[Fig. 16 Exide battery case]

Asphaltum paint is generally used for wooden cases, the bottoms and tops being given three, coats, and the sides, two. The number of coats of paint varies, of course, in the different factories. The handles are then put on by machinery, and the case, Fig. 16, is complete, and ready for assembling.

Assembling and Sealing

The first step in assembling a battery is to burn the positive and negative plates to their respective straps, Fig. 5, forming the positive and negative "groups", Fig. 2. This is done by arranging a set of plates and a strap in a suitable rack which holds them securely in proper position, and then melting together the top of the plate lugs and the portion of the strap into which they fit with a hot flame.

A positive and a negative group are now slipped together and the separators inserted. The grooved side of the wood separator is placed toward the positive plate and when perforated rubber sheets are used these go between the positive and the wood separator. The positive and negative "groups" assembled with the separators constitute the "element," Fig. 3.

Before the elements are placed in the jars they are carefully inspected to make sure that no separator has been left out. For this purpose the "Exide" elements are subjected to an electrical test which rings a bell if a separator is missing, this having been found more infallible than trusting to a man's eyes.

In some batteries, such as the Exide, Vesta, and Prest-O-Lite batteries, the cover is placed on the element and made fast before the elements are placed in the jars. In other batteries, such as the U. S. L. and Philadelphia batteries, the covers are put on after the elements are placed in the jars.

After the element is in the jar and the cover in position, sealing compound is applied hot so as to make a leak proof joint between jar and cover.

[Fig. 17 Inter-cell connector]

The completed cells are now assembled in the case and the cell connectors, Fig. 17, burned to the strap posts. After filling with electrolyte the battery is ready to receive its "initial charge," which may require from one day to a week. A low charging rate is used, since the plates are generally in a sulphated condition when assembled. The specific gravity is brought up to about 1.280 during this charge. Some makers now give the battery a short high rate discharge test (see page 266), to disclose any defects, and just before sending them out give a final charge. The batteries are often "cycled" after being assembled, this consisting in discharging and recharging the batteries several times to put the active material in the best working condition. If the batteries are to be shipped "wet," they are ready for shipping after the final charge and inspection. Batteries which are shipped "dry" need to have more work done upon them.

Preparing Batteries for Dry Shipment

There are three general methods of "dry" shipment. The first method consists of sending cases, plates, covers, separators, etc., separately, and assembling them in the service stations. Sometimes these parts are all placed together, as in a finished battery, but without the separators, the covers not being sealed, or the connectors and terminals welded to the posts. This is a sort of "knock-down" condition. The plates used are first fully charged and dried.

The second method consists of assembling a battery complete with plates, separators, and electrolyte, charging the battery, pouring out the electrolyte, rinsing with distilled water, pouring out the water and screwing the vent plugs down tight. The vent holes in these plugs are sealed to exclude air. The moisture left in the battery when the rinsing water was poured out cannot evaporate, and the separators are thus kept in a moistened condition.

The third method is the Willard "Bone Dry" method, and consists of assembling the battery complete with dry threaded rubber separators and dry plates, but without electrolyte. The holes in the vent plugs are not sealed, since there is no moisture in the battery. Batteries using wooden separators cannot be shipped "bone-dry," since wooden separators must be kept moist.

Terminal Connections

When the battery is on the car it is necessary to have some form of detachable connection to the car circuit and this is accomplished by means of "terminal connectors," Fig. 18, of which there are many types.

[Fig. 18 Battery terminal]

Many types of terminals are in two parts, one being permanently attached to the car circuit and the other mounted permanently on the battery by welding it to the terminal post, the two parts being detachably joined by means of a bolted connection.

In another type of terminal, the cable is soldered directly to the terminal which is lead burned to the cell post. In this construction there is very much less chance of corrosion taking place, and it is therefore a good design.


The wisest thing for the battery shop owner to do is to get a contract as official service station for one of the well known makes of batteries. The manufacturers of this battery will stand behind the service station, giving it the benefits of its engineering, production, and advertising departments, and boost the service station's business, helping to make it a success.

Within the past year or so, however, some battery repairmen have conceived the idea that they do not need the backing of a well organized factory, and have decided to build up their own batteries. Some of them merely assemble batteries from parts bought from one or more manufacturers. If all the parts are made by the same company, they will fit together, and may make a serviceable battery. Often, however, parts made by several manufacturers are assembled in the same battery. Here is where trouble is apt to develop, because it is more than likely that jars may not fit well in the case; plates may not completely fill the jars, allowing too much acid space, with the results that specific gravity readings will not be reliable, and the plates may be overworked; plate posts may not fit the cover holes, and so on. If such a "fabricated" battery goes dead because of defective material, there is no factory back of the repairman to stand the loss.

If the repairman wishes to assemble batteries, he should be very careful to buy the parts from a reliable manufacturer, and he should be especially careful in buying separators, as improperly treated separators often develop acetic acid, which dissolves the lead of the plates very quickly and ruins the battery. Batteries made in this way are good for rental batteries, or "loaners." These batteries are assembled and charged just as are batteries which have been in dry storage, see page 241.

If the repairman who "fabricates" batteries takes chances, the man who attempts to actually make his own battery plates is certainly risking his business and reputation. There are several companies which sell moulds for making plate grids. One even sells cans of lead oxides to enable the repairman to make his own plate paste. Even more foolhardy than the man who wishes to mould plate grids is the man who wishes to mix the lead oxides himself. Many letters asking for paste formulas have been received by the author. Such formulas can never be given, for the author does not have them. Paste making is a far more difficult process than many men realize. The lead oxides which are used must be tested and analyzed carefully in a chemical laboratory and the paste formulas varied according to the results of these tests. The oxides must be carefully weighed, carefully handled, and carefully analyzed. The battery service station does not have the equipment necessary to do these things, and no repairman should ever attempt to make plate paste, as trouble is bound to follow such attempts. A car owner may buy a worthless battery once, but the next time he will go to some other service station and buy a good battery.

No doubt many repairmen are as skillful and competent as the workers in battery factories, but the equipment required to make grids and paste is much too elaborate and expensive for the service station, and without such equipment it is impossible to make a good battery.

The only battery parts which may safely be made in the service station are plate straps and posts, intercell connectors, and cell terminals. Moulds for making such parts are on the market, and it is really worth while to invest in a set. The posts made in such moulds are of the plain tapered type, and posts which have special sealing and locking devices, such as the Exide, Philadelphia, and Titan cannot be made in them.



Before explaining what happens within one storage cell, let us look into the early history of the storage battery, and see what a modest beginning the modern heavy duty battery had. Between 1850 and 1860 a man named Plante began his work on the storage battery. His original cell consisted of two plates of metallic lead immersed in dilute sulphuric acid. The acid formed a thin layer of lead sulphate on each plate which soon stopped further action on the lead. If a current was passed through the cell, the lead sulphate on the "anode" or lead plate at which the current entered the cell was changed into peroxide of lead, while the sulphate on the other lead plate or "cathode" was changed into pure lead in a spongy form. This cell was allowed to stand for several days and was then "discharged," lead sulphate being again formed on each plate. Each time this cell was charged, more "spongy" lead and peroxide of lead were formed. These are called the "active" materials, because it is by the chemical action between them and the sulphuric acid that the electricity is produced. Evidently, the more active materials the plates contained, the longer the chemical action between the acid and active materials could take place, and hence the greater the "capacity," or amount of electricity furnished by the cell. The process of charging and discharging the battery so as to increase the amount of active material, is called "forming" the plates.

[Fig. 19 Illustration of chemical action in a storage cell during charge]

Plante's method of forming plates was very slow, tedious, and expensive. If the spongy lead, and peroxide of lead could be made quickly from materials which could be spread over the plates, much time and expense could be saved. It was Faure who first suggested such a plan, and gave us the "pasted" plate of today, which consists of a skeleton framework of lead, with the sponge lead and peroxide of lead filling the spaces between the "ribs" of the framework. Such plates are known as "pasted" plates, and are much lighter and more satisfactory, for automobile work than the heavy solid lead plates of Plante's. Chapter 3 describes more fully the processes of manufacturing and pasting the plates.

We know now what constitutes a storage battery, and what the parts are that "generate" the electricity. How is the electricity produced? Theoretically, if we take a battery which has been entirely discharged, so that it is no longer able to cause a flow of current, and examine and test the electrolyte and the materials on the plates, we shall find that the electrolyte is pure water, and both sets of plates composed of white lead sulphate. On the other hand, if we make a similar test and examination of the plates and electrolyte of a battery through which a current has been sent from some outside source, such as a generator, until the current can no longer cause chemical reactions between the plates and electrolyte, we will find that the electrolyte is now composed of water and Sulphuric acid, the acid comprising about 30%, and the water 70% of the electrolyte. The negative set of plates will be composed of pure lead in a spongy form, while the positive will consist of peroxide of lead.

The foregoing description gives the final products of the chemical changes that take place in the storage battery. To understand the changes themselves requires a more detailed investigation. The substances to be considered in the chemical actions are sulphuric acid, water, pure lead, lead sulphate, and lead peroxide. With the exception of pure lead, each of these substances is a chemical compound, or composed of several elements. Thus sulphuric acid is made up of two parts of hydrogen, which is a gas; one part of sulphur, a solid, and four parts of oxygen, which is also a gas; these combine to form the acid, which is liquid, and which is for convenience written as H2SO 4, H2 representing two parts of hydrogen, S one part of sulphur, and 04, four parts oxygen. Similarly, water a liquid, is made up of two parts of hydrogen and one part of oxygen, represented by the symbol H2O. Lead is not a compound, but an element whose chemical symbol is Pb, taken from the Latin name for lead. Lead sulphate is a solid, and consists of one part of lead, a solid substance, one part of sulphur, another solid substance, and four parts of oxygen, a gas. It is represented chemically by Pb SO4. Lead peroxide is also a solid, and is made up of one part of lead, and two parts of oxygen. In the chemical changes that take place, the compounds just described are to a certain extent split up into the substances of which they are composed. We thus have lead (Pb), hydrogen (H), oxygen (0), and sulphur (S), four elementary substances, two of which are solids, and two gases. The sulphur does not separate itself entirely from the substances with which it forms the compounds H2SO4 and Pb SO4. These compounds are split into H2 and SO4 and Pb and SO4 respectively. That is, the sulphur always remains combined with four parts of oxygen.

Let us now consider a single storage cell made up of electrolyte, one positive plate, and one negative plate. When this cell is fully charged, or in a condition to produce a current of electricity, the positive plate is made up of peroxide of lead (PbO2), the negative plate of pure lead (Pb), and the electrolyte of dilute sulphuric acid (H 2SO4). This is shown diagrammatically in Fig. 19. The chemical changes that take place when the cell is discharging and the final result of the changes are as follows:

(a). At the Positive Plate: Lead peroxide and sulphuric acid produce lead sulphate, water, and oxygen, or:

[Image] Formula (a). PbO2 + H2SO4 = PbSO4 + H20 + 0

(b). At the Negative Plate: Lead and sulphuric acid produce lead sulphate and Hydrogen, or:

[Image] Formula (b). Pb + H2SO4 = PbSO4 + H2

[Fig. 20 Chemical Reaction in a Storage Cell during Discharge]

The oxygen of equation (a) and the hydrogen of equation (b) combine to form water, as may be shown by adding these two equations, giving one equation for the entire discharge action:

[Image] Formula (c). PbO2 + Pb + 2H2SO4 = 2PbSO4 + 2H2O

In this equation we start with the active materials and electrolyte in their original condition, and finish with the lead sulphate and water, which are the final products of a discharge. Examining this equation, we see that the sulphuric acid of the electrolyte is used up in forming lead sulphate on both positive and negative plates, and is therefore removed from the electrolyte. This gives us the easily remembered rule for remembering discharge actions, which, though open to question from a strictly scientific viewpoint, is nevertheless convenient:

During discharge the acid goes into the plates.

The chemical changes described in (a), (b), and (c) are not instantaneous. That is, the lead, lead peroxide, and sulphuric acid of the fully charged cell are not changed into lead sulphate and water as soon as a current begins to pass through the cell. This action is a gradual one, small portions of these substances being changed at a time. The greater the current that flows through the cell, the faster will the changes occur. Theoretically, the changes will continue to take place as long as any lead, lead peroxide, and sulphuric acid remain. The faster these are changed into lead sulphate and water, the shorter will be the time that the storage cell can furnish a current, or the sooner it will be discharged.

Taking the cell in its discharged condition, let us now connect the cell to a generator and send current through the cell from the positive to the negative plates. This is called "charging" the cell. The lead sulphate and water will now gradually be changed back into lead, lead peroxide, and sulphuric acid. The lead sulphate which is on the negative plate is changed to pure lead; the lead sulphate on the positive plate is changed to lead peroxide, and sulphuric acid will be added to the water. The changes at the positive plate may be represented as follows:

Lead sulphate and water produce sulphuric acid, hydrogen and lead peroxide, or:

[Image] Formula (d). PbSO4 + 2H2O = PbO2 + H2SO4 + H2

The changes at the negative plate may be expressed as follows: Lead sulphate and water produced sulphuric acid, oxygen, and lead, or:

[Image] Formula (e). PbSO4 + H2o = Pb + H2SO4 + O

The hydrogen (H2) produced at the positive plate, and the oxygen (0) produced at the negative plate unite to form water, as may be shown by the equation:

[Image] Formula (f). 2PbSO4 + 2H2O = PbO2 + Pb + 2H2SO4

Equation (f) starts with lead sulphate and water, which, as shown in equation (c), are produced when a battery is discharged. It will be observed that we start with lead sulphate and water. Discharged plates may therefore be charged in water. In fact, badly discharged negatives may be charged better in water than in electrolyte. The electrolyte is poured out of the battery and distilled water poured in. The acid remaining on the separators and plates is sufficient to make the water conduct the charging current.

In equation (f), the sulphate on the plates combines with water to form sulphuric acid. This gives us the rule:

During charge, acid is driven out of the plates.

This rule is a convenient one, but, of course, is not a strictly correct statement.

The changes produced by sending a current through the cell are also gradual, and will take place faster as the current is made greater. When all the lead sulphate has been used up by the chemical changes caused by the current, no further charging can take place. If we continue to send a current through the cell after it is fully charged, the water will continue to be split up into hydrogen and oxygen. Since, however, there is no more lead sulphate left with which the hydrogen and oxygen can combine to form lead, lead peroxide, and sulphuric acid, the hydrogen and oxygen rise to the surface of the electrolyte and escape from the cell. This is known as "gassing", and is an indication that the cell is fully charged.

Relations Between Chemical Actions and Electricity.

We know now that chemical actions in the battery produce electricity and that, on the other hand, an electric current, sent through the battery from an outside source, such as a generator, produces chemical changes in the battery. How are chemical changes and electricity related? The various chemical elements which we have in a battery are supposed to carry small charges of electricity, which, however, ordinarily neutralize one another. When a cell is discharging, however, the electrolyte, water, and active materials are separated into parts carrying negative and positive charges, and these "charges" cause what we call an electric current to flow in the apparatus attached to the battery.

Similarly, when a battery is charged, the charging current produces electrical "charges" which cause the substances in the battery to unite, due to the attraction of position and negative charges for one another. This is a brief, rough statement of the relations between chemical reactions and electricity in a battery. A more thorough study of the subject would be out of place in this book. It is sufficient for the repairman to remember that the substances in a battery carry charges of electricity which become available as an electric current when a battery discharges, and that a charging current causes electric charges to form, thereby "charging" the battery.



Considered chemically, the discharge of a storage battery consists of the changing of the spongy lead and lead peroxide into lead sulphate, and the abstraction of the acid from the electrolyte. Considered electrically, the changes are more complex, and require further investigation. The voltage, internal resistance, rate of discharge, capacity, and other features must be considered, and the effects of changes in one upon the others must be studied. This proceeding is simplified considerably if we consider each point separately. The abstraction of the acid from the electrolyte gives us a method of determining the condition of charge or discharge in the battery, and must also be studied.

[Fig. 21 Graph: voltage changes at end and after charge]

Voltage Changes During Discharge. At the end of a charge, and before opening the charging circuit, the voltage of each cell is about 2.5 to 2.7 volts. As soon as the charging circuit is opened, the cell voltage drops rapidly to about 2.1 volts, within three or four minutes. This is due to the formation of a thin layer of lead sulphate on the surface of the negative plate and between the lead peroxide and the metal of the positive plate. Fig. 21 shows how the voltage changes during the last eight minutes of charge, and how it drops rapidly as soon as the charging circuit is opened. The final value of the voltage after the charging circuit is opened is about 2.15-2.18 volts. This is more fully explained in Chapter 6. If a current is drawn from the battery at the instant the charge is stopped, this drop is more rapid. At the beginning of the discharge the voltage has already had a rapid drop from the final voltage on charge, due to the formation of sulphate as explained above. When a current is being drawn from the battery, the sudden drop is due to the internal resistance of the cell, the formation of more sulphate, and the abstracting of the acid from the electrolyte which fills the pores of the plate. The density of this acid is high just before the discharge is begun. It is diluted rapidly at first, but a balanced condition is reached between the density of the acid in the plates and in the main body of the electrolyte, the acid supply in the plates being maintained at a lowered density by fresh acid flowing into them from the main body of electrolyte. After the initial drop, the voltage decreases more slowly, the rate of decrease depending on the amount of current drawn from the battery. The entire process is shown in Fig. 22.

[Fig. 22 Graph: voltage changes during discharge]

Lead sulphate is being formed on the surfaces, and in the body of the plates. This sulphate has a higher resistance than the lead or lead peroxide, and the internal resistance of the cell rises, and contributes to the drop in voltage. As this sulphate forms in the body of the plates, the acid is used up. At first this acid is easily replaced from the main body of the electrolyte by diffusion. The acid in the main body of the electrolyte is at first comparatively strong, or concentrated, causing a fresh supply of acid to flow into the plates as fast as it is used up in the plates. This results in the acid in the electrolyte growing weaker, and this, in turn, leads to a constant decrease in the rate at which the fresh acid flows, or diffuses into the plates. Furthermore, the sulphate, which is more bulky than the lead or lead peroxide fills the pores in the plate, making it more and more difficult for acid to reach the interior of the plate. This increases the rate at which the voltage drops.

The sulphate has another effect. It forms a cover over the active material which has not been acted upon, and makes it practically useless, since the acid is almost unable to penetrate the coating of sulphate. We thus have quantities of active material which are entirely enclosed in sulphate, thereby cutting down the amount of energy which can be taken from the battery. Thus the formation of sulphate throughout each plate and the abstraction of acid from the electrolyte cause the voltage to drop at a constantly increasing rate.

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