In The Shop: Battery Testers That Test You

Published on: 19:15PM Mar 30, 2011

 For the March issue of Farm Journal Magazine I wrote a story about the new generation of economical, lightweight and very versatile digital battery testers. I covered digital battery testers and mini-load digital battery testers and compared them to conventional carbon pile battery testers. 

One thing I forgot to mention in the story is that digital battery testers are somewhat more complicated to use than old-school battery testers. To use old-style testers, you attached the leads to the battery and either read the result directly off a dial on the tester, or maybe twisted a dial on the tester before reading those results. 

On the new digital testers, once you attach the tester's clamps to the battery's terminal, a digital display screen lights up and the user has to push a sequence of buttons to tell the tester if it's a 6- or 12-volt battery; if it's a flooded cell, AGM or other style of battery; what the battery's cold cranking amp (CCA) capactiy is, and possibly a few more factoids--before the final push of a button tells the user whether battery is "good" or "bad."

The first, second, and third time I used a digital battery tester I had to read, then re-read the instructions. By the fourth time, I had the routine figured out, had some of the inputs pre-programmed, and testing batteries became a 15-seconds-and-done deal. But I admit that if I didn't use my tester regularly, I'd have a hard time memorizing the button-pushing routine, and would have to keep the owner's manual handy.

If you're computer/technology savvy enough to use a computer and read this blog, it will be no big deal to figure out a digital battery tester. But if you're like me and have to work at figuring out high-tech gadgets--sometimes have to read the owner's manual several times to figure out how to even turn them on--then digital battery testers are one more gizmo that you'll cuss the first time you use it, but love once you figure it out.