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Recondition car batteries

Dead or Just Mostly Dead?

It Starts with Your Battery 

Dead or weak car batteries can be more than just annoying.  Being stranded by a dead battery in the wrong part of town can be be downright dangerous.  So learning to recondition car batteries can be a useful skill.

But just because your old battery is growing weaker doesn’t necessarily mean you need to replace it or sell your junk car to us you could just fix it your self.  Many older batteries still have plenty of life left in them, if you know how to find it.  Restoring an old battery can be a much better solution than buying a new one.

Why Lead Acid Batteries Weaken

Car batteries rely on lead electrodes suspended in a strong solution of  acid to produce a electrical charge.  This formula has been used to make batteries for over 150 years.

Lead acid batteries rely on concentrated sulfuric acid to provide the positive charge that produces the flow of electrons that powers our automobile electrical systems. Lead and lead oxide plates provide the electrons that are pulled through the positive and negative terminals on the battery.

The fact that the flow is reversible is the key to the success of battery design, because by adding electricity back into the battery, we can restore its charge.  And since the acid and the lead plates are relatively content to sit quietly during periods when there is neither a change nor a discharge, lead acid batteries store their power for a long time, as much as two years or more with no activity.

When your battery won’t fully recharge, the likely culprit is an accumulation of sulfate on the lead electrodes which forms a shield that keeps the electrons from flowing between the electrodes.  Sulfate is a compound of sulfur and oxygen, and forms from the sulfur in the acid.

Sulfate coatings on lead electrodes has the effect of reducing the concentration of hydrogen ions in the acid solution, which also reduces he amount of lead that can react with the hydrogen ions to produce the flow of electrons.  This process is called sulfation, and will eventually weaken all lead acid batteries to the point that they can no longer produce enough power to start an engine.

The good news is that the process is often reversible, meaning that a lead acid battery that was otherwise useless can be restored to it’s former strength.

Reconditioning Car Batteries

Testing a Car Battery

Desulfating a Dead Battery 

Since sulfating causes batteries to weaken, you won’t be surprised to learn that desulfating is the key to restoring them.  It’s a process you can do at home, although it’s not without a few risks.  Be sure to read the disclaimer at the end of this article before you decide to tackle it.  You’ll need proper protective gear, including safety glasses.

You will need a few items in order to desulfate a battery:

  1. Battery post cleaner.
  2. Battery load tester and/or a multimeter.
  3. Battery charger or better yet a desulfating battery charger.
  4. Funnel.
  5. Epsom salts.
  6. Distilled water.

Step 1. Begin by inspecting the battery.  If the case is swollen or cracked, or the terminals are loose or wobbly, the battery can’t be reconditioned.  Use extra caution when you remove it, because it may leak acid that will damage your clothes, skin, and just about every other surface that it touches.  Recycle it by exchanging it with the store from which you purchase your replacement battery.

Step 2.  If the battery is does not appear to have damage, disconnect the cables from the battery terminals, and use the post cleaner to thoroughly clean both the positive and negative battery terminals.

Step 3. Once the terminals are clean, remove the caps from the cells, and check the fluid levels.  If they’re low, add distilled water to each cell that needs it.  Don’t use tap water.  Now, use the charger to recharge the battery.  The charger’s instructions will tell you how long to leave it connected.  Remember that the battery will be producing explosive gases during charging, so eliminate all sources of spark or flame, and make sure that the charger is off or unplugged when connecting or disconnecting it to or from the battery terminals since it may spark if it’s on.

Step 4.  Connect the positive (red) cable from the multimeter or the load tester to the positive terminal on the battery, and the negative (black) cable to the negative terminal on the battery.  If you’re using a load tester, make sure it’s not in load testing mode.  If the voltage is greater than 12.0 volts, you should be able to recondition the battery.  If it’s below 12.0 volts, the battery likely has a bad cell and you may not be able to recondition the battery.

Step 5.  You can skip this step if you don’t have a load tester.  If you do, switch it to load test mode, and follow the meter’s instructions to test the battery under a load.  If you find that the the voltage under a load is 6.1 volts or less, you probably won’t be able to recondition the battery.  This is a more accurate test than the multimeter by itself.

Step 6.  Use your desulfating charger to apply an equalizing charge to the battery.   Follow the charger’s instructions, and then retest the battery either with the load tester, as you did in step 5, or with the multimeter.  If the voltage has not risen from the original test, go to step 7.  If you don’t have a desulfating charger, you can skip step 6 and go right to step 7.

Step 7.  Heat 1/2 quart of water to 150 degrees, and dissolve 8 ounces epsom salts in the water.  Remove a 1/2 quart of fluid from the battery, making sure that you remove an equal volume from each cell.  This can be done with a baster or battery hydrometer.  Replace the fluid with the dissolved epsom salts, again being careful to place equal volumes in each cell.  Charge the battery again, and repeat either the load or multimeter test.  If the voltage is above 12.3 volts, you’re battery is now likely reconditioned and should give you several more months or years of service.  If it’s less than 12.3 volts, you should replace the battery.

Batteries that can’t be reconditioned must be recycled by qualified recyclers since they contain hazardous substances.  Because it’s always better to reuse than to recycle, by reconditioning your old car batteries, you’re helping to reduce waste and environmental damage.

Hopefully, you’ll save some money at the same time.

Disclaimer

Lots of us love to save money by doing things ourselves.  We treasure the independence that self-reliance gives us, and we will tackle any DIY project fearlessly, confident that we’ll learn what we need to as the project unfolds.

I’ll be the last person to discourage you from being self-reliant, but It’s important for you to understand that working with lead acid batteries can be dangerous.  It is not within the scope of this article to warn you about every risk that you might face when you’re reconditioning an old battery, so make sure that you understand the risks before proceeding.

Lead acid batteries obviously contain acid.  Handling acid imprudently can lead to disfiguring burns, blindness, and even death.  Disposing of it improperly can damage the environment or plumbing systems.

Automobile batteries also produce hydrogen gas when they’re charging, which can explode and ignite fires.  And even though direct current may not shock you, there are at least a few mechanics that are missing ring fingers because they wedged their wedding rings between positive and negative terminalsH.

Unless you have a good working knowledge of basic chemistry and electricity, you should not attempt to recondition your own batteries.  Working with caustic, explosive, and high energy systems that you don’t understand is a good way to win a Darwin Award.  If you’re not familiar with them, all you really need to know is that they’re awarded posthumously, which means after you’re dead.  Don’t get one.

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Auto Salvage

 

When the Wheels Stop

“Speed never killed anyone.  Suddenly becoming stationary, that’s what gets you.” – Jeremy Clarkson

If your vehicle has suddenly, or even gradually,  become stationary, you may be facing some tough choices.  Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. Fred’s Auto Removal is a Cash for Car Buying Company located on the border of Portland and Gresham Oregon.

First,  keep in mind that cars and their owners were not meant for monogamy.  When the time comes to move on, you can and should walk away with no guilt.  In fact, if you’ve got a family or a significant other that relies on you for transportation, pulling the plug on a failed automotive relationship may be the only responsible choice.

Second, when you replace an older vehicle, you have the comfort of  knowing that your next one will almost certainly last longer and be more reliable.  The auto industry has made some impressive improvements in the last decade, including building cars with amazing longevity.  Most makes and models are now designed to last for up to 250,000 miles.  Thanks to more durable parts and designs, the average age of cars and trucks on US highways is now 11.5 years.

Third, don’t beat yourself up over the demise of your older vehicle.   You’ve been through a lot of miles together, but it’s not your fault that you’ve survived them better than your vehicle has.  American’s average commutes are longer and more frustrating than ever.  And commuter miles driven by and among frustrated drivers can be brutally hard on any mechanical system.

Fourth, you need to remember that as a vehicle’s life span comes to an end, the costs of keeping it on the road may be far higher than replacing it.  The stress and anxiety of driving an unreliable car can take years off your life.  And if your car suddenly become stationary in the middle of I-5 on a dark, stormy night, it may take more than that.

The end almost always comes before we’re ready to face it.  But if you’ve got an older vehicle that rolled to a stop just when you needed it to keep going, it’s time to cut your losses, and put yourself behind the wheel of a newer, more durable model.

Call us locally in Portland/Gresham at 503-810-3061 or use our toll free number 1-877-818-3824 if your looking to take advantage of Fred’s Nationwide Service.  We’ll not only arrange to give you cash for your car or truck, we’ll also handle the towing.  You can fill out the form on the right side of this page to quickly find out how much your car or truck is worth.  We’ll get you the best price that the market allows, and pay you in cash. We pay cash for cars locally in Portland, Gresham, Beaverton, or check out our entire local service area.

Automobile recycling is humane and environmentally responsible.  It reduces our carbon footprint which helps forestall climate change.  Unfortunately, it’s also an industry that’s under serious economic pressure.  Read on to learn more.

Recycling Symbol

Responsible Recycling

Before we recycle a vehicle, we make every effort to remove and reuse as many serviceable parts as possible.  The concept that it’s better and cheaper to reuse something than it is to melt it down and make a new one is not as obvious as it should be, partly because we’ve been conditioned to believe that recycling is one of the highest goals to which a responsible human can aspire.

At Fred’s Auto Removal, we’d rather re-use your vehicle or it’s vital organs than to recycle them, if at all possible.  We like cars, especially the muscle cars of the ‘60s and ‘70s and we work hard to find ways to save them from the finality of an automobile shredder.

Once we’ve saved all the usable parts from a car or truck, we send it on to the next phase of recycling.  Automobile recycling is painless, efficient, and moral, although it does involve reducing the car to pieces that are small enough to be re-melted at a steel mill or non-ferrous smelter.

We are passionate about the environment.   We not only believe that sensible reuse and recycling are vital responsibilities for all of us, we are working daily to put that philosophy into practice.

Nonetheless, not all recycling is environmentally responsible or economically viable.  That may be a shocking statement in some circles, but experts tell us that some recycling programs actually cause more environmental harm than they prevent.  Many recycled materials, including glass and some plastics, might actually have a smaller environmental footprint if they were discarded and replaced using raw materials.

Metals, including automobiles, are the notable exception.  It’s not because of environmental zeal or legislative initiatives that humans have been recycling metal since the start of the Bronze Age.  It’s because it’s much easier and cheaper to produce new metal products from old metal products than it is to dig up and refine the ore from which the old metal products were made.  That’s becoming increasingly true as it gets harder to dig and refine ore due to scarcity and regulation.  More importantly, the impact on the environment from a well-run scrap recycling program is far less than that caused by mining and refining.

In fact, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recycling scrap metal saves:

  • 75% of the energy that would be used to produce new steel from iron ore
  • 90% of raw materials
  • 80% of the air pollution caused by refining raw ore
  • 105% reduction in consumer wastes
  • 40% of the water used in refining ore
  • 76% of the water pollution caused by mining and refining
  • 97% of the wastes produced by mining

Taken together, the environmental benefits of automobile recycling are enormous.  Auto recycling is also economically viable, so there’s no need to create “bottle bill” style programs to encourage or promote it.  Metal recycling is sensible and an important part of our economy.  So when it comes time to part with a stationary vehicle, you can take pride in contributing to this vital green industry.

 

Dollar symbol

Factors that Affect the Value of Your Old Vehicle

Nothing eases the pain of parting with your old car like a few bucks in your pocket.  That’s why we saved this part for last.

If your car or its parts have value to collectors, it will bring the highest price.  Market forces make this determination.  We have a great network of classic car buyers that are always in the market for Muscle Cars and or particular makes and models, along with the parts that keep them running.  We always do our best to get you a great price for your car, but if it doesn’t contain many serviceable parts, or it’s a make and model that is not in demand by collectors, the amount we can offer you will be lower.

Unfortunately, as we pointed out earlier, the automobile recycling industry has been under considerable pressure due to a number of factors that are far beyond our local control.

Scrap metal is an essential raw material that actually has national security fill an important role in the economy.  Like most raw materials, scrap metal, whether it’s in the form of discarded automobiles or white goods like household appliances, requires processing to make it useful for steel mills and non-ferrous smelters.  And like many industries in the west, much of the cost of processing is driven by regulations.

Compliance costs for automobile and scrap processing facilities account for a significant portion of our operating expenses.  This has the effect of increasing the price of processed steel and other metals while reducing prices paid for unprocessed cars and other discarded metals.  Legislation and the resulting regulations that it produces are growing each year.  And since they’re generated at local, state, and federal levels, the complexity of compliance increases annually, and so does the cost.

If that weren’t enough to drive the prices that scrap metal processors can pay for car bodies and other scrap, the economic crisis that was spawned by the near collapse of several major banks in 2008 has continued to ripple through the economy.  Those ripples have turned into heavy turbulence for the steel industry, which is one of the parents of the automobile recycling sector.

Source: American Iron and Steel institute

Source: American Iron and Steel institute

The pie chart above shows that 40% of steel produced in the US is used in construction, while 26% is used in the production of new automobiles, and 10% is used by both the energy sector and by heavy equipment manufacturers.  When the demand for steel products is strong, the demand for scrap is strong, and prices for both are high.

We’re currently in a period of weak demand for steel products.  Energy companies primarily use steel for oil and gas exploration and production.  The collapse last year of oil prices has dramatically reduced domestic oil exploration, along with the construction of new production facilities, which further reduced demand for steel.

Most steel used in construction is associated with commercial projects, including skyscrapers and industrial centers, along with public works projects.  While government “stimulus” spending has helped to boost public works, the rest of the construction sector has been soft.

Competition from China, Mexico, India and other foreign steel producers has forced US scrap prices even lower.  The role that global and regional international trade agreements have played in weakening demand for US made steel products is still a topic of rancorous debate.  Still, even the most ardent supporters of globalization recognize that most of our trade agreements have at the very least not encouraged higher prices for steel and other commodities.

The final element that’s keeping prices low is a global economic downturn that is producing lower demand and lower prices for many commodities including agricultural products, precious metals, steel, and oil.

To give you an idea of how dramatically prices have dropped in just the past two years, shredded steel scrap, which includes automobiles, has dropped from a bout $400 per ton to around $200 per ton.  This painful price drop has led to about 14% few cars being scrapped in 2016.  

Because there are so many converging factors keeping scrap prices low, their not likely to rise dramatically in the near term, unless some unforeseen demand for steel arises out of a war or natural disaster.

The good news is that while you may get less money for your old vehicle, this is turning out to be a good time to buy either a new or used one.  Demand for new cars has dropped, so manufacturers and car dealers are responding with lower interest rates, easier credit policies, and lower prices on both new and used vehicles.  While you may make less on a trade in or by recycling your old car for cash, you may well save much more than you would make if scrap prices were higher.

Reliable transportation is a fundamental need, and recycling vehicles that have outlived their usefulness is clean, patriotic, and environmentally friendly. Did I mention Fred’s also buys wrecked cars straight from Insurance Companies?

Conclusion

When it’s time to get rid of your old car or truck, contact Fred’s Auto Removal.  We’ll cover the cost of towing, and pay you cash.  Since we’re not running for office, you won’t have to listen to a single campaign promise, and we won’t break any.  Why would you go anywhere else? We have buyers for all year, makes, and models anywhere in Portland Oregon and Surrounding Areas. We buy Diesel Trucks, Subarus, Toyotas, Hondas, BMW’s, Mercedes, Lexus, Acuras, Audi, Nissan, Mazdas, Volkswagen, Lamborghini’s, Ferrari, & Classic Mopars in any condition running, wrecked, salvaged, damaged, or junk. We pay the most for Classic Cars, Vintage Cars, Muscle Cars, and Cars and Trucks that are 2005 and newer wrecked or damaged.

 

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