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Battery Charger or Battery Maintainer?

I have a car that gets minimal usage (child at college, care at home). The battery keeps dying, as the accessories drain it with no usage. I was looking into buying a battery charger (about $50) and noticed that we could get a “battery maintainer” for about $20. Which should I do?

Thanks, George

A trickle charger a.k.a. a battery maintainer should do the job. If the car is outside, you could even consider a solar-powered unit. However, what kind of time frame are we talking about? A battery in good shape without any excessive parasitic load, should be able to maintain enough charge for at least several weeks.

A large battery tender (or maintainer as you call it) would be best for your needs and will keep the battery healthy. I recommend them for anyone with a motorcycle or car that is inactive for long periods. I find Deltran brand products to be top notch:

The battery maintainer is more suited to your purpose. All you have to do is remember to use it.

The charger is more versatile. You can even use it as a maintainer. And if the battery ever runs down for any reason (you left a door open overnight) the charger will get you going in about 30 minutes while the maintainer is of little value to you in this case.

Also - your neighbors who have riding mowers would prefer you have a battery charger.

Off and on, it could be a few months at a time. with the battery maintainer, does it need to be plugged-in the whole time?

If we’re talking months, I’d suggest using gas stabilizer if you aren’t already.

You could hook it after a few weeks, but the problem is remembering to do so!

In the well-stocked DIY garage it’s always nice to have a battery charger. For the vehicle that sits between drives the battery maintainer will allow you to hop in and go. Mine is a 1979 chevy short stepside with grand total original miles of 69871. For it I use the solar trickle charger that plugs into the lighter socket and sometimes, say six months between drives, it’s not quite enough and I have to get out the charger or jump it. I’ve been wondering about getting something more high tech but have not yet.

Thanks everyone for your comments. I still can see benefits to both, but am leaning toward getting a charger.

A good way to use a battery charger as a battery maintainer is to plug it into a 24 hour light timer. Fifteen minutes a day should keep it fully charged.

Yes, it should be plugged in the whole time. Trickle chargers like this are usually pretty smart. They can adjust power to compensate for the battery’s needs.