battery drain

Don’t Blame Your GPS Tracker for Your Fleet’s Battery Drain

Between the COVID-19 pandemic and typical season changes in use, some fleet vehicles have been sitting unused for months and suffering from battery drain. Your employees might be finding out the hard way that those vehicles’ batteries are dead.

Good news, though: Your GPS tracking units are not to blame for the dead batteries.

What Typically Drains Batteries?

There’s no shortage of causes for battery drain.

But some of those involve wear and tear. That’s entirely different from a vehicle parked in good condition that just refuses to start a few months later.

Chances are, it’s not anything like a bad alternator or faulty battery cables (those should be further down the list of possible culprits).

When vehicles sit, the battery is still powering things like the radio, clock, alarm, and other systems; newer vehicles have even more electronics that require energy.

Starting the vehicle and driving recharges the battery, so these electron-hungry systems don’t present a problem. Vehicles that sit for extended periods, though, don’t get to recharge. Factor in hot weather if the vehicles are sitting all summer (heat reduces battery life, as any Arizona driver will tell you) and you have a recipe for dead batteries.

battery drain

What’s the Best Way to Prevent Dead Batteries?

There are a few different methods to keep your idle vehicles’ batteries charged and ready.

  • Disconnect the batteries – This is a sure way to prevent electrical systems from guzzling battery power. There’s a downside, though: Your employees will have to reset the clocks and radios. It could also be a time-consuming operation. Battery disconnect switches are also an option, which could be added during a vehicle’s next scheduled maintenance.
  • Start and run the engines weekly – This is a difficult proposition. Many businesses are still short of on-site staff members, and this could take a lot of time. Simply starting is better than leaving the vehicles sit. But driving vehicles does a far better job restoring batteries’ state of charge.
  • Keep Your Fleet’s Batteries Charged – There are a few other ways to keep batteries charged. If you have the staff and time (and who has all the employees and time they’d like?), your team can charge the vehicles monthly. There’s also the more-efficient option of using a trickle charger. That also comes with a caveat: Some trickle chargers don’t turn off by themselves, which means you could wind up overcharging your batteries. You’d also need to find outlets to plug them all in, which could be challenging. An alternative would be using solar trickle chargers, which would provide power without raising your utility bill.
  • Set up a Low Battery Voltage Alert – More than 50% of commercial and government fleets are already using a solution that might help stop dead batteries: their GPS tracking devices. Many GPS trackers can alert management of failing batteries. GPS Insight clients can set up a report that alerts them if a vehicle’s battery drops below 11.9 volts for 30 minutes or more.

Battery Drain? It’s Not Just Your GPS Tracker

With more than 50% of fleet vehicles using GPS trackers, it’s easy to see how fleet managers might think of all the potential sources of battery drain. Understandably, they might think the GPS tracker might be at fault.

The fact is, though, that any modern vehicle sitting for a month or more will likely experience battery drain, regardless of whether it’s equipped with a GPS tracker. Radios, clocks, alarms, and GPS trackers all pull energy from the battery, ranging from 1 mAh for a clock to as much as 20 mAh hours for a GPS unit in sleep mode (all of these numbers vary by the vehicle type and GPS unit, though).

A GPS tracker may draw more current — but without preventative measures, a vehicle without one will still drain its battery over time.

We recommend deciding which of these solutions – disconnecting the batteries, starting the vehicles regularly, or using trickle chargers – makes the most sense for your fleet.

While situations like COVID-19 are rare, crafting a plan to care for vehicles that sit for a long time unused is a smart plan to ensure that they’re ready to go when you need them. Vehicles like snowplows are a great example: You know they’ll sit in the summer months, so take a few preventative steps to ensure that battery drain doesn’t stop them from being ready to go.