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Old School, Old tool. Still gets the job done!
Jan 6, 2008 (Updated Jan 6, 2008)
Review by toolguy1963
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Durable, accurate, inexpensive, nice chrome steel finish
Cons:Have to do the math, takes practice to get good with it
The Bottom Line: For the price this tester can't be beat. Once you figure out electrical systems there is a lot you can do with this. Every wrench turner should have one.
As automobiles become more equipment laden electrical it becomes imperitive the battery condition be at peak performance. Iv seen no-start or inoperative system problems with just tenths of a volt difference from normal specification. Granted most of these could be tracked to voltage drop or bad ground loop problems but there is always that first step of determining whether the battery is charged and if it has the capacity to crank the car.
Recommend this product?
Enter the shunt grid load tester. A simple instrument that has been around as long as cars and car batteries. This particular configuration popped up probably as long ago as the 1950s. I bought mine in the 70s and they still build them today. There are certainly more accurate, more expensive and better looking tools on the market, but the old steel cased, basic cross pole voltage and load test unit can still find a place on any mechanics pro or backyard wall, tool box or service truck.
This particular unit can be used on either six or twelve volt systems. The six volt rating kind of indicates that it has been around for a long time. I think the last of the big three six volt systems went out in the mid fifties. The unit uses a very dependable DArsonval analog voltmeter with a zero adjust for accurate readings. The meter itself is sectioned off into color-coded levels in both the twelve and six volt range. You also get prompt readings on the color codes for bad, good and charging. That way you can also read the voltage and know if youre in the proper range for battery cross pole and charging. With the number range you can also use the tester for cranking voltage and measure it against the 100 Amp draw that the unit produces when activated. This gives you an idea whether your starter is bad or the battery is bad.
I say gives you an idea because the tester only draws at a set one hundred amps. Many starting systems and batteries have a much higher capacity than this. Others are lower capacity so using the tester often on good as well as bad systems will allow you to get pretty decent ballpark estimates. I find its just about spot-on for vehicles with smaller engines with lower draw cranking systems. For older cars with big V-8s you may need to do a couple of consecutive load tests to determine whether or not youre getting good draw and rebound.
Using the tester is straight forward. Connect the positive clamp indicated by the plus sign and red handle insulation to the positive battery terminal. Then attach the negative clamp indicated by a minus and black handle insulation to the negative battery terminal. Read the volt meter noting whether you have a six or twelve volt battery. The meter should read 12.6 volts for a good battery. The tester will indicate Good and the needle should be resting in the yellow zone. If its in the red, charge the battery before proceeding.
To load test the battery push the spring loaded switch to the right and hold for fifteen seconds. The volt meter should not drop below 9.6 volts and when the switch is released the battery should rebound to above twelve volts within a couple of seconds. If the drop is below 9.6 volts and the rebound is slow or not adequate, then the battery is weak or bad.
Cranking test; once the above test has been performed, the tester can be used to check the starter. Crank the engine over while watching the gauge. This could be difficult since the 14 gage cable leads are only twelve inches long. It may be best to recruit some help. With the engine cranking, note the difference between the load and cranking voltage drop. If the cranking voltage is significantly greater, bringing the battery down below 9.6 volts for example, then you can probably bet you have a bad starter cable, bad starter or bad ground. Time for some voltage drop tests!
Once the vehicle starts pay attention to the volt meter again. Does it jump up to around 14 volts and is it in the green zone? That would indicate good charging. If it hovers back down around 12 volts then the alternator is probably not charging. The same tests can also be done on the six volt scale but I wont throw those values out there now.
Obviously most of these tests except load which is very important for battery condition and to get a baseline can be done with a common voltmeter. The advantages to this unit are its low price for a very good analog voltmeter with zero adjust. Load test capability of course. A heavy-duty unit packed into a fairly portable case with a nice old school chrome look finish to it.
Drawbacks to the tester are that its more time consuming to use than say a modern Midtronics tester. You may need to have a battery charger near by to bring battery level up. You also have to do the math, and youre fixed to one draw rating so you have to make calculated estimates based on experience with the unit. Newer digital electronic testers get by this and do it quickly with no brain work.
Overall for the low price, durability, and gauge accuracy, this unit is hard to beat. Thats probably why theyve sold so many of these exact same testers for so many years and continue to do so today. You can find them in about any autoparts, hardware or tool suppliers catalog. Good buy for the money.
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