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Fairly straightforward question, would I be able to charge my car battery with a DC power supply that outputs 12V 2.5A? I know real car battery chargers put out 12V 10A. Would it just take 5 times longer?

  • Depends on the charger, but most chargers (including the one I use) has a "slow charge rate" of ~2A. Your 2.5A is below that ... Thing to think about, though, is most chargers actually charge at a higher voltage, more like 14.5VDC @ 2/10/50A (three different settings). If your charger is only outputting 12VDC, it may never effectively charge the battery (this is just my understanding, I could be wrong, thus the comment instead of an answer). You aren't going to hurt anything but the charger by trying this operation. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Sep 4 '17 at 19:22
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    As per paulster2 , try it but make sure you fit a fuse... – Solar Mike Sep 4 '17 at 19:36
  • I ended up using a neighbors car charger, but I am still curious about an answer. – Keltari Sep 5 '17 at 3:49
  • So, try it...... – Solar Mike Sep 5 '17 at 14:47
  • @Paulster2 is right, a 12volt supply will only bring the battery up to 12v, which is actually quite a low charge state. In a pinch it might be barely enough to start the engine and let the alternator finish the job. Should also note a "12V" supply depending on quality could be pretty far off from what it says. – agentp Sep 5 '17 at 18:54
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No.

If your power supply is well-regulated (with linear regulators or switched mode power supply), so that it outputs 12V at all load levels, the voltage is way too low. Common float charging voltages that can be left indefinitely on are 13.5V - 13.8V. Fast charge occurs at voltages of about 14.5V, but then you need the ability to stop the fast charge and switch to float charge once the low current indicates the charging is done.

A lead-acid battery with resting voltage below 12.6V will not have a full charge. At 12V, it is nearly empty! And lead-acid doesn't like being empty for especially for extended periods of time. An empty lead-acid battery will permanently sulfate, meaning it will no longer work properly.

If, on the other hand, your power supply is not regulated (just a transformer, rectifier and capacitor), the fact that it says 12V will mean it will be probably way over 15V at low current demands. This means the charger will convert water into hydrogen and oxygen via electrolysis slowly. This leads to water loss in the battery. Many new batteries do not have the possibility of adding distilled water, so this is a good way to destroy your battery. Many of these batteries have the possibility to recombine hydrogen and oxygen back to water (maintenance free battery), but the rate at which this can be done is very very slow, and your charger will very surely exceed this rate, if it's unregulated.

So, no matter whether your power supply is regulated or unregulated, charging a battery with it is a bad idea, but the reason for it being a bad idea are different in different cases.

To see if your power supply is regulated, measure it with a multimeter. Regulated ones measure the exact nominal voltage, unregulated ones with no load measure much higher voltages than the nominal voltage. You can also judge by the weight whether there's a heavy iron core transformer inside; if not, it is probably a switched-mode power supply which means it's regulated.

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