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Old 05-08-2021, 06:34 AM   #1
caphair
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Default Harbor Freight car battery chargers any good?

I was gifted a $50 HF gift card and could use a battery charger. Just not sure if the HF brands are any good.

Anyone bought/use any they can recommend?

Out of their selection and reviews was contemplating this one:
https://www.harborfreight.com/automo...ner-63350.html
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Old 05-08-2021, 07:10 AM   #2
televizora
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Default Re: Harbor Freight car battery chargers any good?

This is generic charger, sold under many different names. Many stores sell them under different brands, including Lidl, Praktiker and etc. They are SMPS based chargers with control electronics.
I have similar one. Their disadvantage is that if the battery is heavily discharged, the charger will refuse to charge it. Because of the automatic 6/12V sense. This means that if you have 12v battery, which was drained because of leakage currents in your car to 5-6-7V, the charger will refuse to charge it, because it doesn't know whether it is heavily discharged 12V battery of fully charged 6V battery. Not to mention that this is also done in order for the end users not to try to charge damaged batteries, which can lead to even explosion of the battery,
There is way around this. Just use 12V PSU from some device. Connect the charger, then connect the PSU to the terminals of the battery/while observing the correct polarity/ and then you can trick the charger to start charging. After it has started charging, it will not perform the start charging check again and will charge even completely depleted battery. Use this way around only if you are sure that you have a known good, but depleted battery. Charging damaged, deformed or leaking batteries is not a good idea.
Also, if your battery is worn out and just cant get to the maximum cell voltage, the charger WILL try to charge it to the maximum voltage no matter what. This can lead to acid inside the cells starting to boil, which means that hydrogen is released, which is bad. Also, the battery will heat up. As with all chargers that have shut off when the battery is fully charged, you can't rely on this feature and charge the battery without any supervision whatsoever.
If you hear intensive electrolyte "boiling" or "bubbling" inside the battery or the battery starts to heat up to unacceptable levels, disconnect the charger immediately.
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Last edited by televizora; 05-08-2021 at 07:20 AM..
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Old 05-08-2021, 07:19 AM   #3
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Default Re: Harbor Freight car battery chargers any good?

So other than that you think it’s a good enough charger? Would other cheaper ones from HF be just as good? I mainly need one to maintain a charge as sometimes the car isn’t driven for over a week or more
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Old 05-08-2021, 08:27 AM   #4
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Default Re: Harbor Freight car battery chargers any good?

Quote:
Originally Posted by caphair View Post
So other than that you think it’s a good enough charger? Would other cheaper ones from HF be just as good? I mainly need one to maintain a charge as sometimes the car isn’t driven for over a week or more
I don't know. I have two. What do you think?
They work. And here, the cheapest versions of this charger are about 15EUR.
It is waaay better than red metal ones with amp meter, which are mostly trash.
It is small, compact charger, that doesn't heat up too much when charging and is even somewhat water spash resistant. There is a rubber seal between the two parts of the case. Although this is usually not advertised feature and I wouldn't recommend charging your battery outside in the rain.
The version with the voltmeter is even better. I have one from the older revisions, without led display and voltmeter and one from the newer revisions with led display, which shows battery voltage and charge level.
They work fine and can charge my 72Ah car battery to an acceptable level and charging 6V batteries is a bonus.
It is ideal charger if you occasionally need charger, to charge your car battery or to help a friend or to charge 6V batteries.
If you have a garage and charge batteries on a daily basis, I wouldn't recommend it. It's not that fast and cant charge 24V truck batteries.
Google Lidl battery charger and you will see that these are generic chargers.
Just know that if your 12V battery goes below 10V, you will have to trick the charger with another 12V power supply connected to the battery, so the charger detects more than 10V and then starts to charge the battery. Most of these chargers have this glitch.

Last edited by televizora; 05-08-2021 at 08:41 AM..
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Old 05-08-2021, 08:50 AM   #5
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Default Re: Harbor Freight car battery chargers any good?

Thanks for the info. Does it auto turn off when full charge is reached? I know some don’t and can cause an issue
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Old 05-08-2021, 08:56 AM   #6
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Default Re: Harbor Freight car battery chargers any good?

people tend to think there is something wrong with these chargers because if battery low they don't seem to work .this is not the case . just leave it connected and let it do its thing . they automatically pulse charge for a while . if that doesn't work its worth try jumping it with another charged battery or a regular charger to bring the voltage up ..i find if it doesn't start charging most times its because the battery is knackered.
a car battery low voltage should come back up in little time if the battery is any use .

Last edited by petehall347; 05-08-2021 at 08:57 AM..
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Old 05-08-2021, 09:05 AM   #7
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Default Re: Harbor Freight car battery chargers any good?

Quote:
Originally Posted by caphair View Post
Thanks for the info. Does it auto turn off when full charge is reached? I know some don’t and can cause an issue
Yes, all SMPS chargers I know turn off when the battery is charged. And they try to maintain the voltage. This means if that the battery self discharges after some time, they will charge it back to full capacity/voltage and then turn off again. Those cheap pesky red metal box chargers with amp meter don't have such function. Most of then are trash, barely work, heat up and will charge the battery until they blow up or the battery starts to leak/melts/explodes.
The problem is that the charger can't know that your battery is bad and can't be charged to full capacity. In this case they will stubbornly try to charge a battery, which cannot be fully charged. This can lead to electrolyte bubbling/boiling and battery heating up. So, you have to supervise the charging process and check every several hours what's happening. And charge the battery on non flammable surface/chemical resistant surface. You don't want electrolyte stains or leaks on your carpet.
p.s The charger from your link comes with 90 days of warranty. Mine came with 2 years of warranty each. EU legislation.
Quote:
Originally Posted by petehall347 View Post
people tend to think there is something wrong with these chargers because if battery low they don't seem to work .this is not the case . just leave it connected and let it do its thing . they automatically pulse charge for a while . if that doesn't work its worth try jumping it with another charged battery or a regular charger to bring the voltage up ..i find if it doesn't start charging most times its because the battery is knackered.
a car battery low voltage should come back up in little time if the battery is any use .
Most of these chargers can't be even switched to charging mode if the battery is below threshold voltage, unless you trick them. Mine don't provide any voltage if they can't recognize the type of battery, unless you trick them. Zero volts on the clamps. Nada.
But usually you will notice that something is wrong and the car starter is cranking the engine more slowly than usual and the lights on the dashboard flicker seriously and you need to check and charge the battery, before the battery goes below the threshold voltage of this kind of chargers.

Last edited by televizora; 05-08-2021 at 09:17 AM..
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Old 05-08-2021, 09:40 AM   #8
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Default Re: Harbor Freight car battery chargers any good?

I’ll probably pick one up. My car’s battery is at 12.3v currently and want to prevent it further discharging
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Old 05-08-2021, 09:53 AM   #9
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Default Re: Harbor Freight car battery chargers any good?

I still have/use one of those ancient large transformer chargers...sigh. Wonder if it's worth to mod it to regulate it or stop it from charging once it reaches full voltage...

I still wonder what the "50 amp start" mode is however. Seem some bad juju is being done to get the 50 amp mode on my charger. If only it had screws in the case and not rivets, it'd be open by now to be inspected and/or modded...
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Old 05-08-2021, 10:24 AM   #10
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Default Re: Harbor Freight car battery chargers any good?

The HF 63350 charger/maintainer seams to be hit or miss on quality control.

Purchased one on sale in 2019 that was an open box (returned ) charger and it would not stop charging. After 48 hours it was charging with 15 volts so I returned it.

This year they put them on sale again and I picked up a sealed new box and this charger has worked fine.
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File Type: jpg Charger 011A.JPG (60.3 KB, 13 views)
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Old 05-08-2021, 01:05 PM   #11
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Default Re: Harbor Freight car battery chargers any good?

dont forget your free multimeter!
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Old 05-08-2021, 01:40 PM   #12
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Default Re: Harbor Freight car battery chargers any good?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ron350 View Post
Purchased one on sale in 2019 that was an open box (returned ) charger and it would not stop charging. After 48 hours it was charging with 15 volts so I returned it..
If the box was already opened and the charger was returned, don't you think that there might be a reason for this?
You complain that opened and used item was faulty.
Quote:
Originally Posted by eccerr0r View Post
I still have/use one of those ancient large transformer chargers...sigh. Wonder if it's worth to mod it to regulate it or stop it from charging once it reaches full voltage...
Of course, it is worth to add circuit which turns off the charging when the battery is already full.
This can be done with thyristor and some other components. And the old transformer chargers do the job, but are heavy and bulky.
Not to mention that they aren't that efficient as SMPS.
Not to mention that they usually don't have any type of protection whatsoever, except some fuses.

Last edited by televizora; 05-08-2021 at 02:06 PM..
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Old 05-08-2021, 02:34 PM   #13
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Default Re: Harbor Freight car battery chargers any good?

I just returned an Energizer 2A car battery 6V/12V maintainer charger - 5 yr warranty and the electronics were good quality but the firmware is crap.

It would look for several volts before turning on the output relay. So a really discharged battery esp. 6V it would not do anything. So I used a lab power supply to fool that.
Then, it would send a full current pulse and if the voltage went high i.e. 14.4V it would go into ERROR thinking the battery had an open cell or something. Instead of restoration.

Problem is these microprocessor chargers are too complicated to actually work properly. Pic is an 8 stage charger!

Example, it's charged your car battery and it's sitting at 13.8VDC float and life is good. Then the parked car does a canister purge, draws a few amps for 30 seconds so the voltage sags. Or the RV fridge runs etc. The case of a load appearing for a short time.
"Smart" chargers get confused and either restart the bulk charge/top up/equalize routine again, while other chargers do nothing and just stay in the float state.
Both are wrong - the first will overcharge and the battery uses water, the second method the battery sulfates.

I haven't tried the Harbor Freight chargers, but just know these things can have low quality hardware or firmware. Some Schlumacher chargers are crap and way overcharge, youtube vids about them. They are just cheap chinese builds.
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Last edited by redwire; 05-08-2021 at 02:35 PM..
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Old 05-08-2021, 03:50 PM   #14
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Default Re: Harbor Freight car battery chargers any good?

The HFT float charger killed one of my batteries, so one strike against hft chargers. Not the same item however. Really need to get a better charger or mod an existing one... Couldn't crack open the float charger without destroying it unfortunately.
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Old 05-08-2021, 05:26 PM   #15
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Default Re: Harbor Freight car battery chargers any good?

Quote:
Originally Posted by redwire View Post
"Smart" chargers get confused and either restart the bulk charge/top up/equalize routine again, while other chargers do nothing and just stay in the float state. Both are wrong - the first will overcharge and the battery uses water, the second method the battery sulfates.
You can't expect 15EUR charger to be very smart. They fulfil they function, but have some shortcomings or flaws. The situations you mentioned are complex and lets be honest, most of the people need charger to occasionally charge their batteries, not use them in complex scenarios.
You want 15EUR charger to fulfil the function of device which is at least several magnitudes more expensive.
The MCU inside the charger gets confused because the device was never meant to be used in such environments and scenarios.
Quote:
Originally Posted by eccerr0r View Post
The HFT float charger killed one of my batteries, so one strike against hft chargers. Not the same item however. Really need to get a better charger or mod an existing one... Couldn't crack open the float charger without destroying it unfortunately.
No screws? Usually the two parts of the case are joined together using snake head screws. If you don't have such screwdriver, you can make one from a flat screwdriver by cutting a slot in it. Using angle grinder or hack saw.

Last edited by televizora; 05-08-2021 at 05:41 PM..
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Old 05-08-2021, 06:15 PM   #16
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Default Re: Harbor Freight car battery chargers any good?

The super cheap Harbor Freight/Cen-Tech 12V battery float charger #42292/022-0192/61911/63161/62813 is almost always a piece of junk. It's a LM7805 jacked up to 13.5V linear regulator, with parts from the bowels of guangdong.

OP's Harbor Freight Viking 63350 I haven't seen a full teardown, reviews are just by dough heads. Many are complaints about them failing.
It looks wrong going to a (12.5V standard) 13.0V float with AGM? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygG1cwYfj7U&t=337s so I am not optimistic. Seems to be some problems with it entering maintenance mode.

I'm going to make yet another car battery charger on my own because of the junk out there. In the pandemic lockdowns, need proper float charging at least a 2-stage (bulk/float). I have a 15V 4A PSU coming and just have to write some firmware.
My old $7 Aliexpress 12V 2A unit runs so hot but it works nice has a 14.6V then drops to 13.8V setpoint.
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Old 05-08-2021, 06:23 PM   #17
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Default Re: Harbor Freight car battery chargers any good?

i have a few of these sort of chargers and 2 are in constant use .never had a problem with any of them . only ones i had a problem with are the 3 that i was given to fix and i made them worse . and it cost me nearly the price of a new charger in parts .yes my own fault but my heart isnt in fixing things for more than they cost for a new one .
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Old 05-08-2021, 06:39 PM   #18
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Default Re: Harbor Freight car battery chargers any good?

One review had blown capacitors, another said it's actually 12V 2A and 6V 4A so around 25W. The "4A" label is misleading.
That's the problem - a low battery will overload any charger and chinese stuff is already pushing parts too hard and poof.
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Last edited by redwire; 05-08-2021 at 06:41 PM..
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Old 05-08-2021, 08:30 PM   #19
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Default Re: Harbor Freight car battery chargers any good?

Are people using AGM car batteries or flooded? Seems these chargers need to know what type else they will over/undercharge them?

hmm... the battery that got destroyed, I added about 600mL (!!!) water into it and it started taking a charge. I wonder what it's self discharge, CCA, and RC are now. Probably still needs to be replaced.
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Old 05-08-2021, 09:56 PM   #20
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Default Re: Harbor Freight car battery chargers any good?

How long would it generally take to fully charge a 12.3v battery at 2/4amps? The listing this charger claims? I picked one up and it’s been sitting at 13.8v now for about 4 hours
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