Battery Isolators 101
What Is A Battery Isolator?
A battery isolator's primary role is as sort of a traffic cop for your battery system. It allows DC power, usually from an alternator, to flow through the isolator into multiple branches, with electricity only flowing one way in each branch. For example, if you've got several batteries on a truck, you can wire them to the isolator, instead of in series, so if one battery is drained, it won't pull current from the others.
Its secondary role is to help manage high-current loads on vehicles. Lifts, winches, and other common vehicle tools will all turn up with a battery isolator on board to help better manage current and keep batteries at their best.
This main battery is not typically designed for frequent deep discharge cycles since the alternator supplies power to vehicle circuits when the engine is running.
However, some vehicles include additional auxiliary batteries to power other devices which also need to be recharged, frequently by the alternator.
The Battery Isolator is what allows this charging to occur while keeping the auxiliary devices from accidentally discharging the starting battery.
Why Are They Important?
Have you ever gotten in your car on a cold, snowy night, after realizing you left your lights on, and heaved a sigh of relief when the engine turns over? A battery isolator is likely why that happened, and in many vehicles, from personal ones to fleets, that's their primary role; to ensure the main battery is charged. It's become an increasingly important job too, as vehicles have become more complex.
No matter what their age, a battery isolator ensures you get the most from your battery.
Many fleet vehicles have auxiliary batteries which power everything from the lights in the cab, to navigation systems in the dash, to various clocks and computerized systems. If one of those auxiliary batteries is drained, or failed, that will shift the load to the primary battery, if wired in series. Just like leaving your lights on can kill your battery, even a dashboard clock can, if left to its own devices, leave a vehicle stranded if enough time passes.
Battery isolators, however, guarantee that won't happen. Because they only allow current to flow one way, if an auxiliary battery goes out, you may have some non-functional systems, but at least they won't have drained your primary battery. Especially with commercial vehicles that need multiple auxiliary batteries, it's a powerful tool for preventing breakdowns.
When looking at battery isolators, your first question should be concerning load. Like any automotive electrical product, battery isolators are rated to carry certain loads and no higher, so it's worth determining how much power you'll be distributing before you pick an isolator.
Secondly, you should see how many batteries each isolator will need to support. While it may be possible to wire isolators in series in some situations, it makes far more sense to pick one isolator per circuit and wire everything to it. The fewer links in a chain, the stronger it is, after all.
Manufacturer Item: 16023A
Item #: 77054
Manufacturer Item: 48120
For more on isolators, and other automotive electrical products for your fleet, view our battery management products.
Subscribe and be the first to know when new articles are published.