How Does the Battery Charge on a Riding Lawnmower?

Written by david sandoval
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How Does the Battery Charge on a Riding Lawnmower?
Riding lawnmowers have a basic electrical system that charges the battery and powers the ignition system. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

A riding lawnmower requires a lead-acid battery to operate. This battery provides starting power and a grounding point for the lawnmower, and must be in good working order. Riding lawnmowers recharge the battery while the lawnmower is in operation.

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How a Lead-acid Battery Works

Several electrode plates -- half made of lead, half of lead oxide -- are immersed in an acidic electrolyte solution. The two electrode materials conduct electrical current, and the battery produces a voltage differential.

Over time, the electrolyte solution combines with the electrode plates to create lead sulphate crystals. This chemical reaction weakens the electrolyte solution and lines the electrode plates with these crystals. To reverse the crystal formation, the battery must be recharged periodically. Once the crystals have broken down, the electrolyte solution becomes reconstituted, and the electrode plates can conduct electrical current again.

Lawnmower Electrical System

Riding lawnmowers come equipped with either an alternator or a generator. An alternator is an electromechanical device that converts rotational energy into AC electrical power. An alternator is used in conjunction with a voltage regulator to convert the AC electrical power to DC power. A generator also converts rotational energy into electrical power; however, a generator contains internal circuitry called brushes to create DC power without requiring a voltage regulator.

The alternator or generator produces enough electrical energy to provide power to the ignition system and to charge the battery.

Overly-discharged Batteries

A weak or dead battery may require more energy to charge than the alternator or generator can provide. If a lawnmower is run with a dead or weak battery, this can damage the alternator or generator by causing it to overheat.

Other Considerations

Damaged or broken battery cables will prevent the battery from charging properly. It is also important to keep the battery terminal connectors clean for the battery to receive enough electrical power to maintain a proper charge.

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