How to correctly care for your LiPo battery

By Ben Howard - Team Zombie Driver

LiPo batteries have been a brilliant development in technology for our RC car racing. They’re lighter and come with lots of punch. They’re able to be charged and discharged quickly which make them a prime candidate for RC racing.

Caring for your LiPo battery in the right way also comes with a lot of misinformation and misconceptions about what to do. I’d like to share with you my procedure of how to properly care for your battery to ensure its longevity and performance. Batteries will cost you if you don’t care for them. So let’s jump in!

Check your equipment

The first point in your battery care plan is having your charging equipment in proper working order. Check your;

Faulty readings can lead to dangerous scenarios. Follow these guidelines to get the most out of your batteries and keep safe.

Charging

I recommend doing a balance charge every time you charge, this is for safety more than anything else. Be sure to learn how your charger works. Check the individual cell voltage reading as it charges, all cells should have similar voltages. If not, check your equipment first. If you charge and have a faulty cell, the charger can overload the healthy cell which can be dangerous. You should charge your LiPo inside of a LiPo safe bag.

Usage

Plug in and send it! Just make sure you have a low voltage cut-off setup if your ESC doesn’t do that. I like to set mine at 3.3v per cell so 6.6v for a 2s battery. Check your ESC manual for this setting.

Post-run

I leave my battery connected and fan on whilst I marshall. After motors get hot the rotor can act as a heat sink whilst it cools down and absorbs the heat. To minimise this I let the fan cool the motor, post run.

Once cooled, make sure you unplug your connectors. Never let your battery get below 3.1v per cell as a precaution, LiPo batteries really don’t like it.

Post Meet Storage

The two things that shorten a batteries life in order of importance is;

Fully charged batteries sitting for long time

To ensure you get maximum life and performance from your battery, I only charge my batteries at most a few hours before use. When not in use, use the storage charge mode which is approx 3.85v per cell (7.7v for a 2s). 

Pro Tip: a 5-minute run with your 2wd 17.5T buggy or 4-minutes with a 13.5T 4wd buggy is a much more fun way to discharge a fully charged battery rather than using your charger.

Heat

To control temperature I use a watertight container and keep my batteries in the fridge when not in use. The colder temperatures reduce the activity of the atoms (lithium is a very reactive element) and therefore help prolong the life of the battery. Ideally, before use let them come up to ambient (room) temperature - one practice run will get them going. Too cold a battery will not perform as well as an ambient temperature battery due to internal resistance lowering as a battery warms up. If you don’t have space in your fridge, store them in a cool dry place, wine fridges, cellar's, etc. DO NOT leave them in a hot car or garage.

Battery Maintenance

I wipe down my batteries after each meet with a damp cloth. If you like you can use some mild detergent and/or a plastic refresher.

Using methylated spirits (denatured alcohol) or a spirit-based solution. Use a cotton bud (q-tip) to clean out each battery tube on your batteries. Repeat until clean and no dirt is showing. It often surprises me how much gunk can be deposited. Whilst you're at it, use the same solution to clean connectors from your ESC and charge cables.

Lastly, I use a set of tweezers just to open up the bullet connectors back to the original positions, ensuring good contacts on my bullet connectors. This only requires minimal adjustments, if not done frequently enough you run the risk of poor connection especially on bumpy surfaces.

Final Comments

In tenth scale off-road stock racing I have used the Team Zombie 5600 HV 2S shorty pack for the last 2 years. They are a race accomplished pack! You can get yours at Speedy RC Online Store (speedyrc.com.au) in Australia. Be sure to check out their range of Chargers, Cables and LiPo Bags too.