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Measuring 14 volts at your vehicle’s battery terminals doesn’t tell you squat about how your battery will perform when you actually try to start your vehicle — that’s where a variable load tester like Electronic Specialties’ #710 comes in handy.  With this tester you can test batteries rated as high as 1,000 cold-cranking amps or 160 amp hours.

The tester simulates cranking loads with a 500A adjustable carbon pile — a carbon pile is just one big-ass variable resistor.  You can also test alternator charging voltage and relative starter current draw.  During its 15-second test cycle, the #710 displays voltage and current simultaneously on its large dual meters.

The #710 comes with 500A side terminal clamps with heavy-duty stranded cables, and Electronic Specialties also includes a a temperature compensation chart.  It retails for $140, but you can find it for as low as $90.

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8 Responses to Carbon Pile Load Tester

  1. Clark F says:

    This is a handy tool when checking batteries, but it should REALLY only be used by someone who knows how to use it. Testing a battery wrong can overload it, and even kill a good battery.

  2. Clark F says:

    Id also like to add, you can buy electronic battery testers for the same price, if not less, and these dont require you to manually load the batteries. A better idea for someone who doesnt know how to properly use a carbon pile.

    This is a cheap one. http://www.thetoolwarehouse.net/shop/SOL-BA7.html
    It will also check your charging and starting systems with step by step instructions if theres a problem there. Testers like these can sometimes be inaccurate, but are trustworthy most of the time.

  3. Shopmonger says:

    “…should REALLY only be used by someone who knows how to use it.”

    If you don’t try it you cannot learn. Just don’t leave it on for long periods of time. Be realistic like any other tool. But all tool should be used by all people ……so we can become more educated….

    P.S. PODCASTS !!!! calling all podcasters (CHuCK SeAn….) we need more tool talk

  4. ambush says:

    As long as you stick to the rules you won’t screw up a battery. 15 seconds max and 1/2 cca rating. I’m in favour of electronic testers though, Snap-On has one that tests battery and charging systems and gives you a simple pass or fail rating in addition to the actual cca specs, voltage etc…

  5. Ryan Williams says:

    Carbon piles are a excellent tool, but not for everyone. I am a licensed Heavy Duty Technician, and have one in the shop I work at. Currently looking to buy one for my service truck. Ebay has Chicago Electric Tool 500 amp testers that seem very cheap, $80 – $120. I don’t know about them, but the price is right to bounce around in a service truck. Has anyone heard of these and know anything about them?

  6. Bill says:

    I’ve always found that Auto Body Toolmart sells tools such as battery chargers at really low prices. They also ship same day so you get what you need right away. Anyway, here are some battery chargers / testers that I found on their site. http://www.autobodytoolmart.com/search/search.aspx?keywords=500+amp

  7. Hmm says:

    It’s literally just a chunk of carbon? And it can handle 500 A at 12 V = 6000 W? So could I also use it to test something that puts out 1 kW at 100 V instead?

  8. yay! says:

    at 100VDC, the resistance of the carbon pile will drop considerable due to electrical arcing (same principle as ac/dc fuse/switch). However, not all carbon piles are made equal, you can do the rating yourself 🙂

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