I don’t know why this particular battery charger/maintainer was discarded, but I wasn’t going to hook it up to a real battery to find out. I got it from a discard pile just to take apart and look inside. It was designed to be permanently mounted under the hood of a car. When we want to charge/maintain the battery, we plug an extension cord into its stubby power cord.
Harbor Freight no longer lists item number 99857 on their site. I also note that this label (and all the warnings) would not be visible when the device is mounted.
Disassembly was straightforward with only four screws to remove.
It’s almost refreshingly retro to see a circuit board with only through-hole components. It also meant I could easily follow circuit board traces to see how much I understand. My first impression (and assumption) was that the big coil in the middle was the transformer, and I had thought it was used to step the voltage down from household 110V AC to something lower, then passed into a rectifier to obtain DC voltage somewhere near the 14.4V maximum for lead-acid battery. But I realized I was wrong when I followed the copper trace for the line voltage. (White wire.) It first goes through a nonreplaceable fuse (better than no fuse I guess) and then immediately into the rectifier. The DC output — which I guess would be above 100V DC — is buffered by a big capacitor, and I don’t understand very much beyond that. I understand a little more every time I do a teardown, so hopefully I will be able to decipher more if I return to this device in the future.