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ContinuousWave: Small Boat Electrical
|Author||Topic: Battery Life|
posted 10-07-2005 12:03 AM ET (US)
I just pulled the OEM 1995 battery out of my 1995 Lumina. It showed its first sign of reluctant cranking this evening. That is ten years of use on this battery, which was just an AC-Delco standard (maintenance-free) wet cell lead-acid battery--nothing fancy. I don't see why a good marine battery shouldn't last as long!
posted 10-07-2005 07:48 AM ET (US)
Some people replace their batteries on a regular basis - every three years or so, just to play it safe with a much harsher environment than automotive.
Having said that, my last boat had el-cheapo (by marine standards - $75) West Marine combination batteries and they lasted 10 years - I only replaced them because it seemed I was asking for something to go wrong at an inopportune time.
posted 10-07-2005 09:22 AM ET (US)
This Spring I replaced both of my Group 24 Delco Voyager Deep-Cycle, Maintenance-Free batteries due to occasional hard starting the previous season. One was purchased in 1992 and the other in 1993!
I contribute their longevity to the fact that, during Winter lay up, they were always stored in a warm basement and charged every couple of months. Also, I believe deep-cycle batteries have a tendency to last longer (than starting batteries) because they can be fully discharged and then recharged to full capacity. I also think maintenance-free batteries are the way to go as they eliminate the possibility of "operator error" regarding regularly checking water levels. I should point out that these deep-cycle batteries never had a problem starting my Yamaha outboard.
I replaced these batteries with Wal-Mart Extreme Marine combo maintenance-free units. We'll see how long these last, but I don't expect to get 10 or 12 years out of them.
posted 10-07-2005 09:29 AM ET (US)
I think replacing batteries "just because" is a waste of money and not good for the environment. El cheapo batteries have always lasted me 6 to 10 years. My routine is:
1 periodic testing with a digital volt meter as outlined so well by jimh in the reference section on this site.
2 always turn off the battery disconnect switch when not running,even at anchor
3 use of a load tester at the start and end of season, they are available from harhour frieght for under $20.you could also do about the same by cranking the engine and watching the voltage drop during and after but the load tester is quiet and quick.
4 float charge the battery every couple of months during storage
5 I carry a portable battery booster just in case and keep it in the car during the winter.
6 keep the conections tight and an eye on the acid level
-my humble 2cents
posted 10-07-2005 11:30 PM ET (US)
That is a pretty impressive battery live in your Lumina. My understanding is that a marine battery has thicker plates to better stand vibration and pounding from waves. Because the plates are thicker, the space between them is less. For that reason, a marine battery is likely to succumb sooner to death by sulfation which occurs when the charge is low. Since a marine battery also sees long periods of inactivity, it has two strikes against it; a greater chance of low charge leading to sulfation, and a design with closer spaced plates that makes it more succeptible to internal plate shorting when sulfation happens. BillS
posted 10-09-2005 11:04 AM ET (US)
I thought the ten-year life of that battery was rather good, too, particularly for our norther climate. However, the car only has 50,000 miles on it, so the engine has not been started as often as you might think. Also, the battery was encased in a thick foam insulating jacket. This may have helped it avoid temperature extremes.
I did notice that the replacement battery, a Sear DIE-HARD brand, did not seem to weigh as much. We'll see how it lasts.
This summer I also replaced one of the starting batteries in my boat. It was a preemptive measure, because I had observed some hesitation and slow cranking. I was about to go on a week-long boating trip without other boats in our company, and I decided to get a new battery. In part my motivation was to avoid having to worry about the battery as a source of any problem in engine starting. We were in the midst of troubleshooting an intermittent no-start situation. With a new battery, that would rule the battery out as a source of the problem.
The other reason I replaced the battery was because I did not know its age.
I finally got around to testing the old battery this week. It passed with flying colors. Oh well, now I have another spare battery! I think that battery must have been newer than I thought.
posted 10-10-2005 10:31 AM ET (US)
The battery on my boat is about six years old and showed no signs of failing. It has just spent 12-18 hours under (rain fresh) water and wonder if it has affected it in anyway.
It still shows a good charge and turns the motor fine, but think I may change it and keep it as a secondary.
posted 11-21-2005 12:32 AM ET (US)
Here is more anecdotal battery life data, compiled from this weekend.
I noticed the V8 engine in my Ford Crown Victoria was cranking a bit slowly the other morning when the temperatures were down in the high 30's. It is a very easy battery to remove, so on Sunday morning I hauled it out of the car and took it to a local auto parts store that has a sophisticated battery tester, a MIDTRONICS device that looks like a digital multi-meter.
The parts counter guy hooked the little tester to my battery. It pronounced the battery as having about 200-CCA capacity. It was rated as a 600-CCA battery, so the assessment was the battery was bad. I bought a new battery on the spot, came home and installed it. The battery I removed was an FORD MOTORCRAFT battery, which I had purchased some years ago. It was an 84-month battery. When I got home, I got Chris to dig up the receipt for the purchase of that battery. It turns out I bought it in November of 1997! This means that it has lasted exactly 84-months + one year. It was still starting the car, but I could tell that it was not going to make it through the winter. We got eight years on that battery.
Later on Sunday afternoon, I got a frantic call from Chris. She was stranded at work with a dead battery in her car! I picked her up and we came home for dinner. After dinner we went back to retrieve the car. The battery was so dead that I could not get the car to start even with a jumper using one of the boat batteries laying around the house--I was not going to blow up the brand new battery in my Crown Vic getting her car started! Finally, we decided to just leave the car where it was (in the parking lot of her workplace) and bring the battery back for charging. I sent Chris back to her great filing system to find the receipt for this battery. She located it in a flash. It was dated from November of 1999. Now here is the catch: this battery was only a 72-month. So this AC DELCO Maintenance Free battery lasted just about exactly as long as its original maker suggested it would, six years or 72-months on the dot.
After I heard that I just shut off the charger and put the battery back in the trunk of my car. I will get a new one tomorrow and drive over and install it in her car. There is no point is pushing your luck, and once an older battery is fully discharged, that is usually the end of its useful like.
Chris's car gets much more short trip driving, as her workplace is only a mile away from the house. I am not surprised that it did not survive beyond the 72-month period. (We're not certain, but a dome light left on might have been the death of it this afternoon, otherwise it might have lasted longer, too.)
This has been a busy fall for batteries at our house. This make three car batteries replaced this month. At least they are all now on the same schedule, all new in 2005. We were laughing tonight as we speculated how many of these old cars we will still be driving in five years when they will probably need new batteries again.
So there you have it, two more anecdotal battery life stories.
posted 11-21-2005 07:39 AM ET (US)
Just one more point for those with a dual battery system, and who have noticed that batteries seem to deteriorate right around the end of the warranty period - if you replaced both batteries at the same time in the past you might consider replacing one of them a bit early next time. While it may seem wasteful, I always try to stagger their purchase dates to avoid having two dead batteries at the same time. Always a judgement call, however.
posted 11-21-2005 12:27 PM ET (US)
Jim - I have been using Die-Hard batteries for many years. The first one lasted something like 11 years - before a post broke off. The last one, a deep-charge RV lasted only about 4 years, and I could not find the paperwork, - so my thoughts about Die Hard batteries have been tempered a bit. Overall though - I have had extraordinary service from them - over the last 30 years. --- Jerry/Idaho
posted 11-21-2005 11:16 PM ET (US)
Follow up on this weekend: I was up early on Monday and at the auto parts store for a new battery. At the check out counter I turned around and there were three more guys in line behind me with batteries. Must be the cold weather coming on in Michigan.
I got new battery back into Chris's car by 9:15 a.m. The way the weather was headed that was probably the warmest part of the day. We are on the verge of snowfall tonight!
I was impressed with the store's MIDTRONIC battery tester. It looks like a nice gizmo to have around, but probably too expensive for the home mechanic to have.
posted 11-22-2005 01:01 AM ET (US)
This website shows Midtronics testers ranging from about $115.00 to about $1880.00. Which one did you see, Jim?
posted 11-22-2005 02:06 AM ET (US)
Battery life is a lot about avoiding abuse.
Lead acid batteries do not like to be run to dead flat
posted 11-22-2005 07:32 AM ET (US)
Car batteries normally do not power accesories for extended periods of time with the alternator not running. Nor are they left to sit for weeks of parasitic drainage. Starting battery life is in direct proportion to how little they have been discharged. You will lose many months or even years or its life with just one dead-out discharge.
I have alsways felt that even small boats should use at least a combination deep-cycle/starting battery. I got 10 years out of my last set of those on the boat. My Montauk came with just a starting battery and I intend to get rid of it as soon as possible.
It is unrealistic to expect that a marine battery will always be maintained at full charge.
posted 11-24-2005 11:31 AM ET (US)
When a battery goes dead, the event has a way of taking out sensitive electronic devices.
My friend with a 43 Mikelson got 5 years out of his marine batteries until they suddenly failed but it cost him 1200 dls repair his electrical system to get his engines to charge his house batteries.
My 1999 225 Optimax overcharged the batteries, I had to change batteries every year and fill them with water every two weeks.
I am on my third year on batteries on my 305 Conquest with 225 YamaMercs. The voltage regulators on these engines are much better and do not overcharge the batteries.
There is no question that batteries last longer if given the proper care that others have mentioned.
I load test my batteries when I take them out and put them back in. They are stored indoors (heat is the enemy where I boat) and recharged every month when in storage.
posted 11-25-2005 03:17 AM ET (US)
I have several deep cycle lead batteries that I use pretty rarely now. I hear that I should trickle-charge them.. Do I just hook them up together and connect to the trickle-charger?
posted 11-26-2005 11:39 AM ET (US)
Some you may not believe this but I always leave my battery in the whaler over the winter in Nova Scoita. Every spring when I go out the battery is still charged and has lots of juice. I have done this since 1995 when I got the Newport. It is the orginal battery and I, like most of you thought the battery had to be taken out and stored inside. For the life of me, I have never been able to figure this out other than the Whaler hull with it's foam must some how protect the battery. People have often said that you cannot store a battery on bare concrete as it will discharge or kill the battery...so maybe sitting on the floor of the newport with the foam works. The only maintenance that I do is clean the terminals before storage and spray with wd-40. Now this spring it could be dead but for the last 10 years it has worked like a charm.
posted 11-26-2005 12:07 PM ET (US)
gotnet: Bad idea to charge in parallel. Each needs it's own
charger or you'll undercharge the best. Low cost but labor
intensive would be to have one trickle charger and rotate it
it amongst the batteries. I'd do it each day when I got home
And you don't want a simple trickle charger. You want one of
posted 11-26-2005 02:10 PM ET (US)
Acknowledged. I wonder if getting a few of these would be sufficient: [Hyperlink: www.harborfreight.com] Hard to beat the price!
posted 11-28-2005 07:02 PM ET (US)
OK, I hate to stir things up, but... I heard from 2 battery places that there are only 3 battery manufacturers in the US. Namely Exide, Johnson Controls and some other very small company, Douglas Batteries I think. Do you really think Walmart and Sears make their own batteries? Its sort of like bicycles. Last I heard there were close to 300 brands of bikes coming out of China yet there were like 3 factories.
In all my years there seems to be no reason why batteries last or don't last. I had one deep cycle last 8 years and one last 2 1/2. Same boat, same motor, same trolling motors, same charger, same routine. '90 Ford Taurus, 4 batteries. 5 years, 2 years,2 years and the last one is probably still going. Oh wait. I'll bet that car's in the junk yard.
posted 11-30-2005 02:23 PM ET (US)
I noticed that Walmart Everstart batteries are now made by Exide. Johnson Controls was their previous supplier.
posted 11-30-2005 07:49 PM ET (US)
The lead acid battery is a century old technology and when it comes down to it they are cheaply made and pretty cheaply sold considering the shear poundage of the product. It does not surprise me in the least that they are pretty variable in longevity or quality - they still work fine in cars where they are almost always kept at full charge and have minimum physical or electrical stress put on them.
Serious boat batteries are Gelcell or AGM technology. But what prices! Probably not justified for a 17' boat.
posted 12-02-2005 08:28 PM ET (US)
Guess I'll throw in my .o2.
I believe in and have battery "maintainers" hooked up to my batteries (while in the boat) whenever not in use. The batteries always remain fully charged and this should extend their life.
I learned the hard way that the Orbital Gel batteries DO NOT work well on certain outboards...like V-6 Mercs with the 40 amp alternator driven ignitions. These batteries don't like a fast charge, nor do they like to get above 14.5 volts.
The Orbital or Optima batteries are great for engines that have automotive style (belt driven alternators)...and I have a few customers with Optimax engines that installed the Orbital batteries and they are working out fine.
By the way, Merc says that all Optimax engines require a 1000 MCA battery and they do not recommend deep cycle batteries......use "starting" batteries.
posted 03-11-2006 10:29 PM ET (US)
Follow up to this older thread:
This weekend I started up my trusty 1995 Suburban after a long winter's rest. It seemed to crank slowly, and I noticed the charging voltage was very low. Time for some electrical work. The alternator was gone. I suspect that perhaps over the winter (it was stored indoors) it might have developed an intermittent connection, and starting it up must have created an arc. Usually when you have an arc you have a good chance of blowing something. Either that or the alternator just spontaneously died over the winter. It has not been driven much since October.
Fortunately on this old GMC you can take the alternator out in about five minutes. It is mounted on the top of the engine, and all the bolts are very easy to reach.
I bought a re-built BOSCH alternator for $90 (lifetime guarantee) to replace the original alternator (which had lasted 11 years but only 82,000 miles). With a new alternator, I decided to get a new battery. The existing battery was new in October of 2000. It was another 84-month guaranteed AC-Delco Maintenance Free type battery. The test gismo checked it out with 500-cranking amps still left, but I figured, heck, it is 5-1/2 years old (or 66 months into the warranty), and why wait until next winter. I got $10-off on a new battery on a pro-rated replacement. So that makes me four for four this winter: replaced all the batteries in all the cars.
This last one would probably have been good for another six months. Since I had the hood up and the electrical system all disconnected (to replace the alternator) I decided to invest in a new battery, too. My experience with older batteries has taught me that once they become deeply discharged, they never come back quite as strong as they once were.
posted 03-11-2006 11:53 PM ET (US)
I don't know why, but GM seems to have consistent problems building an alternator that will last. I've owned and generally liked several GM vehicles, including a 1986 Celebrity, a 1986 Grand Am, a 1990 Lumina (great car!), a 1994 Lumina minivan, and a 1996 Lumina (do you detect a theme here?) I replaced an alternator on every single one of those cars, and more than once on several of them. I've never replaced an alternator on any other manufacturer's vehicle, excepting my 1968 Mustang, but hey, you really can't expect one to last more than 25 years.
I usually replace batteries after about 6 years or at the first sign of trouble. It's just not worth the hassle. This will be the fourth season on my Dauntless' battery (a plain-vanilla group 24), and I never did pull it off the boat this year since the Virginia winter was generally mild and I used the boat until late January. We'll see how it sounds when I crank it over next time.
posted 03-11-2006 11:54 PM ET (US)
maintaining a good batt system
It's definitely a whole system that matters. Here's my receipe for a robust , rugged, dependable electrical storage system.
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