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Author Topic:   Best Way To Prevent Battery Failure
sapple posted 12-19-2008 09:32 AM ET (US)   Profile for sapple   Send Email to sapple  
What is the simplest option for having a reliable back up in the event my primary battery fails?

This spring I will be starting the second season for my 170 Montauk (purchased new in the spring of 2008). I ran about 130 hours this past season. I want to assure that I never get stuck with a failed battery. It appears there are several options for preventing this, such as a dual battery system.

The only thing I use the battery for is starting and electronics (depth finder, GPS, & radio). I don't use a trolling motor or live well or any other heavy drain accessory.

jimh posted 12-19-2008 11:13 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Let me answer the question posed in the TOPIC line and not the question posed in the article itself.

The best way to prevent battery failure is to properly maintain the battery. Proper maintenance consists of maintaining the electrolyte level in the battery, maintaining the state of charge as near to 100-percent as possible, and avoiding deep discharge of the battery as much as possible. Of course, a high quality battery will also help to sustain reliable operation longer.

The simplest way to have a reliable back up in case your primary battery fails is to have a permanently installed second battery. I have no enthusiasm for using a portable battery booster pack because I strongly dislike using temporary clamps to provide starting current boost. Those clamps frequently produce arcing. Arcing in the high-current battery circuit is a good way to cause damage to other electrical and electronic components in the vessel from voltage transients which occur when there is an interruption of current flow in a circuit with an inductive load.

If your boat has a motor which cannot be easily and reliably started without an electric starting motor, I recommend you install a dual battery system. Also, some modern motors will not be able to start and run without a battery, even if you can crank them over by a pull-starter. In both those situations I recommend you install a second battery.

If you can pull-start your motor and your motor will start and run without a battery, you may not need a second battery. A single battery with proper maintenance should not leave you stranded.

andygere posted 12-19-2008 11:30 AM ET (US)     Profile for andygere  Send Email to andygere     
The cheapest solution is to replace your current battery with an Optima or comparable AGM battery. These hold their charge over long periods better than any lead acid battery I've ever used. If your boat does not have at least a simple On-Off battery switch, install one.

More expensive but redundant solution is to go to a dual battery system with a voltage sensing relay (VSR) to provide isolation of the start and house battery. Check the archives for information on these simple but effective systems. I am using an off-the-shelf BEP Marine system that combines the battery on-off switches, and emergency parallel switch (lets you jump start using the house battery simply by flipping a switch) and the VSR.

glen e posted 12-19-2008 12:39 PM ET (US)     Profile for glen e  Send Email to glen e     
Please don't buy an optima..I have many cases I can show you where they suffer from "sudden catastrophic failure" just 15 months old or so. That's way Yellowfin and SeaVee stopped using them. There are many others avail that work well. Sears, Odyssey, Cabella's, Deka and Lifeline are but a few.
davej14 posted 12-19-2008 07:25 PM ET (US)     Profile for davej14  Send Email to davej14     
I am on my 5th season with an Optima Blue Top and it has been very reliable. I don't even charge it over the Winter storage season because of the low self discharge rate. If an AGM type battery is failing prematurely it is most likely due to being overcharged.
glen e posted 12-19-2008 07:34 PM ET (US)     Profile for glen e  Send Email to glen e     
I find it hard to believe that everyone is overcharging.

Dick E posted 12-19-2008 08:48 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dick E  Send Email to Dick E     
There seems to be a lot of AGM failure when AGM’s are used as a cranking battery.

Most outboard alternators are producing 14.5 volts. AGM need to be charged at 13.8 to 14.1 volts for what I have read. I read on this web site, Mercury says to use "flooded batteries as the cranking battery".

glen e posted 12-19-2008 08:59 PM ET (US)     Profile for glen e  Send Email to glen e     
Not true. I have never seen or heard that. Mercury wants all batteries used for new Verados (cranking) as AGM's, per the Service Bulletin #2008-04 published in May 2008.
jimh posted 12-20-2008 12:33 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
AGM batteries are usually sealed valve-regulated lead-acid batteries. Because the battery is sealed, a valve regulates the internal pressure in the case. During charging the electrolyte can produce gas output if the voltage is too high. When charging a sealed battery it is important to limit the charging voltage below the point where gas is produced. Usually this voltage is cited to be about 14.3-volts. If the charging voltage is too high, and if too much gas is produced, the regulator valve opens, venting electrolyte gas to to the atmosphere. This process causes a loss of electrolyte, which leads to reduced capacity in the battery.

It is not hard to imagine this happening with an outboard motor as the charger. The voltage regulation of the charging output is probably not as closely regulated as necessary in many motors.

sapple posted 12-20-2008 05:05 PM ET (US)     Profile for sapple  Send Email to sapple     
Are there any issues with using a battery charger I have for my car to charge my boat battery in the spring? The charger has options for charging "regular" or "deep cycle" batteries and has charge rate options of either 2, 12, or 75 amps.

The user's manual for the charger says: "A marine (boat) battery must be removed and charged on shore. To charge it on board requires equipment specially designed for marine use." This suggests that it would be OK to use it to charge marine batteries. However, I have had this charger for nearly 10 years and don't know if it is suitable for newer technology or specialty marine batteries.

From the above discussion it is apparent there are several types of batteries. I am not sure what type of battery I have in my Montauk. (I have not looked at it yet but plan to do so before the spring.) It is what ever BW and/or the dealer put in the boat as part of the pre-rig package.

glen e posted 12-20-2008 05:26 PM ET (US)     Profile for glen e  Send Email to glen e     
You can never get in troubel no matter what charger/battery you have by doing the following:

1. Take the battery off the boat
2. Fill all the cells with distilled water up tot he neck in each cell - slightly less is ok too. But you certainly want the water covering the plates.
3. Set the charger on 2 amps and charge for 12 hours
4. Take it to a auto parts store for a voltage and load check. Buy a voltmeter there and keep the battery between 12.7 and 12.4 at all times.
5. Once you get it charged, a "battery maintainer" hooked up at all times in the winter will keep you battery up to snuff. Google it. I like the Battery Tender line of products for this use.

Dick E posted 12-20-2008 05:54 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dick E  Send Email to Dick E     
Glen here the link I remember reading.

Read sosmerc post.
He is a Mercury Service, Outboard Specialist according to his profile

glen e posted 12-20-2008 06:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for glen e  Send Email to glen e     
That post is from 2006. Mercury now wants AGM's on all verados and does not care what type on optimax's, as long as they are 1000 MCA starting type. Call mercury at 920-929-5040 if you need further verification.
jimh posted 12-20-2008 11:13 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I like the ProMariner chargers. I have three of them.

I have the small 1-Ampere battery maintainer (Pro-Sport 1.5) that I use to keep a float charge on an AGM battery I use on my electronic test bench.

I have a dual-bank 8-Ampere charger (Pro-Sport 8) on the boat that I use to top off the charge on two flooded cell starting batteries on my boat. I typically use it prior to heading out to the ramp to make sure my batteries are at full charge.

I have a triple-bank 15-Ampere charger (Pro-Sport ?) at work that I use to maintain various AGM batteries at full charge in case they're needed in a UPS or other service. (We have about 85 AGM batteries in service at work.)

andygere posted 12-23-2008 12:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for andygere  Send Email to andygere     
Anecdotal evidence vs. anecdotal evidence. I own 3 Optimas and have had outstanding results with them. The Optimas in my Outrage are two years old, and I've never had to charge them (aside from with the Outboard) and they always hold their charge, even after several months of non-operation. Of course, the charging system is on my E-TEC 200, so perhaps it does a better job of voltage regulation than other motors.

Note that the warranty on the Optima batteries is decent as well: Full replacement within 18 months, then pro-rated for the next 18. I bought mine at Costco and have never had any problems with returns from that outlet.

I've had similar good results in the Optima I installed in my power-hungry Suburban. This vehicle will often sit 2-3 weeks without operating, and I was plagued with weak and dead batteries before switching to the Optima. I haven't had a problem since.

If you don't like Optima, buy a different brand of AGM battery. They hold charge better than any lead acid battery I've ever used, and they don't have all the issues with low water, corroded terminals, etc. In my opinion, there's no need for a battery maintainer with this type of battery.

jimh posted 12-23-2008 02:54 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
A very large number of the AGM batteries available in the U.S. are made in China and shipped over here. There are many qualities of the AGM battery which enhance its distribution and allow manufacturers in very distant areas to supply batteries. Considering how heavy a battery is, one would suspect that shipping it halfway around the world would add substantially to its price. However, apparently shipment by sea is still economical enough to permit distribution of batteries as far as 14,000 miles away from the place of manufacture. The sealed nature of an AGM makes it perfect for shipping; you don't have to worry about acid leaking, sloshing out, and other problems that would constrain shipment of a conventional flooded cell battery by sea.

China's manufacturing environment may also assist in the production of batteries at lower costs. Lead refining and smelting is probably an operation that receives more environmental regulation in the United States than in mainland China at the moment.

Recently we tried to source 40 new AGM batteries from our usual suppliers and asked that we not get a battery made in China. The supplier said that request was just about impossible to meet, as he had no domestic sources. We're buying these jars at about $250/each, so it's not like we're in the bargain basement of battery prices. We got 40 new batteries, all made in China. I suppose we could have hunted more diligently for a domestic equivalent, but we needed the batteries, the supplier was handling the shipment, delivery, and installation, and we went with whatever vendor he could supply. The actual branding of the batteries is a house brand with the supplier, but they're just private label versions of some Chinese based supplier.

Apparently in AGM retail distribution there still is room for a few domestic brands like Optima and Dekka. Their products are typically sold at a premium price compared to imported AGM batteries. The warranty offered is often a good metric for the anticipated life span.

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