Batteries keep all the systems running on board your boat and yet, boat owners seem to know very little about batteries, their functions and maintenance. They are the life blood of a boat and do one of two basic tasks, starting an engine and running electrical loads like lights and electronics for longer periods of time. They are pricey and if not maintained well, may have to be replaced. So it’s worth your time and effort to keep your marine batteries in tip top shape. Like everything else, batteries require periodic servicing, so a proper maintenance program will help ensure extended life for your batteries.
Before choosing a battery, first determine the battery’s application. There are four battery chemistries: Flooded, Gel, AGM or Lithium. Each type of battery has a specific purpose, i.e. starter, deep-cycle or dual purpose and they have limitations. For example, a starting battery is designed to provide a high, one-time discharge required to power up a starter motor. However, it is not as good as deep-cycle batteries for the long, steady discharge needed for the house systems. Deep-cycle batteries can be discharged from 50 to 80 percent and recover easily, while starting batteries should not be discharged more than 50%. Below are a few tips to keep your batteries in good shape and links to great articles about selecting a battery, battery maintenance and charging.
Marine Battery Tips From The Experts
- Stay with one battery chemistry for all of the batteries on your boat. Mixing battery types can result in under- or overcharging, both of which could have bad a outcome.
- A smart multi-step regulator with a temperature sensor to control charge, is a must for AGM or gel batteries.
- Shallow discharges lead to a longer battery life
- Invest in a solar power trickle charger with smart regulator
- 80% discharge is the maximum safe discharge for deep-cycle batteries
- Don’t leave batteries deeply discharged for any length of time
- Leaving batteries in a discharged state will cause sulfide damage and lower their capacity
- Charge batteries after each use
- Never mix old batteries with new ones on the same charging system. Old batteries tend to pull down the new ones in the battery bank to their deteriorated level.
- Keep batteries in acid-proof storage boxes secured with tie downs
- Clean terminal connectors regularly to avoid loss of conductivity
- Maintain fluid levels in wet-cell batteries