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Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Smooth Sailing Ahead: 6 Ways to Keep Your Boat Batteries Shipshape

Discover 6 Vital Tips for Optimal Boat Battery Care. From types to storage, maintenance to charging, unlock peak performance and longevity.

Your boat's battery is a vital component when it comes to the performance of your boat. Taking great care of your batteries can help ensure that you don't get stranded with a boat that won't start. Here are some battery maintenance tips to help you get the best battery performance. 

Get to know Your Battery

Knowledge is power and the best way to ensure that you are taking proper care of your boat is to know the battery types, which battery type your boat uses and what it needs for regular maintenance. 

Lead Acid Batteries

A lead acid battery uses lead plates and an acid component to hold a charge. These include traditional lead acid batteries, flooded batteries, absorbed gel mat batteries, and gel cell batteries. These batteries often require you to add distilled water every so often. 

Lithium-Ion Batteries

Lithium-Ion batteries use lithium iron phosphate to hold a charge. They are often lighter and more efficient at holding a charge. These batteries are safer to discharge when they are under a 50% charge. 

Always Store your Marine Batteries Properly

The first step in prolonging your marine battery life is to store it properly both on your boat and when not in use. Boat batteries need to be stored in a cool dry place while in your vessel and while not in use. Your battery should be stored away from water as moisture can corrode the connections and shorten the life of your battery.

When storing your boat battery when your boat is not in use, it is best practice to fully charge it before storing it for a long period. Even when the battery is not in use, the battery will pull power and drain. 

If you are using a flooded battery, it is important to make sure that it is stored in only distilled water. Regularly check your flooded batteries' water levels to ensure that it is fully always submerged. If you are using a battery with an absorbed glass mat, it is suggested that you check the electrolyte levels within the fiberglass plate. 

Regularly Clean Your Batteries

A clean boat battery is a healthy battery. Regularly clean the terminals to ensure a great connection. Regular cleaning will help reduce corrosion on your battery and keep it running great for a long time. 

Dirty or corroded boat battery terminals can affect the amount of power output that a battery is capable of. When you keep your terminals shiny and clean, you can ensure great power output for the full life of your battery. 

Experts advise that the best way to clean battery terminals is with a wire brush and a baking soda solution. Mix one part baking soda to three parts tap water and apply to your terminals and your battery terminal posts with a wire brush. Be sure to scrub off any visible corrosion or rust. The baking soda will help your battery terminals avoid corrosion. Wipe clean when done. 

After cleaning, you should lightly grease your terminals with dielectric grease. Cleaning your terminals every 3 to 4 weeks will help extend the life of your battery. 

Regularly Test and Monitor your Marine Battery

The best way to maintain boat batteries healthy, no matter the type is to consistently test and monitor your battery. When pulling from less than 50% charge lithium-ion batteries and lead acid batteries sustain more wear and tear. If you regularly monitor your battery’s charge, you will know when to charge it to ensure top performance. 

Testing your battery's power output regularly can help alert you to a decrease in performance right away. The faster you can identify that your battery is not performing, the faster you can address the issue. The last thing you want is to be stranded with low power output and no means to solve the problem on deck. Regular testing can help you avoid these issues in the first place and provide service to your battery to help extend its life. 

Avoid Overcharging and Over draining your Battery

Overcharging your battery can cause damage that will shorten its life. When you leave it connected to a battery charger for too long or charge a battery at a higher voltage than recommended, the battery can heat up and accept more current than it is designed for. This can ruin your battery, decrease your power output, and shorten the life of your battery. 

Be sure to only charge your battery at the proper voltage and for the recommended time. Smart battery chargers or multi-stage battery chargers may be a valuable addition to your boat as they can ensure that it receives an accurate and proper charge. 

The same goes for draining your battery all the way down. When you let your batteries drain all the way to empty, the battery works under more strain which will shorten its lifespan. The more you drain the battery to empty, the harder it will be for that battery to hold a full charge. This could also affect your battery’s power output and overall lifespan. 

Reduce Power Usage and Provide Alternative Chargers

One of the best ways that you can lengthen the life of your battery and keep your battery performing at a high level is to take some of the strain off of your battery bank.

While every boat has electrical necessities, consider reducing some of the electricity you use while on your boat. One of the best ways to reduce energy usage is to replace traditional bulbs with led bulbs. 

The less your battery has to discharge, the longer your battery will last. Consider replacing electrical components with energy-efficient options whenever possible. Switching off your boat's battery master switch can help ensure that you are not pulling unnecessary power when the boat is not in use. 

Alternative charging methods can also help to take the strain off of your boat’s batteries or help them stay charged up to prevent additional strain. 

Solar panels, wind turbines, and hydrogenators can be valuable additions to your boat if you are looking for a more sustainable charge than a traditional alternator. You can also use these alternative methods to power non-essential electrical needs to help minimize the strain on your boat’s battery and lengthen the battery’s life. 

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