Beef Up Your Battery Life

It's the battery that keeps you going, so keep it charged.

Maintain It The Right Way

All batteries will self-discharge over time and must be charged regularly in order to reach their expected life span. Simply hooking your battery up to an automotive charger and leaving it for long periods of time can "cook" the electrolyte and result in gassing and even an explosion. You should charge your main battery with a "smart" three-stage marine charger that you can set for the size of your battery and the type of battery you're using, such as gel, lead acid, and AGM. Each type of battery has a different charging profile. Using the incorrect profile can shorten battery life or even pose a fire risk. If your boat doesn't have a built-in marine charger, portable chargers that do this can be found readily at West Marine, Wal-Mart, and other places.

Watering Batteries

Photo of battery water bottle Photo: Don Casey

I still favor wet-cell batteries, but they do require periodic checking of the water level. If the batteries are accessible, checking is easy. The difficulty is that when they require water, you need to have distilled water at hand to avoid introducing elements that will shorten battery life. Gallon water jugs take up too much space on a small boat and are not a convenient dispenser for pouring an ounce or two through the inch-diameter ports in the top of the cells.

The solution is a hiker's water bottle. These are durable, typically hold between 20 ounces and a quart, and have a snap-open nipple top that makes it easy to direct a short squirt into an open cell. You can also purchase a mating cage that you can mount near your batteries. Or save the cost of the cage by screwing the bottom half of an empty liter vinegar bottle to the bulkhead to create a secure receptacle. A short length of clear hose stretched over the nipple top is a good addition, making it easier to direct every drop into the cell. Having the right water close at hand makes wet-cell maintenance a snap.

Battery Switch

Photo of a battery switch
Photo: Don Casey

Our brand-new boat came with neither a marine battery box nor an on/off battery switch. Wiring one up as shown costs less than $60 including a good-quality switch, cables, and copper connectors. If the battery isn't covered, acids seeping from the top can damage watersports toys, life jackets, and other bilge-stored items. Also uncovered batteries can allow inadvertent shorts.


Got T-Top? Get Energy

Solar cells can be particularly good on T-top covers on center consoles and give peace of mind when anchored or running electronic devices. 

— Published: Fall 2014


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