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Old 10-30-08, 08:31 AM   #1
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Default Marine Batteries

When it comes to boat batteries, most boaters put them in the boat and pretty much forget about them until their boat wont start.
They might throw a charge in the battery every once in awhile, but that’s about it when it comes to boat maintenance for most boat owners.
I would bet that most of your average boaters don’t have the foggiest notion when it comes to what type of battery works best and needs to be done when it comes to proper care/maintenance of a marine battery.
Recently I’ve had talks about marine batteries with several marine battery specialist and they shared their knowledge on marine batteries with me.
The question that I put to them was “I know there’s a difference between an automotive and a marine battery, but I’m really not sure what those differences are, can you explain that difference to me”?
“There’s a big difference between a battery that’s used to start a car and one used in the marine industry.
Automotive batteries are made so that they produce a high amount of energy for a short period of time. When a car is started only a small amount of the batteries capacity is used. Once the vehicle is started, the battery is recharged rapidly by the alternator.
There are two basic types of marine batteries, there are those designed to start your main engine and those made specifically for trolling motors.More…
Batteries for starting your motor are your cranking batteries and those used for trolling batteries are deep-cycle batteries.
The difference between the two is the way they are constructed and by the type and number of plates in the case.
Cranking battery have more thin lead plates than a deep-cycle battery and give better bursts of energy for a fast start. A deep-cycle battery has fewer thicker plates and will provide better power output over an extended period of time.
Thicker plates can withstand the higher temperatures created when heavy current is drawn down from the battery over an extended run time.
You don’t want to substitute a cranking battery for trolling motor use. A cranking battery in a deep cycle application will overheat quickly.
All batteries use lead plates which are separated by spacers and immersed in a solution of some type of an electrolyte. Traditional lead-acid batteries contain a mixture of about 35% sulfuric acid and 65% distilled water.
As batteries are used, they’ll generate heat which evaporates the water, exposing the lead plates. Exposed plates are subject to overheating and warping. When plates warp and touch an adjacent plate, it won’t be long before you’ll be buying a new battery.
To avoid this problem, you’ll want to keep from introducing contaminants like chlorine into your battery, never use tap water to top off the fluid in a battery. Distilled water is always the best choice.
When a battery is discharged, there will be sulfur deposits that form on the lead plates. When you recharge the battery, the sulfur will dissolve back into electrolyte. This sulfur oxidizes the plates and can shorten battery life. If these sulfur deposits become large enough they can short out the plates prematurely, cutting the battery’s life down dramatically. That’s why it’s important to recharge batteries promptly after use and check water levels frequently, preventing sulfur from forming and solidifying.
Another type of battery used for marine purposes is the Gel cell battery which generally cost about twice as much as a wet-cell battery; however, gels are not as prone to sulfur buildup. Another plus when it comes to gel cells is the safety factor. Since gel cells are sealed, they won’t spill acid when tipped over or sloshed by heavy waves. Another factor is that gels aren’t subject to the danger of explosion that’s possible under certain conditions with lead-acid batteries.
When purchasing a marine battery, it’s good to know how batteries are rated and the terms used that indicate information about the battery.
A couple of these terms that you should understand are MCA@32 (Marine Cranking Amps at 32 degrees Fahrenheit), CCA@0 (Cold Cranking Amps at 0 degrees Fahrenheit), and Ah (Ampere-hour rating).
The Marine Cranking Ampere (MCA) rating refers to the number of amperes a battery can support for 30 seconds at a temperature of approximately 32F.
Cold-Cranking Amperage (CCA) of an automotive battery is the amount of current a given battery can deliver for 30 seconds at zero (0) degrees F. .
An ampere-hour (Ah) rating refers to the capacity of a battery. A typical battery that’s rated as a 100Ah battery, at the 10 hour rate of discharge, is capable of delivering 10A for 10 hours.
Hopefully, you won’t need to do a whole lot of cranking at 0 or lower, but the reason this temperature is used for the rating standard is that batteries are at their lowest efficiency under really cold conditions. A battery that has high ratings under the worst conditions will perform even better during moderate or ideal conditions.
When it comes to the size of a battery needed, it’s better to have a marine battery that’s larger than required to do the job rather than one that’s too small.
One thing that you’ll need to take into consideration is the amount of space you have to store the battery in the boat. The larger the amperage of the battery, the larger the battery is going to be.
For motors up to 60 horsepower it’s recommended that you use a 465 MCA. If you’re running a 150 hp or larger motor, you’re going to need a 500 MCA.
Since marine deep-cycle batteries are built with larger plates than an automotive battery, they have to take repeated charging. Because of this, the charging requirements are different than those of a standard automotive battery.
Marine batteries work the best when they are recharged after each trip. If you don’t recharge them after each trip, your battery will develop a memory and when you recharge it, you’ll find that it won’t take a full charge.
“It’s very important when charging a deep cycle battery that you use a “true” deep cycle charger. A 10 amp regular automatic charger with a deep cycle setting works very well to recharge marine batteries. Voltage is the key to charging deep cycles. With the right charger you’ll be able to charge your marine battery 40% faster using a deep cycle charger.”
In the winter, it’s recommended that prior to storing your boat for the winter that you charge up the battery, if possible, its also a good idea to hook up your charger and put a charge into your batteries from time to time during the winter to make sure that they survive through the cold weather and are ready to go in the spring when you’re ready to head for the water.
With proper care/ maintenance, clean connections, and correct charging, your marine battery will last for years.... Author unknown
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