Reliable battery an ally on water
BREAKDOWNS on the water are often caused by electrics — in particular batteries.
And particularly so for trailerboat owners who only get on the water once or twice a month.
There wouldn’t be many boaties who haven’t turned up at the boat ramp to find the engine won’t start.
If you want to avoid that, there’s no substitute for buying a decent marine battery and taking care of it and the system it operates.
Marine batteries are specifically designed for a harsh environment — designed to take a pounding, temperature extremes, exposure to saltwater and running radios and the like while reserving enough power to get you going again. Car batteries can’t cop it. They are designed to give a burst of high power to tick over the engine, but are not a reliable power supply when the motor is off.
Marine batteries provide a deep-cycle power source for electronics, navigation lights, pumps and the like, once the engine is off, while preserving sufficient crank to start the engine.
And go for quality — those with the lead plates bound together to cope with vibration and pounding.
Which set-up depends on your boat’s power demands and how much ‘‘insurance’’ you want.
For wide-ranging boaties who want peace of mind, a dualbattery system with an isolator is the go.
This means you can reserve the starting battery while relying on a second battery to power the radio, lights and electronics.
You can use one, the other or both batteries, but you’ll have to remember to switch between batteries from time to time to ensure both get charged.
Or you can plump for an electronic isolator, which does that for you by constantly monitoring voltage in the starting battery and giving it priority when recharging.
Once it is fully charged, the auxiliary battery gets a turn.
There’s also a choice of battery types — sealed, maintenance-free models and the flooded plate lead-acid type.
In the sealed type, the electrolyte — diluted sulfuric acid — is a gel, so it doesn’t slosh around and they don’t need topping up.
They don’t lose charge as easily as the standard types, but it all comes at a price premium.
Basic maintenance comes down to regularly checking the electrolyte levels of lead-acid batteries, keeping terminals free of corrosion and dirt and recharging regularly.
Batteries for trailerboats generally don’t last as long as car batteries because they aren’t used as much.
A marine battery can run flat in a couple of months when it isn’t being used, even less when it’s hot.
Let it run down too far and it will probably never regain full charge.
Also make sure the boat’s electrical system — particularly the battery leads — is in good condition and corrosion hasn’t penetrated under the plastic outer coating near the terminals.
CHARGE UP: Make sure your battery is in good working order before you hit the water