Re­li­able bat­tery an ally on wa­ter

NT News - Motoring - - News - By MARK VOISEY

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

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