Marine batteries are expensive and if you don’t take care of them they won’t last.
If you’re like most boaters, you’ve probably never given much thought to your boat battery except when it’s time to replace it. But there’s a lot more to marine battery maintenance than just keeping an eye on the water level in your cells.
Keep reading for our complete guide to marine battery maintenance. This article is for anyone who owns or operates a boat with a lead-acid (or gel) battery and wants to learn how to maximize its performance, lifespan, safety, and longevity.
Why Is Marine Battery Maintenance So Important?
If you’re like most boaters, you probably use your boat’s battery to start the engine. And if your battery isn’t in good condition, it can be hard to start the engine – or even worse, it might not start at all. In addition, a bad battery can also lead to corrosion and damage to your boat’s electrical system.
It’s not just the engine that a bad battery can affect though. A battery that isn’t in good shape can also cause problems with things like your bilge pump, navigation lights, and radio. Basically, if there’s an electrical component on your boat, a bad battery can impact it in some way.
So, as you can see, marine battery maintenance is pretty important. By following the tips in this article, you can help to ensure that your battery is always in good condition and that your boat’s electrical system stays corrosion-free.
How To Check The Condition of Your Marine Battery
The best way to determine the condition of your battery is to use a voltmeter. This tool will allow you to measure the voltage of your battery and see if it is above or below 12 volts.
If your battery is below 12 volts, it is considered to be in “poor” condition. If it is 12 volts or above, it is considered to be in “good” condition. However, even a good battery can eventually wear out, so it’s important to keep an eye on its condition over time. To do this, you can use a voltmeter or even a multimeter at least once or twice per year.
How To Properly Store Your Marine Battery On Shore Power
If you’re going to store your boat for an extended period of time (more than 30 days), it’s important that you take the proper precautions with your battery. The first thing you’ll need to do is disconnect your vessel from shore power and make sure that all of its lights are off. Otherwise, if there is power going to your boat while it’s stored, there could be a build-up of corrosion on the terminals and around the battery itself which will make things harder when you go to start up the engine again!
In addition, don’t store your boat in a garage or under a carport – this is especially true if you’re going to be storing it during the colder winter months. For some reason, cars and other vehicles throw off a large amount of moisture and humidity which will cause corrosion just like power that stays on while your boat’s stored.
If you absolutely must keep your boat in the garage, we recommend using a dehumidifier to help get rid of any excess moisture created by your car or other vehicles. Also, make sure to check the condition of the battery every month during storage – even if you haven’t done anything with shore power! You never know when one little problem could turn into something much bigger.
If your boat’s stored for 30 days or less, keeping the battery on board should be fine. However, if you’re going to keep it stored for longer than that, we still recommend bringing the battery onboard and disconnecting it from the cables as a safety precaution.
How To Properly Disconnect Your Marine Battery From Shore Power
Disconnecting your battery from shore power is important because it will prevent any potential buildup of corrosive fluid around your marine battery terminals and posts – which can lead to other problems such as poor charging performance and corrosion!
To properly disconnect your marine battery, you’ll need to make sure all lights are turned off (including nav lights), pull up on the main breaker, pull up on the negative cable (usually black), and then finally disconnect the positive cable (usually red).
It’s also a good idea to put some type of label on your battery terminals – this will help you remember which is which next time you go to connect them.
How To Charge Your Marine Battery
The best way to charge your battery is with an intelligent charger that will properly regulate the number of amps it puts out.
These chargers are especially important if you’re using the boat only infrequently – they’ll help keep the battery in good condition without overcharging it and potentially damaging any of its internal cells! Since most marine batteries aren’t designed for under-the-hood use, we don’t recommend hooking them up directly to your engine or alternator.
7 Tips For Properly Maintaining Your Marine Battery
There are a number of things that you can do to extend the life of your marine battery and keep it working at optimal levels. Here are our 7 top tips:
Cleaning Your Battery Cables
The first step in marine battery maintenance is cleaning your battery cables. This might sound a little daunting, but it’s actually a pretty easy process. All you need is some baking soda mixed with water and a stiff brush. Simply scrub the cables until all the dirt and corrosion are gone, then rinse off with fresh water. Make sure to allow the cables to dry completely before reconnecting them to your battery.
Checking Fluid Levels
One of the simplest things you can do to prolong the life of your batteries is to check fluid levels regularly. This can be done with a simple dipstick or hydrometer, and only takes a couple of minutes. If the levels are low, add some distilled water (not tap water) until they are back to full.
Adding Epsom Salts
One of the most overlooked things when it comes to battery maintenance is adding Epsom salts. This might sound strange, but adding just a small amount of Epsom salts to your battery’s water every few months can do wonders for keeping it healthy. Epsom salts help to keep the acidity level in check and can prevent corrosion and other damage.
Charging & Discharging
Batteries perform best when they are regularly charged and discharged. This is because it helps them to last longer. The simplest way to do this is to simply use your boat for 20-30 minutes every week or two, depending on how often you use it. Remember that these batteries can’t be removed unless the boat isn’t in use for at least 8 hours (overnight).
Storing Your Battery
One of the most important things to remember when storing your battery over the winter is not to let it go completely dead! If this happens, you can damage your cranking speed, so always leave some charge left before putting it away each year. Once stored, check fluid levels periodically and top off with distilled water as necessary.
Never Use a Torch to Clean Your Battery Terminals
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but we just wanted to put it out there. Never use a torch or any other kind of flame to clean your battery terminals. You could easily start a fire and damage your boat in the process. Instead, use a baking soda and water mixture or a battery terminal cleaner.
Follow the Instructions in Your Owner’s Manual
As we mentioned before, following the specific instructions in your owner’s manual is the most important thing you can do when it comes to battery maintenance. These instructions will be tailored to your battery and boat, so it is important to read them and follow them closely.
When Is It Time For a Battery Replacement?
Even with proper maintenance, batteries eventually wear out and you will need a new battery. How long they last depend on a number of factors, including the type of battery, how often it’s used, and the conditions in which it’s stored. However, most marine batteries should last 3-5 years with regular use.
If you’re not sure whether it’s time to replace your battery, there are a few telltale signs to look out for:
- Low fluid levels
- Corrosion or damage to the battery cables or terminals
- Difficulty starting the boat engine
- Diminished performance or cranking speed
If you notice any of these symptoms, it might be time to invest in a new battery like the marine leisure batteries. Thankfully, there are plenty of great marine batteries out there, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding one that meets your needs.
Want More Help With Battery Maintenance?
Marine battery maintenance can seem like a daunting task, but if you follow these simple tips, it can be easy and straightforward. By keeping your battery clean, well-charged, and properly maintained, you can ensure that it will last for years to come.
If you’d like to learn more about Marine boat battery maintenance, don’t forget to check out our blog for more informative articles on the best battery maintenance tactics!