Four Boat Battery Basics You Should Know

Spring is in the air (we’re pretending anyway), and so are the sights and sounds of boaters everywhere hauling out their rides and getting it ready for the water. Sure you know how to clean it up and make sure the motor is in good working order, but what do you know  about your boat’s battery? Let’s get back to basics before the season is in full swing.

  1. Getting to know you

Well, in this case, getting to know your boat battery. Bottom line, all batteries are not created equal. So please don’t just grab the cheapest one on the shelf, odds are it’s not the right one for your boat and you won’t even be able to pull away from the dock let alone go motoring around the lake. To understand what kind of marine battery you need you can check out the manufacturers’ recommendations or take a good look at the battery that is already in the boat.

The main things you are looking for is the size or group number of the battery and the CCA or MCA rating. CCA is the cold cranking amp rating which tells you how many amps will be delivered to the engine in cold temperatures. MCA or marine cranking amps is conceptually the same rating, however, the CCA rating is based on amps delivered at 0℉ and the MCA rating is done at 32℉.

  1. Options are good

Now that you know what size of battery you need and how much amperage you require to start the boat, you can look at the different types of batteries and see what might work for you.

  • Lead-acid or wet-cell batteries definitely have their pros and cons. While they are serviceable and can have a greater capacity than other batteries on the market they can also be harder to care for and require a user that will pay attention to maintenance needs.
  • AGM Batteries (Absorbent Glass Mat) are relatively maintenance free due to their construction. AGM batteries are sealed and contain mats that absorb the sulfuric acid making the battery spill proof. These batteries are more expensive than a traditional lead-acid battery, however, they have the ability to deep cycle and are more resistant to the vibrations a boat battery will experience.
  1. Get what you need ahead of time

As you’re shopping for a boat battery you will see Amp hours come up a lot. If you don’t already know what you will need, now is the time to find out. An amp-hour is the amount of charge that will allow the battery to provide one amp to flow for one hour.

In order to understand how much you’ll need, you’ll need to understand how much you use. While it’s unlikely that you will use every electrical device on your boat at once, there is still the underlying draw that each device places on the battery. Check out this handy chart to help you determine exactly what you’ll need.

  1. Out of sight can’t mean out of mind

Despite the claims of “maintenance free” that you might see from the different battery companies, no battery is fully maintenance free. Not unless you just want to keep replacing it that is. As all true boaters know, boat stands for Bring On Another Thousand, so of course, you’ll want to look for as many ways to cut costs as you can.

Pro tip: instead of cutting back on expense by way of cutting back on quality, try creating a maintenance plan that keeps all the components of your investment working longer.

Simple battery maintenance can be fast and go a long way in keeping your battery at peak performance levels.

  • Charge it up! After a long day on the water, don’t wait until next time to charge your battery. Charge it before you walk away. Letting your battery sit undercharged for a period of time will cause performance level drops sooner than necessary.
  • Give it a scrub! Dirt and sulfate build up on the outer casing causing the battery to continue to discharge at a faster rate than if it were clean. This build-up can also create a resistance to charging which will just add to its early life cycle failure.