Battery Best Practices

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Answering your top 4 battery care questions

(5 Minute Read)

Mark Miller

Mark Miller, Mechanical Department Manager

We had quite a few good questions and animated conversations after our recent post About Batteries, particularly concerning winter storage and the care of your battery. We thought this might be a good opportunity to ask our Mechanical Department Manager, Mark Miller, to explore this topic further.

Mark’s procedure for checking a battery (included in our standard Ferry Point Marina Winterization service) is to first identify its condition, type, and estimated age. Our mechanic tops off the battery (if it’s a wet cell), gives it a full charge, and then will disconnect wires to the battery on your land-stored boat.

Q:  Some have asked, ‘When storing a boat on land, you advocate for disconnecting the battery.  If there is an “Off” switch, will you still disconnect the battery?’

Mark’s answer is, “Yes, absolutely.”   Often, several items are attached directly to the battery, bypassing this switch (including the air conditioning condensate pump, stereo memory, etc.) It’s important to know that these items will not continue to draw  from the battery while the boat is in storage. In the case of multiple “Wet batteries,” all batteries will be disconnected – preventing potential damage from fumes or spillage.

After this process, if your battery does not meet or hold at close to a 100% charge until the next day, it’s probably damaged (?? Or ready for replacement?).  Another symptom of a faulty battery: charging batteries should not get warm or hot. If they do, the charger is not satisfied in its goal and may be meeting with resistance; it will continue to try to charge but this is a futile effort.  Additionally, if a wet cell is over 30 months old (as opposed to the average 5-year life expectancy of an AGM), we will not recommend that you keep it through the winter. In effect, you are on borrowed time. When we find any of these scenarios, there is a  likelihood that the battery will rapidly discharge and crack before the end of winter, seeping sulfuric acid into your boat. In order to avoid this related stress , we will provide you with an estimate for a battery replacement – but we also recommend that you should wait until Spring before buying. The lifespan of a battery begins when you purchase and install it.  It doesn’t make sense to store a brand-new, aging, and unused battery through the winter, and there is rarely a financial incentive that is good enough to warrant it.

Q: Often, customers will ask, “Should I remove my batteries from my boat?” 

When your boat is stored on land with us, fully-charged batteries will be left in your boat through winter. Mark finds that it’s always best to store a battery in its own boat, to avoid damage, potential injury (for example when carrying a large battery down a tall ladder), and the need for extra remote and secure space. Additionally, the battery’s self-discharge rate is reduced in the colder storage environment.

When spring arrives, before we put your boat back into the water, we’ll voltage-test your battery, assess its capability, make recommendations, clean the wires, check water levels (if a wet cell), and reconnect everything.

Q: “What if I’m at dock in wet storage? Will you still disconnect my batteries?” 

If you are in wet storage, it’s important that the batteries not be disconnected – this is to ensure that, in case of emergency, we can quickly access or move your boat. Also, Mark believes that a marine-rated trickle-charger, designed for your battery type, is suitable for wet-stored boats, but not those kept “on the hard.” If your land-stored battery is discharging too quickly and requires trickle-charging, there’s something essentially wrong with it. Again, this is another opportunity to be proactive and avoid unexpected problems.

In closing, Mark points out that his Ferry Point mechanical team does not use “economy” to manage services and repairs – we always look for the right solution, and not simply a temporary or inexpensive fix.  Your safety is our first priority and we work to ensure that your boating experiences are worry-free.

Q:  “What do I do with my dead and faulty marine batteries?”

We strongly encourage responsible care and disposal of used and old batteries. You are most welcome to bring us your old batteries to be recycled. We’re at:

700 Mill Creek Road, Arnold, MD 21012.

Do you have additional mechanical or yachtyard questions for our Ferry Point Marina team? If so, please submit them to Slips@FerryPointMarina.com.  Additionally, Mark Miller is available to take calls and answer your questions:  443.255.6972.  

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