How do I get more from my batteries?


Expert: Michael Simonton, Fremont, Ohio — The second year Elite pro is working hard to make a name for himself on the tournament trail.

If you fish from a boat, you've probably got several batteries in it — batteries for your trolling motor, a cranking battery for your outboard and maybe even a battery for your electronics. They take up a lot of space, add weight to your rig, and the best ones are not cheap.

It's important to get the most out of your batteries, and I've learned a lot about battery care since joining the Crown Battery pro staff. These tips should help you as much as they've helped me.

Tip #1: Lithium grease

Lithium grease isn't just for science fiction films anymore. Actually, it never was -- it's real stuff, and it will improve your battery performance, but you have to use it correctly.

Lithium grease is great, but only to prevent corrosion.

The grease doesn't belong on your connections. It will only reduce your power flow there. The only place you want to put the grease is on the nut and on top of the post after you've tightened everything down. It's designed to prevent corrosion, not to enhance your connection.

Tip #2: Keep dirt and mildew off your batteries

The battery compartment of your boat can be a mildew greenhouse if you're not careful, and it's important to keep everything clean back there. Dirt and mildew buildup on your batteries — even and especially on the sides of the batteries — will sap your power.

The good news is that it's easy to fix and prevent. A little soap and water works wonders to keep everything clean and working properly.

Tip #3: Keep it tight!

Loose connections are the biggest thief of battery power. If your battery doesn't have a good connection to your wiring, you're not getting everything you can out of it. Be sure tighten everything down and check it frequently.

It's even a good idea to check your connections throughout the course of the day. A long drive to the lake followed by a lot of running around on the water can loosen your connections and keep you from getting maximum power.

Tip #4: Get a battery hydrometer and use it

A hydrometer is a tool that measures the relative density of a liquid — like the water in a battery. A battery hydrometer estimates the state of charge of a battery by measuring the density of sulfuric acid solution in it.

A good battery hydrometer can tell you if your battery cells are functioning properly. If they're not, it's time for a new battery.

Tip #5: Use distilled water

When adding water to your batteries, use distilled water or "pure" tap water. For most of us, "pure" tap water isn't an option because our water supplier adds chemicals to our water that may be good for us, but they'll hurt a battery. You can pick up distilled water at most grocery stores.

And when you're refilling your batteries, don't overfill them. That's a battery killer! Only fill them up to about 1/8-inch below the vent well. If you overfill the battery, it will lead to tray corrosion and can cause extensive damage to your battery and boat.

Tip #6: Charge your batteries over the winter

Just because you've parked the boat in the garage for the winter doesn't mean it won't need a little regular maintenance. That's especially true with your batteries.

Keep the aspirin in your medicine cabinet, not your battery.

Charge your batteries three times over your off-season: (1) after your final trip of the year, (2) around the mid-point of your off-season and (3) right before your first outing of the next season. This will add life to your batteries and keep them powerful when you need them.

And here are some well-known myths about battery care.

Myth #1: Storing batteries on a concrete floor will ruin them

This was true a long time ago, when car batteries were encased in hard rubber that was porous. Back then, leaking battery acid could create a conductive path through the floor and drain the battery. With today's battery cases, it won't happen. Concrete is no longer the enemy!

Myth #2: Aspirin can rejuvenate your battery

It's just not going to add enough of a charge to help you crank a motor. Aspirin might relieve a headache caused by a dead battery, but it's not going to do much for the battery itself. Charge it or replace it.

For more on battery care, check out the Crown Battery FAQ page.

Originally published June 2013