Letters to Captain Diehard
Dear Captain DieHard: What tools do you recommend that I keep on my boat to take care of the battery and other electrical issues? Yeehaw Junction, Florida
Dear Yeehaw Junction: Thanks for asking. My electrical tool box has a wire brush to keep battery terminals clean and shiny, baking soda to neutralize acid, and Vaseline to help prevent corrosion on the terminals. I also have an adjustable wrench which I use to tighten (really tighten) connections to the battery posts. I avoid using pliers because the teeth can marl up the soft leaded terminals. Wire cutters, crimpers and liquid electrical tape are in there too in case I need them to make a cable repair. A flashlight will help you see whether you need to add distilled water to cells A volt-meter is also a good idea. It will indicate a battery's state of charge. I actually have a digital multi-meter which is a volt meter that gives me a reading to two decimal places.
Dear Captain DieHard: The needle on my battery charger shows that my deep cycle battery is not charging up all the way, yet the battery seems to be performing up to par. Is something wrong with the battery or is it the charger? Gadsden, Alabama
Dear Gadsden: The problem seems to point to the charger, but it's most likely caused by the battery. Not that either is defective, they just may not be working together the way you'd expect. Your charger is designed to turn off when a pre-set voltage limit is reached; your battery may no longer reach that limit, even though it's fully charged. The reason has to do with something called antimony transfer, which lowers charging voltages
and increases water consumption rates, but that's beyond the scope of your problem. Try this: recharge your battery on the regular setting instead of the deep cycle setting and see if the charger gets the turn-off signal it needs. If the charger still doesn't shut off, it may be time to upgrade to a DieHard microprocessor-controlled, fully-automatic charger. These chargers know how to put the optimum charge back into the battery, regardless of battery age or construction. They even have built-in safeguards for charging in the manual setting. DieHard models 71315 or 71320 are available from Sears Auto Centers and Sears Hardware Stores.
Dear Captain DieHard: I've read about the new DieHard Security Battery that helps prevent vehicles from being stolen. Also, it is supposed to keep enough stored up power to start the engine, even if you have left the accessories turned on. Will this work in my boat? Clewiston, Florida
Dear Clewiston: DieHard Security isn't for boats but your Sears Auto Center can install it in your towing vehicle. It's your silent sentinel while you're fishing, helping prevent the theft of your towing vehicle back at the launching ramp. And if you accidentally leave the lights on, the power saver feature will shut down power to all accessories, leaving the battery with enough power to start the vehicle when you come off the water.
Bouncing Boats and Batteries
Engineers of DieHard marine batteries say the pounding a bot takes in rough water is not good for ordinary wet-cell batteries. So, if your boating water is typically choppy, your vessel is a candidate for maintenance-free, absorbent glass mat (AGM) batteries or gel-cell batteries. Initial cost is higher than lead-acid batteries, but these two kinds of maintenance free batteries generally last longer and resist the damaging effects of boat pounding and vibrations. If your battery compartment is prone to flooding, note also that DieHard marine AGM and gel cell batteries are fully submersible.
Battery Brain Bender
Take two identical boats with the same trolling motor and the same batteries. In a trolling motor race, one boat always beats the other boat. Why? The DieHard marine battery experts at Sears Auto Centers say the reason one boat goes faster that the other is that it has fatter battery cables, or the batteries are closer to the trolling motor, or both. The longer the cable, the more poser you lose. Power is also lost by the heat generated through the finer gauge, high-resistance cable. The lower voltage at the motor means less thrust. Rule of thumb: Use short cables with a large diameter.
What's to Blame?
If your electric trolling motor starts the day with strong thrust but quickly loses its punch as the day goes on, the finger of blame points to the batteries. It could be low fluid levels in one or more cells in which case all you do is add distilled water almost to the top of the refill rings. Another possibility, though, is that you've got a battery cell going bad. Put a battery charger on the battery. If the needle won't drop below 5 amps it's a sign you've got a bad cell that prevents the battery from fully charging. When the battery is fully charged, the charger needle should be close to zero. If you don't have a battery charger, you should have your batteries checked by an expert, such as those found at your Sears Auto Center.