BOAT BATTERY SYSTEMS
I see many boats that have the incorrect battery installed or the boat owner comes into the shop to purchase a battery and they do not know the correct battery needed for their application. In this article I hope to give you the correct information so you can install and maintain the most trouble-free system for your boat.
Batteries are built for specific purposes and they differ in construction accordingly. There are basically two applications that manufacturers build their batteries for: starting and deep cycle.
Starting batteries are meant to get combustion engines going. They have many thin lead-acid plates which allow them to discharge a lot of energy very quickly for a short amount of time. However, they do not tolerate being discharged deeply. Most starting batteries will only tolerate being completely discharged a few times before becoming irreversibly damaged.
Deep cycle batteries have thicker lead plates that make them tolerate deep discharge better. They are designed to be discharged down to as much as 80% time after time. They cannot dispense charge as quickly a starter battery.
Some “Marine” batteries are sold as dual purpose batteries for starting and deep cycle applications. However, the thin plates required for starting purposes inherently compromise deep cycle performance. Thus these batteries should not be discharged deeply and should be avoided for deep cycle applications.
The most common kind of battery in marine use today is the lead-acid battery. Using an electrolyte consisting of sulphuric acid, these cells can store impressive amounts of energy in a relatively small space.
There are three common lead-acid battery technologies: Flooded, Gel, and AGM.
Flooded or Wet Cells are the most common lead-acid battery-type in use today. Wet cell batteries are constructed of a plastic case with a grid of lead plates submerged in an electrolyte of sulphuric acid. They offer the most size and design options and are built for many different uses. In the marine world, they usually are not sealed so the user can replenish the electrolyte as needed. Another benefit of wet cell batteries is the cheaper cost. Since the container of a wet cell battery is not sealed, great care must be taken to ensure that the acid does not come into contact with your skin or eyes. Also battery acid mixed with sea water creates poison chlorine gas. Always take the appropriate precautions when handling these batteries.
Gel Cells use a thickening agent like fumed silica to immobilize the electrolyte. If the battery container is cracked the battery will continue to function. These batteries are sealed and you cannot check or maintain acid levels. Gel cells use lower charging voltages than flooded cells, thus controlling the rate of charge is very important or the battery can be ruined. Special battery chargers are made for sealed batteries to prevent damage.
Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) are the latest lead-acid batteries. Instead of using a gel, an AGM uses a fiberglass-like separator to hold the electrolyte in place. The physical bond between the separator fibers, the lead plates, and the container make AGMs spill-proof and the most vibration and impact resistant lead-acid batteries available. An AGM can do anything a gel cell can, only better. However since they are sealed, charging has to be controlled or they too can be ruined in short order.
I always recommend a dual starting battery system in a boat. This consists of two of the proper batteries for your engine make and a quality battery switch that allows for you to select between #1 battery, #2 battery, both batteries, or "off". This system will allow you to switch off your batteries to disconnect all voltage when you are not using your boat and also allows you to alternate between batteries so that you always have a back up battery if needed.
When you do add or replace a starting battery always consult your engine manufacturer's owners manual. Most manufacturers specify a certain type of battery for their charging systems and electronics to function properly.
When installing an extra deep cycle battery or batteries for a trolling motor or other deep drawing accessory I recommend installing an on-board charger with the correct voltage rating for the system.
Before installing any upgrade to your battery system always consult a qualified technician to help you design the proper system for you and your boats needs.
Only fill wet cell batteries with distilled water.
Storing batteries on concrete will not discharge modern batteries.
Always attach cables to batteries with locknuts.
Do not disconnect a battery while the engine is running as this could damage modern engines.
Stored batteries will discharge twice as fast at temperatures above 75 degrees.
Most batteries will not reach full capacity until cycled 10 to 30 times.
Batteries should be recharged with an external charger after going dead to insure a full charge; your alternator will not fully recharge a dead battery.
Totally dead batteries will cause undo wear on your engine starting and charging system.
Lead-Acid batteries do not have a memory.
Do not remove the vent caps on a wet cell battery while charging.
Batteries should be watered after charging, using caution.
Cover battery posts with insulated covers to avoid shorting.
Always dispose of old batteries properly.
If you have any comments or questions about this article or any marine subject please contact Ed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BACK TO BASICS - WASHING YOUR BOAT
One of the easiest aspects of boat maintenance that will give your boat the most longevity when done correctly is washing your boat. Many boat owners have no idea of the simple steps to keep their boat looking like new.
Here in southwest Florida, salt is the main culprit in destroying your boat and its systems. It is very important to wash all of the salt off of your boat after every use. Salt attacks your boat in several ways. Obviously, salt water will corrode all metal surfaces that it comes in contact with, but salt is also corrosive to all surfaces it comes into contact with. Salt affects the gel coat on your boat as if it was getting a full dose of ultraviolet sunlight. Salt dries into crystals which can act as an abrasive on the hull and fray dock and anchor lines. Salt is hydroscopic, which means that salt is capable of condensing water out of the atmosphere. Salt will mix with dew in the night and its corrosive properties will be recharged night after night.
After using your boat, spray the entire boat down with fresh water. Let the water set for a couple of minutes to dissolve the salt crystals, then thoroughly rinse the entire boat. Spray water through any deck or compartment
drains to clear out any debris and to keep them draining freely. It is equally important to wash your boat and all of its different surfaces regularly. Put together a detailing kit tailor-made to your boat and how it is used.
Here is a list of what you will need to keep your boat looking like new!
* 5 gallon plastic bucket to fill with fresh water and boat soap
* Wash mitt for cleaning all smooth surfaces
* Medium bristle brush on a handle for scrubbing non-skid surfaces
* Clean rags or towels
* Chamois for drying all surfaces and compartments
* Boat soap: A product made specifically for boats. Use for general cleaning of all surfaces
* Marine degreaser, such as Spray Nine or Roll-Off. Use the brush and a spray bottle for more stubborn dirt. Also, use degreaser to keep the bilge compartment clean. Remember, degreaser will remove wax
* X-14 or other chlorine type product to remove mold and mildew stains on white surfaces only, because it contains bleach
* To protect vinyl surfaces after cleaning use a product like 303 Aerospace Protectant after cleaning and drying
* A quality glass cleaner
* Snap stick or Snap lube to keep snaps and zippers working freely. Do not use a petroleum product, as this will deteriorate fabric around snaps
* Silicone spray. Use lightly on metal surfaces after washing off the salt. Spray under and all around the outboard motor or outdrive tilt bracket to prevent corrosion
* Metal Mate or a like brand metal cleaner works great to remove stubborn spots and stains on rails, steering wheels, cleats, props, etc.
* All aluminum should be kept clean and wipe down with a product such as Rupps Alumagaurd
* Star Brite rust remover will remove rust stains around screws and thru-hulls
* Sno-Bowl toilet bowl cleaner works great at removing the water stains on the bottom and sides of the hull
* Your boat should be waxed every year. The new nano type waxes are easy to apply and last a long time
Remember to wear protective equipment including safety glasses and gloves when working with any chemicals!
If you have a cabin, keep it clean and dry to prevent mildew growth. Products such as Febreeze will eliminate stale odors and an inexpensive dehumidifier will help keep your cabin dry. Every boat is different so you must design a plan for what works best for you and your vessel.
After your boat is clean and dry including all compartments, try and keep it in a covered area or use a mooring cover - using both is even better.
If all of this seems a little to daunting to you, there are many boat detailing services willing to help. At Marine Dynamics we have a complete boat detailing department that can perform simple washing to full reconditioning of your boat. Our Parts Department can supply you with all of your boat care needs.
If you have any questions about this article or any other marine subject contact Ed at email@example.com.
Don't Let E-10 Fuel Ruin Your PlansA subject on everybody's mind and up for much discussion and conjecture is
E10 fuel. Let me start with the basics. E10 is gasoline blended with up to 10 percent ethanol alcohol and is now in wide spread use in the US. Ethanol (ethyl alcohol) is made from corn, sugar, and other grains. Alcohol is an
excellent cleaner, solvent and anti-freeze. Most importantly, ethanol is hygroscopic, which is a fancy word meaning it will absorb large amounts of water. This can mean big problems for your boat and its motor. Always check with your marine motor manufacturer and/or check your owner's manual for any information regarding this issue.
Most problems brought about by using E10 fuel tend to be due to boaters' lack of information on how to properly manage alcohol fuels. Many older marine engines from the 1970-1980's are still in use today. They have plastic and rubber parts that are not compatible with E10 fuel. Not to
mention two stroke engines where the ethanol actually acts as a solvent, cleaning the oil right off the internal components. Ethanol will also cleanse and release corrosive matter, varnish, rust and other gunk which will
travel through the engine and clog fuel filters, carburetor jets and injectors. Many times it will also contaminate the fuel present in the fuel tank and cause issues there as well. The more gunk that has collected in your outboard engine over the years, the more noticeable the cleansing effects of the alcohol will be. I have seen older fuel lines actually shed their lining causing contamination of the complete fuel system.
Repowering an older boat with a new motor sounds like a new way out of old problems but this can actually cause many headaches. The fuel tank in the older hull is
often contaminated from gunk loosened up by ethanol or water sitting on the bottom of the tank. This can play havoc on the sensitive injectors in the new direct injected outboard motors. We can get into the subject of ethanol effects on fuel tanks but that is another article entirely.
The easiest way to avoid these problems is to use good 'ole gasoline without ethanol in it. Yes, you can still get it! Many marinas with dock side fuel still sell non-ethanol gasoline. Marine Dynamics sells 89 octane non-ethanol unleaded gas at a competitive price. If you do buy gas from a gas station, buy high quality gasoline with no more than 10 percent ethanol content stated on the pump. Buy from a busy gas station where fuel turn over is faster and the gas will be fresher. Avoid running your boat off the bottom of the gas tank where water will sink to and eventually contaminate your fuel system. Most importantly, DO NOT mix non-ethanol fuel with ethanol fuel. The additive in non-ethanol fuels mixed with ethanol can create a gel-like substance that clogs carburetors, stalling motors and resulting in engine damage. Fuel injection engines are less prone than carburetor engines to the effects of this gel-like substance. Make sure your boat is equipped with a high quality in-line fuel/water separator such as a Racor type unit, even if your motor already has a fuel/water separator on it. Replace as often as every 50 hours. Keep your engine well-tuned and lubricated. Fortunately new outboard engines have been designed
to be more compatible with alcohol fuels.
Boaters often store gas in tanks longer than the recommended 90 days for E10. Cars, unlike boats, usually replace fuel every week or two. This will successfully prevent phase separation, which is a fancy way of saying water contamination. Phase separation occurs when the weight of the ethanol and the water it absorbs sinks to the bottom of the fuel tank, which is eventually picked up by the fuel system. Even small amounts of water can harm the fuel system. Ethanol can cause a motor to run lean due to the water absorbed by the ethanol, which takes the place of fuel and will not burn. This will damage a two stroke motor and cause running problems with a four stroke.
Signs and symptoms of ethanol problems and damage include:
* prematurely worn out engine parts
* rusting of internal engine components including injectors
* clogging of fuel filters and carburetor jets
* release of gunk and sludge throughout the engine, fuel lines and tank
* frequent water contamination/phase separation of fuel and eventually engine break downs
If any of these symptoms occur consult a factory qualified
technician for your make of motor immediately. Marine Dynamics has qualified technicians for most makes of outboard and inboard motors.
There are many products available now that claim they can fix ethanol/water contaminated fuel. This is not true. You can only prevent it. Once phase separation has occurred the fuel must be discarded. Products are available
that can "condition or stabilize" fuel which means absorb moisture in the fuel before it mixes with the ethanol. This is only a preventative measure that does have its limits. And again, a quality fuel/water separator
installed in the fuel line will prevent a lot of headaches.
Here are some prevention do's and don'ts:
-Consult your marine motor manufacturer/owner's manual
-Add stabilizer or conditioner
-Top off the tank as much as possible
-Use your boat frequently
-Use quality fuel
-Install a fuel/water separator
-Use a fuel tank that has been only partially filled for long periods
-Let the boat sit idle for months...even in the summer
-Plug the tank's vent to keep moisture out (it could rupture the system)
Remember, correct information and informed prevention is the key to trouble-free boat ownership.
If you have any questions about this article or any other marine subject please email Ed at firstname.lastname@example.org