Optima Battery Problems

OptimaJim

Observer
I'm glad to hear Josh tracked down the source of his issue and that so many of you have had success with your batteries. We are always on the lookout for good Optima stories for our touring Wall of Power display and we've even invited a few of our favorites out to Las Vegas for the SEMA Show. getlost4x4, while we would prefer that all of our 30,000+ retail partners stock our entire product line, inventory does vary based on location, past sales history and seasonal buying trends. Our batteries may not be found at every Costco for any of those reasons, but they are still carrying them.

Jim McIlvaine
eCare Manager, OPTIMA Batteries, Inc.
www.facebook.com/optimabatteries
 

Jim K in PA

Adventurer
Jim - I have a question regarding the Optima batteries. They tend to "polarize" folks (yes, pun very much intended), at least in the forums I visit. I will be going with an AGM battery soon, and will by buying a flat plate AGM product from one of your competitors. I have second hand experience with a premature Yellow Top failure, but understand that statistically they may not be as failure prone as is often professed. However, my decision is based more on reserve capacity for a given BCI group size. My question really has to do with the spiral cell construction of the Optima. Does JC plan to update the Optima to a flat plate design, and thereby increase the capacity without increasing the physical size of the battery?

Not trying to hijack, but this thread seems to be resolved as far as the OP's problem.
 

Hilldweller

SE Expedition Society
Jim K ---
Until OJ gives a real answer, I've got an anecdote....

I had a DieHard Platinum, the big boat variety, in my Conqueror. It had a great reserve capacity on paper but never lasted as long as my calcs said it should. It lost power in a linear, predictable way though. I tested it several times; it wasn't defective. That was just it's nature.

I decided to try a pair of Optimas for the new trailer, two D31M marine batteries. Together they have about 50% more reserve (again, on paper) than the single DHP.
But the way they power my fridge and lights is different. I'm sure I'll articulate this poorly but, they seem to bounce like a superball unlike the Enerysys product that bounced like a flat basketball.
I check the charge level periodically and might get a reading of 12.5 volts after a couple of days, fridge compressor running. Wait for the fridge to cycle off and I'll get a 12.9 volt reading ---- in almost a year of running them I haven't run them lower than 12.2 volts. They amaze me.
The DieHard wouldn't do that sort of bounce; it would just stay at the 12.5 and keep going down as I used it.

The Optimas are so well-suited to life in my teardrop that I haven't used my generator yet and my wife is bugging me to sell it.
Anybody need a very lightly used Honda 1000 genny?
 

OptimaJim

Observer
Hi Jim K, I appreciate your question regarding our batteries and believe me when I tell you, I hear all kinds of second-hand stories about all kinds of batteries. As far as changing the design of our batteries, I haven't heard about any such plans. If there were no performance advantage to a Spiral Cell design, Optima would probably make flat-plate batteries like everyone else. There are certainly cheaper ways to differentiate our products from a marketing standpoint, than radically changing the entire design.
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Optima uses a continuous cast strap to join adjacent cells and there are no welds to add resistance or corrosion points between the cells. A cast strap is unique to Optima, proprietary, more expensive, and more difficult to manufacture, but it is a process that gives superior performance. A larger and/or better-designed, manufactured or connected strap will allow better high current flow due to lower internal resistance, which can be reflected in the CCA rating. This also allows the Optima design to use taller cells and thus, in general, to have higher electrical performance characteristics because there is more active material present.
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From a one-dimensional viewpoint, it may look like a flat-plate battery utilizes more space within the parameters of a given group size. However, that assumes everyone assembles their batteries the same way, using the same materials. All of our cells are inserted into our cases under compression in a fully-automated and precise process, while many flat plate battery cells are simply inserted into the case by hand.
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Our grid alloy is one of the most corrosion-resistant alloys in production. The high purity of the alloy and it's simple, binary composition also minimizes gas generation. Typical wet or flat-plate AGM batteries use grid alloys that contain three or four elements, which results in lower overall purity and gassing characteristics that are not as good as Optima's binary lead alloy. As a result, Optima batteries will have less corrosion at elevated temperatures and less water loss, when compared to conventional wet or flat-plate AGM products.
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There is generally a trade-off between cranking amps and reserve capacity, where in batteries of identical size, more cranking amps will come at the expense of more reserve capacity and vice versa. While physically heavier batteries may offer more cranking amps and/or more reserve capacity, simply because there is more material present, that is not always the case or the lone deciding factor in making a purchase.
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The way tournament fisherman have prepared their boats has evolved to near-NASCAR like standards and they analyze every pound on their boat. Anglers like Edwin Evers prefer our batteries, because of the pound for pound performance they deliver on the water and off. It is not uncommon for those guys to run their batteries down well into the single-digits by sunset. Regardless of voltage level, they expect consistent performance throughout the day and the same performance by the following sunrise. The ability to consistently and repeatedly deliver and receive current in those demanding applications and others will often come down to the design elements that aren't listed in a spec sheet that tells you reserve capacity and cranking amps.
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We don't offer the wide range of batteries that other companies do and we'd rather let other folks try to offer something for everyone. The biggest battery we offer is our Group 31, but we understand that simply isn't enough for some folks. A guy who wants a single battery to deliver 1250 cold cranking amps and 495 minutes of reserve capacity at 25 amps will have several to choose from, but we won't be one of them and we're fine with that.
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JCI also manufactures flat-plate flooded and AGM batteries and they are very familiar with the technologies, but at the end of the day, we really like the benefits of our design and the combination of performance, price and warranty we offer.
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Jim McIlvaine
eCare Manager, OPTIMA Batteries, Inc.
www.facebook.com/optimabatteries
 

Jim K in PA

Adventurer
Jim - thank you far an excellent response. I am aware of the differences you highlighted, and wanted your input on the design. I was not trying to "bait" you (hope it didn't come across that way). I am aware of the other JCI FP AGM products, and the variance in "accuracy" of published performance data from the various manufacturers. To be honest, with the way I currently use my vehicle (and it's battery), I have had stellar performance from plain jane flooded cell starting batteries. I am still running the OEM battery in my 2005 Jeep with 118k miles. It has NOT been excessively discharged ever, which is key to keeping them happy. However, I will be changing the use of the battery, and am looking for a level of performance that I know a flooded cell starting battery will not be able to give me. I am tempted to go with a 31M as a combination starting/cycling battery, but space considerations are a factor. My plan is to use a FP AGM Group 49 battery that has the same WxH dimensions as my Group 34, but is 14" long, and has a commensurately higher RC. I will be incorporating a second backup starting-only battery for self jump starting. I know that this is the inverse of what most folks do, but my plans make this a logical path to follow. An Odyssey PC1350 would be about perfect, but at the price they sell for, I can purchase two of just about any other brand (with admittedly lower specs).

Bill - sell the genny and pick up an 80W solar panel and a small charge controller. They are very quiet :coffeedrink:. I camped at Indian Spring CG in Yellowstone last year for 10 days (no electric). Even running the furnace at night along with lights, water pump, and charging cameras, every day the controller would be in float mode by 11AM. This is with a single G24 flooded cell (el cheapo brand) "deep cycle" battery.
 

Hilldweller

SE Expedition Society
That's my basic plan, Jim; swap genny for solar.
Maybe Martyn will see this and want to trade at OEX '12...
 

OptimaJim

Observer
Jim K, I didn't think you were trying to bait me at all. Your questions were certainly valid and I hope I answered them well enough for you. There are dozens of battery sizes to choose from, all with varying price points, performance levels and warranty coverage, which doesn't always make a purchasing decision easy. We do tend to be conservative in how we present our products, as we would prefer to under-promise and over-deliver, than the other way around.

Jim McIlvaine
eCare Manager, OPTIMA Batteries, Inc.
www.facebook.com/optimabatteries
 

Jim K in PA

Adventurer
There are dozens of battery sizes to choose from, all with varying price points, performance levels and warranty coverage, which doesn't always make a purchasing decision easy. www.facebook.com/optimabatteries

Oh, so VERY true Jim. I may wind up with an Optima 31M blue top in the back of the Jeep at some point. Although a Wrangler has reasonably generous under-hood space, it is nothing compared to what Series/Defender LR owners have. :drool:
 

Hilldweller

SE Expedition Society
He better show up with cash AND a panel for you! :sombrero: Those little Honda gennies are expensive! I dont think I have $400 in my 100W solar setup.
I got the genny at a good price due to a misprint at Northern Tool ---- and I want the flexible solar panel anyhow. I'd like to keep it stowed in a Pelican case and just throw it in the back of the truck and forget it 'til I need it...
 

brussum

Adventurer
OptimaJim (and gang),

I always read about guys using blue tops in an effort to achieve that happy compromise between a red top starter and yellow top deep cycle battery...the best of both worlds, so to speak. What are the pros and cons of using blue tops as a primary starter battery, as well as to get deep cycle performance. What about using yellow tops for that same reason? It seems like the blue tops are designed for boats, which do not start as frequently as a car on a day-to-day basis. Will that extra strain take its toll?

Thanks,
John
 

Stumpalump

Expedition Leader
If one battery is bad it will drag down the good batery but It is a flat out lie created by the battery compamys 40 years ago that the batterys must match. They don't. It's a myth or lie or what every you want to call it. If you have a bad battery then buy one battery of your favorite flavor. Buy two and you fell for the sales pitch that they need to match.

A stuborn to charge optima may still have hope. By stuborn I mean you followed the advise on Optimas site and did everything you can to charge it back. The last resort is to remove it from the vehicle and thump it on the concrete floor about 40 times. Raise it off the floor about 6" and slam it down. Go easy if the case is cold or bring it in the house overnight first. This breaks up the sulfate crystals and allows it to take a charge. It works well. Thump it a few more times a day while bringing it back to life.

FWIW My $200 Sears Diehard Platinum Odessy died in 6 months of the Arizona heat. I wondering if Optima is better in the extream heat?
 

Hilldweller

SE Expedition Society
OptimaJim (and gang),

I always read about guys using blue tops in an effort to achieve that happy compromise between a red top starter and yellow top deep cycle battery...the best of both worlds, so to speak. What are the pros and cons of using blue tops as a primary starter battery, as well as to get deep cycle performance. What about using yellow tops for that same reason? It seems like the blue tops are designed for boats, which do not start as frequently as a car on a day-to-day basis. Will that extra strain take its toll?

Thanks,
John
The Yellows and Blues are the same internally but the Yellows have a longer warranty. I only got the D31M Bluetops because there is no Yellow in that size and I wanted the extra reserve.
For the dual service you're talking about, get the Yellows.


As far as dropping a battery to break up the sulfate, you could just bump the battery with a higher amperage burst too and not risk damaging the case. Although Optimas are tough, I don't think the warranty includes spiking them in the endzone...
 

Stumpalump

Expedition Leader
I have heard about spiking the amps to do the same thing as dropping it and wonder if spiking an amp draw like welding with the battery would do the same thing?
 

OptimaJim

Observer
brussum, Bill is absolutely correct about YellowTops and BlueTops being identical internally, except for the 34M BlueTop, which is identical internally to our Group 34 RedTop starting battery. Consumer YellowTops also come with three year, free-replacement warranties, while the BlueTop warranties are two years. We do offer D31A & D31T YellowTops, but both are commercial batteries, come with commercial warranty coverage and may need to be ordered, depending on the retailer. BlueTops also come with additional threaded top posts for marine applications.
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As long as the cranking amps on the battery you are using meet or exceed the demands of your engine, you can focus your attention on finding a battery with the ability to be deep-cycled and the most reserve capacity. As long as your batteries are fully-charged and don't have a parasitic draw on them, they should be able to sit for several months at a time with no ill effects.
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Stumpalump, I can't speak for any battery manufacturers but Optima, but I will respectfully disagree with the suggestion that batteries dissimilar in size, age or type should be used in parallel or series applications. While this can be done, it is not recommended, especially on larger banks of batteries. On this point, I speak not only at the advice of our engineers, but from personal experience. My family owned an electric car in the 1980s and when my dad started replacing batteries (16 in total), he tried to save money by only replacing the failing batteries. When he started replacing batteries he had just replaced a few month prior, he decided to listen to the manufacturer, who originally advised him to replace them all at once. After doing that, the new bank of batteries ran successfully for several years.
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Regardless of how well a battery is maintained, it's performance will continually decline over it's lifespan and your charging system will continually work harder to recharge it. Mixing and matching batteries with different charging requirements can have negative effects on both batteries- one chronically undercharged, the other chronically overcharged. BMW's charging systems now require all batteries to be registered with the vehicle's charging system, so the charging parameters can be adjusted accordingly. When their batteries are changed without doing this, the charging system can overcharge the battery, because it still thinks the old battery is being charged.
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While a 10-amp charge for up to two hours can help break up some sulfation in our batteries, we do not recommend intentionally dropping them from any height. Stumpalump, I'm sorry to hear about the problem you had with your previous battery after six months of use. Do you recall what the voltage of the battery was and the circumstances surrounding your issues?
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Jim McIlvaine
eCare Manager, OPTIMA Batteries, Inc.
www.facebook.com/optimabatteries
 
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