Optima Battery Problems

Stumpalump

Expedition Leader
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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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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
My experiance with marine use and diesel truck use has shown that slapping any battery in works fine as long as they both are good. I've done it for 20 years and so do a lot of farmers with twin battery diesel tractors. If they are both 4-5 years old and one dies then replace them both for sure. As far as my battery that died in 6 months it was the high dollar Sears battery that did that. It was at 6.7 volts after sitting in an E350 for a month. The Yellow top that I had to drop to take a charge is 5 years old. It sits for months on end and is in the Arizona heat. It got good and dead this year and it even sat dead for a while. That will kill any battery and this was not the first time it's been abused in this way. I'd say it's been a great battery considering. I followed the advise on your site years ago and bought a 10amp charger with the AGM setting. It was just too far gone and after days of fooling with it I did the drop test. It worked. Go figure? That was two months ago and it worked fine today. Not bad for a 5 year old battery that has been run below 10 volts at least a dozen times. Thats the worst thing you can do to a battery and I'd say Optima handles that better than any battery.
 

Jim K in PA

Adventurer
Jim - can you expand a bit on the dissimilar battery question, and the BMW battery "registration" issue? Let me pose two seperate questions on the issue:

1 - if two batteries of similar age (I hate to use "identical" as a descriptor, as no two will be truly identical) but disimilar capacity are charged in parallel, but are not discharged in parallel, will there be an issue with either battery's life/performance? For example (and keeping it within your knowledge base), if one were to use a Group 31M blue top as a primary battery, and a Group 34 red top as a backup starting battery, with the two batteries only linked in parallel during charging, will the batteries suffer any ill consequences over time? This is the scenario I am planning on utilizing, with two batteries of disimilar capacity, and both charged by the same source (vehicle alternator). On the most basic of levels, it would seem that the vehicle charging system (alternator & regulator) is not going to know or care what the battery condition is, or the battery type. Max voltage will be max voltage, with the only difference being current draw, unless I am missing something. In this scenario, I would think that seperate voltage monitoring of the batteries when not linked would present a warning or indication of a change in health of either battery, at which point one or both would be replaced, yes? If I am incorrect, then there must be a means of having a voltage sensing controller disconnect the backup battery if supply current exceeds that battery's demand.


2 - The BMW system you mentioned has me curious. What exactly is the vehicles charge controller doing? 3-stage chargers detect load and voltage, and modulate charger output according, as far as I understand them. Why wouldnt the BMW system do something similar? Why wouldn't a "standard" demand based voltage regulating system be able to address the change in state of a battery as it ages? Just trying to wrap my head around this.

Thanks again for your input.
 

OptimaJim

Observer
Stumpalump, people do all kinds of bad things with and to batteries and many are able to get by without any issue. However, we cannot condone a lot of this activity, as when people try to do bad things and they don't work out as planned, we hear about it and the results can often have dangerous ramifications. If you still have your other battery that was discharged to 6.7 volts, it might be worth attempting to recover it, as it may only be deeply-discharged. Do you happen to know what the parasitic draw is on your E350?
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Jim, I apologize for my delay in responding to your question, but I wanted to have a talk with one of our engineers on the subject, before posting. This is what he came to me with-
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When batteries are connected in parallel, they will self-equalize to the lowest common voltage. The battery with a lower 100% OCV will set the equalization point when the batteries are in parallel. This is the primary concern specifically in regards to charging.

In use, the older/weaker battery will generally end up "doing less work" than the newer battery. The purpose of a parallel system is to have two batteries doing more work, evenly. What happens is that as the difference in performance between the batteries becomes greater, the newer battery, having the lower resistance and being "stronger" will end up doing more than it's share of work. This newer battery will end up failing more quickly as a result.

If the difference is the age of the batteries, if they are the same type and are relatively-close in age, it may not be a big difference. When you start mixing and matching types, ages, technologies (flooded, AGM) there will be a definite difference in service life. This is a universal truth in batteries, including those used in your cell phone or laptop and isn't OPTIMA or lead-acid battery specific. There are even warnings about mixing new and old dry cell (AAA, C cell) batteries.

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As for the BMW system, a BMW engineer would probably be able to better answer your questions about what their charging systems are doing. Although conspiracy theorists claim battery registration is BMW's attempt to force customers into their service departments, changing batteries on those vehicles is no simple task. Many of their batteries have been re-located away from the engine compartment and some folks have indicated that because many of the batteries are now in hard-to-reach areas, BMW invested more up front both in batteries and charging technology, in an effort to minimize the number of times a battery would need to be replaced over the life of the vehicle. However, when they do need to be replaced, it is a more expensive proposition.
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Just as our new charger was designed with charging parameters specific to our batteries, in an effort to maximize their lifespan and performance, I'm sure BMW's charging system has been designed in similar fashion. If someone elects to use a battery size or type that is outside of their factory settings, that specific information may need to be updated, in order to maximize the lifespan of that battery.
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The electrical demands in all BMW vehicles has skyrocketed in the last 20 years and it looks to me like BMW is doing their best to keep up with all of the added technology and the electrical demands that come along with it. Even with their efforts, a good friend of mine sells BMWs in Houston and never lets a customer off the lot without warning them it will take at least 10 minutes of normal driving to replace the energy they used up since the last time they drove their car.

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

Jim K in PA

Adventurer
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Jim, I apologize for my delay in responding to your question, but I wanted to have a talk with one of our engineers on the subject, before posting. This is what he came to me with-
No apologies necessary Jim. I appreciated the effort.

When batteries are connected in parallel, they will self-equalize to the lowest common voltage. The battery with a lower 100% OCV will set the equalization point when the batteries are in parallel. This is the primary concern specifically in regards to charging.
I understand. However, my situation is going to be different, as the batteries will only be in parallel when being charged. They will be seperated otherwise until such time as I need to "self jump" to start the truck. Equalization would only happen if they were connected in parallel continuously.


As for the BMW system, a BMW engineer would probably be able to better answer your questions about what their charging systems are doing. Although conspiracy theorists claim battery registration is BMW's attempt to force customers into their service departments, changing batteries on those vehicles is no simple task. Many of their batteries have been re-located away from the engine compartment and some folks have indicated that because many of the batteries are now in hard-to-reach areas, BMW invested more up front both in batteries and charging technology, in an effort to minimize the number of times a battery would need to be replaced over the life of the vehicle. However, when they do need to be replaced, it is a more expensive proposition.
I have a friend who has a newer 6 series, so I will bounce the question off of him. BMW has been remote mounting batteries for over 20 years. Unless the battery incorporates some manner of integrated circuit to monitor state of charge and internal resistance, I cannot fathom what "registering" could be. I have to go adjust my tin foil hat now, if you will excuse me . . . :)
 

TheJosh

Explorer
Since Josh decided not to follow up here, I'll post what I know the resolution to be. He had some sort of hokey "pro-audio" battery cable connector that ******** the bed. Nothing to do with the batteries at all.
here i am posting back :)

so i replaced the $30 battery terminals i had from monster cable ( i wouldn't call them hokey-pokey) replaced a lot of the wiring and replaced terminals, checked grounds and what do you know?!?!



my yellow top died on me again!!!

i fully charged my yellow top off the truck and same with the blue top according to the optima suggestions. put them in my truck and drove to tahoe for the weekend. (3 hour drive) when i arrived in tahoe on friday night i parked my truck for the night (ambient temp was 34 degrees Fahrenheit) hopped in my truck the next morning and tried to start it and it died!!! so i pulled out my battery jump starter and gave myself a jump. (both the yellow and blue top were donzo) drove to the grocery store (left my truck running since i feel i can't trust these optimal anymore) and came back to the house. parked it for a few hours and then drove it again that night. started fine. came home parked it for the night. when i started it in the morning..... truck was completely dead!


this is not what i expected to get when i paid $500 for 2 batteries with less than 3 years life on the yellow top and less than 2 years on the blue top.

what the hell?
 

HenryJ

Expedition Leader
Just curious did you find a swell on the top of one of the spiral cells?

I too ran the gammut of the new Optimas. I was a diehard Optima believer and I still have three well over a decade old. Something happened. The new Optimas just don't have "it". I was told the Denver facility was not up to the standard and the new facility would solve those problems.
When Johnson Control bought them, I ran into a whole batch of re-labeled old stock. Batteries over five years old being sold as new. I only found this out when I had a dated receipt for a battery less than two years old. The battery was sent to Optima for examination. It had a swelled cell. I was told the battery was over ten years old and past its service life. No further examination was done.
I was given a new YellowTop for testing. This one manufactured in the 2006 newly built mexico plant. I put it in my "worst case truck". It too ran into the same old game. It would no longer fully charge. 12.6 volts was about the best it would do. Eventually I had to deal with a periodic no start and need for a charger to replenish it.
I let it go with that truck and never looked back.

This has been happening for quite a while, and I know that I'm not alone. My experiences were with mostly Redtops. I did have problems with one BlueTop and the above mentioned YellowTop.
Optima Leaves Me Stranded
The local dealers are no longer stocking Optima. One dealer said that there have been just too many returns. He too was a believer, but no longer.
The warranty on the Optima has changed too. Their warranty used to be unmatched. That is no longer the case. They have a 36 month warranty.

I have gone to the Diehard Platinum batteries for my AGM battery needs. They now have the best warranty. Free Replacement 48 months and Pro Rated Replacement to 100 months.

I am still happy that I have three very old Optima batteries still serving my needs. When they go, I'll likely replace them with Diehard Platinum, unless things change there too.
 

Hilldweller

SE Expedition Society
I can imagine a retailer re-labeling a battery for sale but not Optima...
JCI is one of the most reputable, up-front, and perception-oriented companies in the world.
 

Stumpalump

Expedition Leader
Hey Jim, Can you point me or us to a deal on a new Yellow top? We buy these things knowing that we need the best battery because we drain them. We abuse them and do the worst thing to them by letting them sit discharged. I've put new car batterys in boats and seen them die in 5 months. I treat the Optimas far worse and get 5 years out of them. I tried the new Sears and am going back to Optima. How about a recomendation on getting one?
 

OptimaJim

Observer
TheJosh, I'm sorry to hear your problems are continuing. I guess I would go back the previously unanswered questions I had- What is the output of your alternator and if your parasitic draw is only 23 milliamps with the alarm on, what is it with the alarm off?
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HenryJ, I'm sorry to hear about the issues you had with your batteries. I don't know who would re-label five-year old batteries, but it certainly wouldn't be anyone on our end. I do follow a lot of messageboards and know the used battery market is quite active, although we request that any of our batteries returned under warranty be returned to us, even if they are only found to be deeply-discharged, which is often the case. The doming you are describing often occurs in extreme overcharging situations. Since you mentioned you had issues with RedTops, I just want to reiterate to everyone who may be reading this thread, that RedTops are starting batteries and are not designed or warrantied for deep-cycle applications, including winching. The free replacement warranty on Optima batteries has only increased over the years and it is currently at three years for both RedTop and YellowTop consumer batteries.
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Stumpalump, I'm not involved on the sales end of things for Optima at all, but we do have an online dealer locator that can help identify a retailer in your area. I would also caution anyone considering an online purchase to review the warranty policy and procedure of your retailer before making a purchase. Not everyone who sells a product online is an authorized retailer of that product. Should you need warranty service, you'll definitely want to make sure you purchased your battery from someone willing to assist you in that regard.
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Jim McIlvaine
eCare Manager, OPTIMA Batteries, Inc.
www.facebook.com/optimabatteries
 

Hilldweller

SE Expedition Society
Hey Jim, Can you point me or us to a deal on a new Yellow top? We buy these things knowing that we need the best battery because we drain them. We abuse them and do the worst thing to them by letting them sit discharged. I've put new car batterys in boats and seen them die in 5 months. I treat the Optimas far worse and get 5 years out of them. I tried the new Sears and am going back to Optima. How about a recomendation on getting one?
I get mine in the mail from the factory.
If you join the Power Pack Nation, you get discount coupons.

http://powersource.optimabatteries.com/uncategorized/are-you-a-citizen-in-the-power-pack-nation/
 

TheJosh

Explorer
TheJosh, I'm sorry to hear your problems are continuing. I guess I would go back the previously unanswered questions I had- What is the output of your alternator and if your parasitic draw is only 23 milliamps with the alarm on, what is it with the alarm off?
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HenryJ, I'm sorry to hear about the issues you had with your batteries. I don't know who would re-label five-year old batteries, but it certainly wouldn't be anyone on our end. I do follow a lot of messageboards and know the used battery market is quite active, although we request that any of our batteries returned under warranty be returned to us, even if they are only found to be deeply-discharged, which is often the case. The doming you are describing often occurs in extreme overcharging situations. Since you mentioned you had issues with RedTops, I just want to reiterate to everyone who may be reading this thread, that RedTops are starting batteries and are not designed or warrantied for deep-cycle applications, including winching. The free replacement warranty on Optima batteries has only increased over the years and it is currently at three years for both RedTop and YellowTop consumer batteries.
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Stumpalump, I'm not involved on the sales end of things for Optima at all, but we do have an online dealer locator that can help identify a retailer in your area. I would also caution anyone considering an online purchase to review the warranty policy and procedure of your retailer before making a purchase. Not everyone who sells a product online is an authorized retailer of that product. Should you need warranty service, you'll definitely want to make sure you purchased your battery from someone willing to assist you in that regard.
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Jim McIlvaine
eCare Manager, OPTIMA Batteries, Inc.
www.facebook.com/optimabatteries
I checked the voltage from the alternator and it was 14.3-14.4v

And the parasitic draw at 23mv was with the alarm off. I haven't checked it with the alarm on because that would require the hood open and the alarm blaring in my ear while I check, but I'll do that tonight.

What is the warranty on the blue top and the yellow top? My blue is under 2 years and my yellow under three, but I don't have my receipts. I'm seriously so frustrated with these things I want nothing to do With them anymore.

I don't have enough trust in these batteries to go into the desert for a few days. Maybe in a perfect works they work great, but where I choose to drive my truck Offroad is never a perfect world. I feel like I'm a sucker to marketing hype and exposure to always seeing optimas in The hot rods I adored in my youth
 

TangoBlue

American Adventurist
This must be incredibly frustrating for you... it is for me just reading about your plight. I've had an Optima red top since 2009, and a yellow top added to my installed IBS DBS since 2010 and I haven't had any problems with either battery and I run the standard off-road accessories, fridge I keep on all the time (except winter), etc.

I've followed this thread to avoid potential problems with my truck; I don't understand what the problem can be with the batteries unless there is some sort of mysterious wiring issue that you've yet to discover. I don't mean to be inflammatory but I wouldn't trust your truck either... past the driveway; that must be an uneasy feeling for you. I hope you have better luck with a different manufacturers battery. Please keep us posted with your experience.
 

TheJosh

Explorer
This must be incredibly frustrating for you... it is for me just reading about your plight. I've had an Optima red top since 2009, and a yellow top added to my installed IBS DBS since 2010 and I haven't had any problems with either battery and I run the standard off-road accessories, fridge I keep on all the time (except winter), etc.

I've followed this thread to avoid potential problems with my truck; I don't understand what the problem can be with the batteries unless there is some sort of mysterious wiring issue that you've yet to discover. I don't mean to be inflammatory but I wouldn't trust your truck either... past the driveway; that must be an uneasy feeling for you. I hope you have better luck with a different manufacturers battery. Please keep us posted with your experience.
Oh believe me it is frustrating!

I've gone over the wiring many times and replaced terminals that I thought might be faulty, I've replaced wire and so on. I finally had enough with these batteries in my 4runner so I replaced then with a diehard Platiunum for the main battery and a diehard platinum marine for the aux (have yet to mount it, still have the blue top there) I still want to figure out a solution for the yellow top si ce it was spendy, when I do I'll just install it in my classic mini.


Here is my wiring in my 4runner

 
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