Optima Battery Problems

OptimaJim

Observer
Josh, your alternator output sounds good and I asked about the draw with the alarm on meaning armed, not sounding the siren. Many car alarms will have significant draws, with some manufacturers even attempting to remedy the situation by automatically starting cars when batteries become discharged to a specific voltage level, in an effort to recharge the battery. It is not at all uncommon for an alarm to double or even triple your parasitic draw, which can eventually discharge any battery, if given enough time.
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Even though you don't have the original receipt for your batteries, your original retailer may have a record of your purchase in their system and cancelled checks or even credit card statements for the approximate amount can also be used as a proof of purchase, if no other options are available. Your retailer should charge and check the batteries to verify they are defective and if they are found to be, will likely base your warranty claim on the date stamps on the batteries. You can find all of our warranty information here.
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Jim McIlvaine
eCare Manager, OPTIMA Batteries, Inc.
www.facebook.com/optimabatteries
 

fullybalanced

Adventurer
For what it's worth I've had "newer" Optimas - Red Top in a 84 Landcruiser, Yellow Top in a 2002 Range rover, Red Top in a 1997 Landcruiser (and I'm getting ready to add a Blue Top (same size) in the 1997 in a dual battery set up). I've never had a problem with any of them. Twere all my "fun" vehicles so they wern't driven very often, always started and been bounced around like crazy.
 

teotwaki

Excelsior!
--------------snip------
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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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----snip----
Hi Jim,

Selling a shiny new 120VAC sourced battery charger is nice, but I am leaning towards an opinion that the normal automobile charging system is not optimum for a deep cycle battery. There are very few companies that offer a proper deep cycle battery charge controller that will run off of the car's primary 12vdc battery/alternator system and not 120/240 VAC.

Here is one example:

http://www.projecta.co.nz/Images/PDFs/Power-Management/DC-Battery-Charger.pdf

For my Optima I find that a couple of times a month I should use my AGM specific AC powered battery charger to provide a nice solid full charge cycle to make the battery voltage stay in the upper range. When the truck is parked in the garage my Engel fridge is plugged into an AC cord so the Optima is only tasked with running the fridge about 9 hours a day when parked at work.

I really don't want to spend another $200 to buy a charger to add to my truck in order to make the Optima battery perform well.

Anticipating questions:

Yes, my alternator is good. My wiring is very solid. My primary starting battery is a Sears Diehard Platinum which has a better warranty and is months older without showing the low voltages that the newer Optima displays.. :ylsmoke:



 

OptimaJim

Observer
Jim, while our chargers are designed to maximize the life and performance of our batteries, I certainly don't want to give anyone the impression that they need to buy our charger to maintain our batteries, because that simply isn't the case. I certainly respect your opinion regarding whether a normal automobile charging system is up to the task of maintaining our batteries (or any other batteries designed for deep-cycle use), I just happen to disagree. I also personally disagree with the premise that a vehicle's alternator is only capable of delivering 13.8 volts, as indicated in the sales literature in your link. It does makes for a good sales pitch to sell charge controllers to people though. Ultimately, even the best charger controller is only as good as the wiring connecting it to everything else.
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I don't know how long your daily commute is, but if you are running you refrigerator off your battery for 45 hours every week, it probably does make sense to top your battery off with a battery charger every few weeks (it doesn't need to be our charger either). Since you have two isolated batteries in your vehicle, you always have the option of swapping them, if you are concerned about how our battery is performing for auxiliary use.

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

teotwaki

Excelsior!
Jim, while our chargers are designed to maximize the life and performance of our batteries, I certainly don't want to give anyone the impression that they need to buy our charger to maintain our batteries, because that simply isn't the case. I certainly respect your opinion regarding whether a normal automobile charging system is up to the task of maintaining our batteries (or any other batteries designed for deep-cycle use), I just happen to disagree. I also personally disagree with the premise that a vehicle's alternator is only capable of delivering 13.8 volts, as indicated in the sales literature in your link. It does makes for a good sales pitch to sell charge controllers to people though. Ultimately, even the best charger controller is only as good as the wiring connecting it to everything else.

I don't know how long your daily commute is, but if you are running you refrigerator off your battery for 45 hours every week, it probably does make sense to top your battery off with a battery charger every few weeks (it doesn't need to be our charger either). Since you have two isolated batteries in your vehicle, you always have the option of swapping them, if you are concerned about how our battery is performing for auxiliary use.

Jim, I am a little taken aback by your answers but the Internet is not always the best way to communicate. Please don't take my response as a personal attack.

Nobody said that you said that we had to buy your charger. I did question why Optima has to engage in "me too" production of yet another AGM charger that runs off of AC mains.

Second, I have no say in what sales pitch the New Zealand company writes or for that matter, what Optima writes. Even though a car alternator can deliver more than 13.8 volts DC, the question is whether or not it delivers the charging sequence that the AGM battery needs. Even on fairly long drives to off road destinations, I do not see the Optima battery getting a really full charge as compared to the AGM charger at home. So do I conclude that the battery is bad because I know my charging system works or is it that the deep cycle battery is not getting a proper charge from the car system? The link I provided to the AGM car charger demonstrates others think that deep cycle batteries are a challenge to OEM auto charging systems. They are not the only company who are producing such a product. Why isn't Optima recognizing the need and offering a similar product rather than another AC-powered charger?

Last, I am very concerned about the quality and performance of Optima batteries. That is exactly why I chose a Sears Diehard for my primary starting battery and not the Optima Redtop. In my pictures you can see the install dates on the batteries and the Sears battery has been in service longer than two Optima deep cycle batteries. I've never had to apply my home charger to the Diehard to bring the battery voltage up to par. And no, I do not have the option of swapping my two batteries. Physically, they do not swap easily and electrically they have two different purposes: One battery starting the engine & one running a fridge over a couple of days. And no, I'm not rewiring my dual battery system because the Optima battery can't cut it.

This whole thread is a echo of the general frustration with the performance of Optima batteries. Your seemingly flippant answer to me "you always have the option of swapping them" (batteries) is an ill-written response. Are you and Optima that unconcerned about keeping me as a customer? I can easily source a new battery mounting plate and buy my deep cycle battery elsewhere if this Blue Top continues to unimpress me. I'd love to have Optima's technical expertise help me to successfully use their batteries but I ain't feeling the love just yet.. Remember, I had a chance to replace my OEM car battery and I didn't choose Optima.
 

Hilldweller

SE Expedition Society
I had just the opposite experience with batteries.
My DH Platinum would never get up to 13.2 volts, whether charged off the Jeep, charged off the Conqueror charger, or charged off a Sears smart charger. It would charge it's full cycle, show a fully charged voltage, but be back at 12.9 volts the next morning with no load imposed at all.

My Optima Blue-Tops get to 13.2 volts and stay there off the Power Wagon's wonderful 180 amp system or off the Little Guy charger (the third charger in the trailer, mind you; the first two fried...). I've never had to use my Sears charger on my Optimas.
 

teotwaki

Excelsior!
Okay, I'll play :elkgrin:

My two older Optima blue tops in the trailer that do mostly nothing all day tend to keep a decent charge. Whenever I remember I'll plug in the battery maintainer that is wired into the nose box. The secondary battery spot in the 4Runner has seen two yellow tops and is now on the second blue top in exactly 5 years. Yet the original Toyota/Panasonic wet battery lasted 5 years and the Diehard is over two years old.

So maybe Optima Deep Cycle Batteries are incompatible with Toyota OEM alternator charging systems.... I have seen the DC line voltage get up to 14.2 volts so I don't think the alternator is bad.
 

Jim K in PA

Adventurer
Teotwaki Jim (too many Jims in this thread ;) ) - I concur with Optima Jim that your alternator should be putting out more than enough voltage and current to fully charge a deep cycle battery of any construction (and any brand). I know my alternator puts out 14.4V steady. Josh measured his at 14.3-14.4v too. What I notice in the picture of your Optima Blue Top is that the guage of the + wire looks rather small. Of the three cables running to the positive terminal, how many are carrying input voltage? Measure the output of your alternator at the stud on the case, then measure the voltage at the + terminal on your Optima. I bet you will see a drop, which may be the reason for the incomplete charging of the battery. As Optima Jim mentioned, your charge time when the engine is running is going to influence the depth of charge, or lack thereof, also. Upsized the input cable (or add another small gauge cable) and that will reduce any voltage drop you may find. FWIW, the charts I find online for voltage drop/distance for various gauges of cable should be taken with a grain of salt (or two). The quality of the cable (alloy of wire) varies greatly, and may not be as conductive as the control wire used for the reference charts. Jump up a size or two to be sure.

I have decided to go with old fashioned flooded cell batteries for my rig underhood. I will probably get an AGM for my camping battery inside the truck. I may even get an Optima blue top for that purpose, but that decision is not required now.
 

OptimaJim

Observer
Jim,

I certainly don't take your post as a personal attack at all and I hope you don't read into mine that way, because that certainly isn't my intent. So you understand where I'm coming from, I don't make the calls on what products Optima decides to offer, whether they are batteries, chargers or other accessories. If it was up to me, I'd make sure our entire product line had provisions for external venting. If it were up to our Senior Sales Application Engineer, we'd probably have a whole bunch of DIN sizes in our product line. If we went around the room long enough, we'd probably have something for everyone, except a profitable bottom line.
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I spend enough of my time trying to explain to people that they don't need special chargers for our batteries, that releasing our own charger will probably make that task more challenging for me. I do know that it is one of our most-frequently requested products and especially so within certain groups, like Corvette owners. Some people would rather have the guesswork taken out of maintaining their battery and offering our own charger will accomplish that.
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The link you provided does demonstrate that someone who has a vested interest in selling their product doesn't think OEM charging systems are up to the task (I watched mine over the weekend and it bounced around between 14.0 and 14.2). I would expect folks would think we'd have a vested interest in selling our own chargers when they are released, but it won't stop me from telling them our batteries don't need our special charger or any other.
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I don't know how long your daily commute is, so I don't know what ability your charging system has to maintain your batteries. However, by your own estimate, your Optima battery runs your refrigerator for 180 hours every month. To compare the purchase date of your Optima battery and your starting battery and suggest the two applications are comparble in any way is simply not realistic. If you are running an accessory with anyone's battery for 180 hours a month, I would recommend fully-charging the battery periodically with a battery charger, just to make sure it is being properly-maintained. Even if your vehicle's charging system has the ability to properly-maintain the battery, it may not have enough time to do so while you are driving it.
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Jim McIlvaine
eCare Manager, OPTIMA Batteries, Inc.
www.facebook.com/optimabatteries
 

teotwaki

Excelsior!
Teotwaki Jim (too many Jims in this thread ;) ) - I concur with Optima Jim that your alternator should be putting out more than enough voltage and current to fully charge a deep cycle battery of any construction (and any brand). I know my alternator puts out 14.4V steady. Josh measured his at 14.3-14.4v too. What I notice in the picture of your Optima Blue Top is that the guage of the + wire looks rather small. Of the three cables running to the positive terminal, how many are carrying input voltage? Measure the output of your alternator at the stud on the case, then measure the voltage at the + terminal on your Optima. I bet you will see a drop, which may be the reason for the incomplete charging of the battery. As Optima Jim mentioned, your charge time when the engine is running is going to influence the depth of charge, or lack thereof, also. Upsized the input cable (or add another small gauge cable) and that will reduce any voltage drop you may find. FWIW, the charts I find online for voltage drop/distance for various gauges of cable should be taken with a grain of salt (or two). The quality of the cable (alloy of wire) varies greatly, and may not be as conductive as the control wire used for the reference charts. Jump up a size or two to be sure.----------snip-------------

The small wires to the circuit breakers in the picture that you are referring are output wires for accessories such as the fridge and so on. They are so short that even a high amp draw won't produce a big drop.The main terminals for the battery have mil grade clamps and 2-gauge welding-grade battery cables. They are under the large red and black terminal boots.

Also, as previously mentioned, I've had drives out to Death Valley that should have given plenty of long-term charge time to the Optima. Since pure time does not work it seems that it is more about the charge sequence that AGM batteries prefer. I think that alternator charge systems are designed to maintain wet cell batteries and not AGM types. I have a ScanGuage on my system and I have seen it go to 14.2 volts but it does not do so for the long periods of time that the AGM needs.

From Optima's web site:

Recommended charging information:
Alternator: 13.65 to 15.0 volts, no amperage limit.
Battery Charger: 13.8 to 15.0 volts, 10 amps maximum, 6-12 hours approximate.
Cyclic Applications: 14.7 volts, no current limit as long as battery temperature remains below 125°F (51.7°C). When current falls below 1 amp, finish with 2 amp constant current for 1 hour for D34M and 3 amp constant current for 1 hour for D31M.
Rapid Recharge: Maximum voltage 15.6 volts (regulated), no current limit as long as battery temperature remains below 125°F (51.7°C). Charge until current drops below 1 amp.
Float Charge: 13.2 to 13.8 volts, 1 amp maximum current, time indefinite (at lower voltage).
All limits must be strictly adhered to.



So can Optima say that any car alternator system can supply a typical AGM charging sequence as follows:


AGM Battery Charging

The first stage in a 3 or 4 stage charging algorithm is the “Bulk Stage”. Typically the Bulk Stage is a “Constant Current” (CC) charge but may also be Constant Power, Pulse Current or Taper Charge. In this stage the optimum charge current should be limited to less than or equal to 30 amps per 100 ampere hour (20 hour rate) of battery capacity or .3C. This stage should end when the cell voltage is = to 2.4-2.45V/Cell at 25˚C/77˚F. The maximum time in hours should = 1.2 times the DOD (in AH) divided by the average charge current in amps. If this time is exceeded, charging should be stopped and the battery and/or charge process should be analyzed. This stage will represent approximately 60% of the total charge time. The battery will be nearing 80%-90% charged at the end of this stage.

The second stage is the “Absorption Stage”. Typically this stage is a Constant Voltage (CV) stage where the terminal voltage is maintained at 2.4-2.45V/Cell at 25˚C/77˚F (adjusting for temperature). The charge current is maintained until current acceptance drops by less than .1 ampere over a 1 hour period. This stage should take the battery to 100% charged and should not take longer than 10-12 hours. If this time is exceeded, charging should be stopped and the battery and/or charge process should be analyzed.

The third stage is the “Float Stage” or maintenance and monitor stage. This step is generally not needed if; no load is present when the batteries device is not in operation; the batteries device is used on a regular basis and does not sit idle for lengthy periods of time. Float voltage should be maintained at 2.25-2.30 V/Cell.

If a “Balance Mode” is included in the charging algorithm it would typically happen after the “Absorption Stage”. This would become the third stage and the “Float Stage” would then become the fourth stage. A balance mode is similar to an Equalize function for flooded batteries but is performed against tightly controlled current, voltage and time. For example the current should be limited to 1 amp per 100 amp hour of battery capacity and the battery should not be maintained at more than 2.6V/Cell for longer than 4 hours. Most standard quality non-traction (heavy duty deep cycle) AGM type batteries should not be exposed to equalization or a balance charge. Higher quality Dry Cell Traction type batteries will require a higher voltage finish or balance charge to perform to their best ability. Do not compare a standard AGM, Advanced AGM or standard cyclic AGM battery charge profile with true traction type battery profiles.
 

Jim K in PA

Adventurer
The small wires to the circuit breakers in the picture that you are referring are output wires for accessories such as the fridge and so on. They are so short that even a high amp draw won't produce a big drop.The main terminals for the battery have mil grade clamps and 2-gauge welding-grade battery cables. They are under the large red and black terminal boots.
Understood. Couldn't really tell what was under that red cover, as only the small gauge red wire is visible to me in the picture. The voltage measurement should be made not on the load circuit, but at the terminal connection where the charge current is.

Also, as previously mentioned, I've had drives out to Death Valley that should have given plenty of long-term charge time to the Optima. Since pure time does not work it seems that it is more about the charge sequence that AGM batteries prefer. I think that alternator charge systems are designed to maintain wet cell batteries and not AGM types. I have a ScanGuage on my system and I have seen it go to 14.2 volts but it does not do so for the long periods of time that the AGM needs.
I didn't see your post before finishing mine. I am as curious as you about the charge sequence differences between flooded cell and AGM. Just using my analog VM in my Jeep I can see the voltage peak immediately after starting reflecting the higher voltage and current draw in response to the brief, high load discharge from starting the engine. What I think is the issue is the nature of the voltage regulators response to load. Three stage charging is something that is not unique to AGM battery characteristics. Flooded cell batteries also benefit from similar charge profiles. The three stage charger in my camper and the three stage charging that my solar controller employs is not SPECIFICALLY designed for flooded cell or AGM. My suspicion is that AGM batteries have less tolerance of incomplete recharging.

Have you estimated/calculated the frequency of and amount of DOD of your blue top? I don't know what the Blue top is rated for, but I believe the Odysseys are rated for 500+ cycles.
 

Jim K in PA

Adventurer
Emphasis added.

Jim,

I spend enough of my time trying to explain to people that they don't need special chargers for our batteries, that releasing our own charger will probably make that task more challenging for me. I do know that it is one of our most-frequently requested products and especially so within certain groups, like Corvette owners. Some people would rather have the guesswork taken out of maintaining their battery and offering our own charger will accomplish that.
:smiley_drive: Just had to chuckle at the above. Classic.
 

teotwaki

Excelsior!
Wet Cell Charging

Lead acid batteries should be charged in three stages, which are [1] constant-current charge, [2] topping charge and [3] float charge. The constant-current charge applies the bulk of the charge and takes up roughly half of the required charge time; the topping charge continues at a lower charge current and provides saturation, and the float charge compensates for the loss caused by self-discharge. Figure 4-4 illustrates these three stages.

clead1.jpg

Supposedly wet cell batteries are more tolerent of voltage variations than AGMs during charging.
 

teotwaki

Excelsior!
Jim,

---------SNIP---------I don't know how long your daily commute is, so I don't know what ability your charging system has to maintain your batteries. However, by your own estimate, your Optima battery runs your refrigerator for 180 hours every month. To compare the purchase date of your Optima battery and your starting battery and suggest the two applications are comparble in any way is simply not realistic. If you are running an accessory with anyone's battery for 180 hours a month, I would recommend fully-charging the battery periodically with a battery charger, just to make sure it is being properly-maintained. Even if your vehicle's charging system has the ability to properly-maintain the battery, it may not have enough time to do so while you are driving it.

Actually, in a month let's say 20 work days and on each day the truck sits for 9 hours so that matches your 180 hours. Where you erred is assuming the fridge runs continuously. A better assumption for a good ARB or Engel might be 15 minutes each half hour, so in a month you might get only 90 hours of run time on the Optima. In terms of amp hours it is consuming roughly 10.5 amp hours in that 9 hour window so it shouldn't be too hard for 40 hours of total drive time across 20 days to replenish 105 amp hours of usage.

Comparing the dates on the batteries is meant to say that the quality of the OEM Toyota wet cell is such that it easily lasted 5 years yet in the last 5 years I've replaced two yellow tops and a blue top, each of which has a two year warranty but didn't last more than a year. Theoretically I should have gotten 6 years out of them. The Sears Diehard is 2 years and 9 months old and doing great which puts it way past the one year life of an Optima. We are not talking similar applications, we are talking about the quality of the Optimas not even making their own 2 year warranty expiration. The Optimas are not abused, they are on the same charging system as the other batteries which are correctly used in their intended application yet the Optimas do not last as long. I am trying to figure out why this is so in raw technical terms yet all you've offered is to twice attack the company that offers the DC-DC charging system. If battery engineering is not your actual job then how about rustling up an Optima engineer who can talk tech?
 
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