Optima builds AGM batteries...
Optima builds AGM batteries for a variety of applications in various configurations. Most are 12-volt, but a 6-volt starting battery is also available.
If you're like the majority of the motoring public about the only time you think about the battery in your truck is when you hit the starter and instead of a roar from under the hood there's a faint click. And, if your luck is like ours, that situation only occurs at the worst possible time and at the most inconvenient location.
At one time choosing battery for a classic truck was simple enough, you bought another one just like the one that was there to begin with. But today there are more types and styles of batteries than ever and you should know what's best suited to your application before you buy.
All automotive batteries have one thing in common, they use a combination of lead and acid to produce a little over two volts per cell (as a result 6-volt batteries have three cells, 12-volts have six). The cells are made up of lead plates and an electrolyte solution that together causes a chemical reaction that releases electrons that flow through conductors to produce electricity. As the battery discharges, the electrolyte reacts with the plates, changing the composition of their surface. When the battery is recharged, the chemical reaction is reversed restoring the plates to their original condition and the process is repeated.
Although they produce electricity in a similar manner, there are three different configurations of lead acid batteries: wet cell, gel cell, and absorbed glass mat (AGM).
Wet Cell: Also called flooded batteries these use liquid electrolyte and come in two styles: serviceable and maintenance free. Both are filled with liquid electrolyte but as the names implies, water can be added to the serviceable style while the maintenance free is sealed.
Gel Cell: By using an additive, the electrolyte in these batteries stiffens and becomes a gel. In most cases these batteries are very sensitive to overcharging and premature failure may result.
AGM: These are unique in that the electrolyte is suspended in an absorbent fiberglass material, eliminating the need to flood the battery with liquid. This design makes AGM batteries spill-proof and vibration-resistant with the added advantage that they can be mounted in almost any position (however, upside down is not usually recommended).
All batteries, regardless of their construction, will fall into one of two categories-starting, or SLI (which stands for Starting, Lights, Ignition), and deep-cycle.
Optima offers starting (Red...
Optima offers starting (Red Top) and deep-cycle (Yellow Top) batteries, side and top terminals are offered and some models have both.
SLI batteries generally have a high plate count and are designed to deliver a large amount of energy for a short period of time. Deep-cycle batteries are designed to deliver power continuously for a long period of time and are designed to discharge "deeper" than an SLI battery. Now to confuse the issue-a deep-cycle battery will very often function perfectly well in a starting capacity, however the reverse isn't true, using an SLI battery in a deep-cycle application will just about always shorten its life dramatically.
Batteries are rated by their performance in a variety of categories:
CCA, or cold cranking amps, is a measurement of the number of amps a battery can deliver at 0 degrees F for 30 seconds and not drop below 7.2 volts. A high CCA battery rating is especially important for starting battery applications in cold climates.
CA is cranking amps measured at 32 degrees F. This rating is also called marine cranking amps (MCA).
Reserve Capacity (RC) is a very important rating. This is the number of minutes a fully charged battery at 80 degrees F will discharge 25 amps until the battery drops below 10.5 volts.
An amp hour (AH) is a rating usually found on deep-cycle batteries. If a battery is rated at 100 amp hours it should deliver 5 amps for 20 hours, 20 amps for 5 hours and so on.
Choosing A Battery
One of the leaders in AGM technology is Optima. Their Spiralcell construction gives their batteries an unmistakable "six pack" look, but also provides more plate surface area, closer plate spacing, and the ability to use high-purity lead. The result is extremely low internal resistance, which results in more power in a smaller package, the ability to recharge much faster, and higher and cleaner voltage characteristics during discharge.
Optima offers three different categories of batteries, each is identifiable by the color of the top and case.
These are designed for engine starting where an alternator immediately monitors the state of charge and provides energy to the battery whenever it is needed. For a vehicle with average electrical demands, this is the battery to use.
Yellow Top: Considered a deep-cycle battery, this is the battery to use when electrical loads are higher than average, or when the discharge cycle is more than typical engine starting, such as vehicles without alternators. This also includes racing vehicles without a charging system, cars with audio/video applications with large electrical demands.
Blue Top: This dual-purpose battery can be used for both starting and deep cycling; it is a true deep-cycle battery with extremely high cranking power. The difference between Blue Top and Yellow Top deep-cycle batteries is that Blue Top batteries have both automotive (SAE) posts and threaded posts, while Yellow Tops (other than D31T) only have SAE posts.
Here are two examples of parallel...
Here are two examples of parallel connections of a discharged Optima and a charged battery.
To keep things simple, when it comes to Optima batteries if it has a dark gray case then it is a starting battery; if it has a light gray case then it is a deep-cycle (dual purpose) battery.
Optima Tech Tips
Charging Your AGM Battery
Low and slow is best. A low-amp charger (1 to 10 amps) is always the best choice for charging any lead acid battery. It's quicker to charge at higher amperage, but it also generates a lot of heat, which reduces the life of a battery, just like the raging heat of summer.
Many newer battery chargers, or Smart Chargers, have microprocessors that collect information from the battery and adjust the current and voltage accordingly. Some have different settings for charging wet cell (flooded), gel, and AGM batteries.
All lead acid batteries can experience sulfation-the formation of lead sulfate crystals upon discharge. Look for a charger with a de-sulfation mode to help condition your battery and keep it performing at its best.
Alternators are NOT chargers. Don't rely on your alternator to do the work of a charger. An alternator is meant to maintain a battery, not charge it.
Batteries eventually die. Batteries are a consumable product. No battery will last forever. The goal is to consistently maintain your battery to get the most life out of it.
Resuscitating a Deeply Over-Discharged AGM Battery
Don't Throw Away Your "Dead" AGM Battery. In time, AGM batteries, including Optima batteries, may fail. Failures are typically caused when a starting battery is used in a cycling application, in which a deep-cycle battery is the better choice. However, in many cases, Optima batteries that are assumed to be bad may actually be perfectly fine, just deeply over-discharged.
AGM batteries, including Optimas, have incredibly low internal resistance. This allows very high amperage output and for the battery to accept a charge very quickly. However, due to that very factor an AGM battery doesn't react like a traditional flooded lead acid battery when recharging is required.
The problem is most battery chargers have built-in safety features. A traditional battery that's at 10.5 volts or less is seen as defective, which means a short, a bad cell, or some other problem. Most battery chargers are designed not to work with a battery that appears to be defective because that could result in an unsafe situation up to and including an explosion. But in many such cases the AGM battery is fine; it has simply slipped below the minimum voltage threshold of the charger and the charger doesn't know what to do with the battery.
Here are three options for bringing that fine AGM battery back to life.
Recovery Option #1: The Best Solution - AGM-Specific Chargers
The best method for recharging a deeply over-discharged AGM battery is to purchase a modern charger that has kept up with battery technology. Many chargers now have AGM-specific settings and de-sulfation steps that help recondition and recover deeply over-discharged AGM batteries. These are becoming more common, and they work well for all lead acid batteries. They have the additional capability of doubling as a battery "maintainer" for vehicle storage. Some come with additional wiring to permanently attach leads from your battery to an accessible spot on your vehicle. This makes it easy to hook up when you store your car, truck, boat, or RV.
Recovery Option #2: The DIY Solution
This is a recovery method for the do-it-yourselfer using the equipment you've got in the garage. With this option, you're going to trick your charger into charging the deeply over-discharged AGM battery.
Here's what you need:
A good battery, preferably above 12.2 volts. (It can be an AGM or flooded battery, it doesn't matter.)
The seemingly dead, deeply over-discharged AGM battery
A watch or timer
Now, here's what you do:
Hook up the good battery and the deeply over-discharged AGM battery in parallel-positive-to-positive and negative-to-negative. Do not have the charger connected to the battery or turned on at this stage. Now, hook up the good battery to the charger. Turn on the charger. The charger will "see" the voltage of the good battery, and start providing a charge.
After the batteries have been hooked up for about an hour, check to see if the AGM battery is slightly warm or hot to the touch. Batteries naturally become warm during charging, but excessive heat may be an indication that there really is something wrong with the battery. Also discontinue the process if you hear the battery "gassing"-a hissing sound coming from the safety valves. If it's hot or gassing, STOP CHARGING IMMEDIATELY!
Check back every hour to see if the AGM battery has charged to 10.5 volts or above. If it has, disconnect the charger from the wall outlet and remove the good battery from the charger. Now, connect only the deeply over-discharged AGM battery to the charger. Turn on the charger and continue until the AGM battery reaches a full charge, or until the automatic charger completes the charge process. In most cases, the AGM battery will be recovered.
Recovery Option #3: Enlist the Professionals
If you don't own a battery charger, you don't want to make the investment, or you're not the do-it-yourself kind of guy, this is the option for you.
Take the battery to a professional battery specialist who knows AGM technology. Most specialists are willing to provide "charge and check" procedures free or for a small fee. Auto parts stores are typically not capable of accurately determining an AGM battery's condition, and many use conductance testers that don't provide correct readings. Battery specialists like Interstate Batteries and other independent battery distributors are experts who can help determine if your battery is recoverable or not.
Battery Safety Tips
Removing and Replacing
Sooner or later you'll have to remove or replace a battery and like everything else there's a right and a wrong way to do it.
Batteries do pose a hazard due to the hydrogen gas that may be present during and after charging that can be ignited by a spark. For that reason when a battery is removed always disconnect the ground cable first-if the wrench hits ground there won't be a spark because the battery is already grounded. With the ground removed if the wrench hits metal while removing the positive cable there won't be a spark because there isn't a complete circuit with the ground removed.
Using Jumper Cables
If you mess with old trucks, sooner or later jumper cables are going to be involved. Again, there's a right and a wrong way to use them.
When connecting jumpers, first connect one of the leads to the positive posts on both batteries. Then connect the second lead to the negative on the good battery, then make the final connection away from the dead battery on a good metal ground. By doing this, any spark created will be away from the battery and any explosive hydrogen fumes.
Q. Does an Optima battery ever gas?
A. When used with a properly regulated constant voltage charging system (such as an alternator) the Optima will usually not emit hydrogen gas. However, gassing can occur when charging at higher voltage levels or in extreme high-temperature conditions. In automotive applications this typically will not happen if the alternator/regulator output stays below 15 volts.
Q. What are the differences between Optima deep-cycle and a starter battery?
A. The Optima deep-cycle battery utilizes a different chemistry for the active paste material on the plates, and a slightly stronger acid. This chemistry change allows for a much longer life in cycling applications, with only a slight reduction in power.
Q. When should I use deep-cycle Optima as a starting battery?
A. In any vehicle or equipment that will use the battery only for starting, lighting, and ignition (SLI) requirements and has a properly working alternator, the Optima Red Top Starting Battery is the appropriate choice.
However, if you store the vehicle for long periods of time with the alarm system engaged, you should use an Optima Yellow Top since the amperage drain over several weeks would damage a Red Top and reduce its life.
Q. Will it discharge the battery if left sitting on concrete?
A. No, today's batteries utilized polypropylene plastic for the case material. They will not be affected. When possible, always store a battery in a cool, dry location.
Q. What are storage recommendations for Optima batteries?
A. The most important consideration when storing any battery is to make sure the voltage never drops below 12.4 volts. We recommend using a type of "battery maintainer"-a device that will monitor your battery and keep it at full capacity during storage.