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Charging a boat's battery is an essential step in maintaining any boat, but what happens if you charge it too long? Can you overcharge a boat battery?
Maintaining your boat properly is incredibly important in ensuring that your boat remains fully functional and avoids any pricey breakdowns, and keeping your battery charged is an important part of that process. After all, you wouldn’t want to wait until you are all ready to get out onto the water just to realize that your battery is dead or damaged.
So then, can you overcharge a boat battery? The answer to this question is a resounding yes. Not only can you overcharge your boat's battery if left to charge for too long, but this can also cause irreparable damage to your battery and the boat itself.
Knowing this, you might be quite nervous about your boat's battery, but the truth is there is no need to worry. As long as you know a bit about what battery you have and the type of charger you’re using, it should be pretty easy to avoid overcharging your battery.
Though many new boat owners may worry a bit about charging their boat battery correctly, by the time you’re done reading, you’ll feel confident enough to not have to worry about overcharging your boat’s battery ever again.
Which Battery Do I Need To Charge?
As I’m sure most of you know, boats normally have two different types of batteries on them. These are the cranking or starter battery and the deep cycle battery. These batteries perform two completely separate functions, and only one of them should ever need to be recharged.
The starter battery, as the name implies, is used to start the boat’s motor. Much like a car battery, as the ignition switch is activated, the start battery sends a strong jolt of electricity to the motor in order to start the boat. Once the boat is on, the starter battery is no longer in use, and as long as you use your boat fairly often, your boat's motor should keep its starter battery completely charged without issue.
The deep cycle battery is the battery that you will need to charge regularly. This battery is not meant for starting the boat. Instead, it provides all the electricity used to supply the continuous and reliable power the boat needs to run the trolling motor and power electrical systems like GPS, sonar, and radio. It is incredibly important to ensure that the deep cycle battery is charged as if it dies while you’re on the water, you will be stranded without help to get back to shore.
How Long Does It Take To Charge A Boat Battery?
The length of time it will take to charge your boat’s deep cycle battery will depend on a few different things, including, what type of charger you use, the type of battery you have, and how much power is left in the battery before it starts charging.
Before you decide to charge your battery, it's important to check how much power is left inside. You can do this with a voltmeter. Simply disconnect your battery from your boat and use the voltmeter to find out how much electricity is truly left inside. After a long day on the water, you may find that your battery has a discharge value of around 25%, meaning that the battery has 25% of its charge left.
Once you know how much charge is left in your battery, you should pay attention to the type of charger you have. Many chargers have different energy output numbers. However, most have an output of either 5 or 15 amps. Obviously, a 5 amp charger will take a lot longer to charge your battery than a 15 amp charger will.
You can figure out how long your battery will need to charge by using the formula Ah/A = T, where Ah is the amp hour rating of the battery, A is the charger output in amps, and T is the time that it takes to charge the battery. For example, if you have a 100Ah battery with a discharge value of 25% and a 15 amp charger, it would take about 5 hours to fully charge the battery. If you change to a 5 amp charger, it will take 15 hours to charge the same battery. It’s important to remember to multiply your battery’s Ah rating by (1 - the discharge value) when making these calculations so that you don’t accidentally overcharge your battery anyway.
What Happens If You Overcharge A Boat Battery?
Overcharging a battery can cause a lot of damage to your battery and the rest of your boat. On the less extreme side, overcharging your battery by just a little bit can cause the lifespan of the battery to decrease. On the more extreme side, overcharging a boat's battery can cause it to overheat, mixing and boiling the water and acids inside. This can cause the battery to melt and expand, ultimately rendering it unusable.
In the most extreme of cases, if a battery is left charging for far too long, all fluids inside may leak out or boil away, triggering the battery to explode or catch fire. Not only will this completely destroy your battery, but it could potentially cause grave damage to the rest of your boat along with anyone and anything on it.
This is why it’s always important to check the electrolyte level of your battery every month or so so that you can ensure the fluids inside are at the right level. This is also why you never leave your boat battery charging overnight, as this is an easy way for the battery to overcharge and catch fire before anyone notices.
Though you do risk overcharging your deep cycle battery if it is connected to a normal charger, smart chargers can actually prevent this from happening. Unlike a regular charger, smart chargers have a special computer chip inside that monitors the voltage in the battery and stops the flow of electricity once the battery is fully charged, preventing overcharging and preserving battery life. They provide steady power automatically and don’t need to be monitored once connected.
Smart chargers have a few other advantages as well. Most smart chargers are spark-proof and many utilize reverse polarity protection, ensuring that even if you connect the wrong ends by mistake, you won’t have to worry about damaging the battery or the charger.
If you can get your hands on a smart charger to replace your regular one, you will no longer have to think about how much power your battery needs and how long it will take the charger to provide that power. Overall, smart chargers are much safer and more efficient than the alternative, ensuring that you’ll never have to worry about overcharging your boat’s battery ever again, even if you leave it connected to the charger all night.