Marine Battery Protection and Safety Tips

Marine batteries are built to withstand harsh conditions, and to generate power for boat engines, electronics and for backup power. They’re also built with durable casings to resist water and heavy vibrations. 

Marine battery protection tips

But as tough as they are, they require regular maintenance, testing, and proper storage to keep them working properly. Nobody wants to get stranded out on the water, especially because of something as simple as a dead battery, so here are some marine battery protection and safety tips to help keep yours healthy.

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What Causes Marine Battery Corrosion? 

Before we get into marine battery protection, let’s talk about what causes corrosion, which in this case is oxidation from humidity and saltwater exposure. You’ll notice a white or green powdery residue on the battery terminals

Marine battery corroded terminal

Corrosion can happen not just from exposure to humidity and saltwater, but also from overcharging, improper storage and damage to the battery. When a marine battery is corroded, it affects its performance (electricity flow, ability to hold a charge, lifespan, etc.) and eventually leads to failure if it’s not addressed. 

How to Prevent Marine Battery Corrosion

Preventing marine battery corrosion of course comes down to proper maintenance. Here are some ways you can protect a marine battery from corrosion and deterioration. 

Clean the Battery Terminals and Connections 

Clean the battery with a wire brush at least once during the boating season. Use a mix of baking powder and water to clean the terminals. After cleaning the battery, rinse it off with clean water and dry it thoroughly. 

Marine battery terminal corrosion protection

Next, apply a corrosion inhibitor or battery terminal cleaner for an added barrier of protection, especially if you use your boat in saltwater environments. 

Corrosion doesn’t only happen on the battery hardware, so it’s important to inspect and protect the wiring and wire connectors as well. Keeping the terminal connections watertight also helps prevent corrosion. Use corrosion washers, battery pads and terminal covers to provide additional protection.

Charge the Battery Properly

Both overcharging and undercharging can lead to sulfation and ruin a marine battery. Follow the manufacturer’s specifications on how to properly charge a battery (and which type of charger to use). Overcharging a battery can also result in faster discharges, which can leave you stranded out on the water, so keep a battery charger and a spare battery onboard just in case. 

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Store the Battery Properly

During off-season storage, keep marine batteries in a cool, dry and well-ventilated place to prevent corrosion and failure. Make sure each battery is fully charged and topped off with acid to the manufacturer’s specifications before storing the battery away.

You should always recharge the battery after each use, but it’s especially important to keep it charged while it’s in storage. Disconnect the battery from any equipment that might drain its charge during the storage period. Also, check on the battery’s charge periodically to make sure it’s holding up, and consider using a trickle charger or battery tender while the battery sits unattended.

Monitor Battery Compartment Temperatures

Marine batteries can be sensitive to temperature, and a battery compartment can get hot from the sun or from heat from the engine raising the temperature. Adding a battery temperature sensor helps protect the battery by monitoring excessive heat, which can discharge and/or deteriorate it.

Additional Marine Battery Safety Tips

Marine batteries can be dangerous to deal with. As redundant as it sounds, always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, and keep these additional tips in mind:

  • Wear safety glasses and gloves whenever you’re handling boat batteries, as they tend to leak acid and ignite sparks.
  • Get a battery box with a box strap to keep everything dry and protected when carrying and transporting the battery.
  • Allow battery hardware and connectors to cool down before disconnecting and transporting the battery.
  • Use nyloc nuts instead of wing nuts for tighter battery connections. 
  • Track the usage of marine batteries by checking for a manufacturing date stamped on the top. 
  • Install a voltmeter gauge on your boat to keep track of battery voltage while you’re out on the water.

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Before jumpstarting a battery, make sure there’s good ventilation in the battery compartment as a safety hazard to protect you against exposed fuel fumes. Next, check the connections to make sure nothing is loose or exposed. When jumpstarting a marine battery, remember to connect positive to positive and negative to negative, and allow it time to charge before turning the ignition on.

When it’s Time to Replace a Marine Battery

Typical marine batteries last about 3-5 years, depending on the quality, maintenance and usage, but they all eventually need to be replaced.

Marine battery when to replace

Signs that a marine battery is about to go dead include weak engine starts, in which the motor struggles to turn over because of battery power loss. If the lights and electronics on your boat start dimming, flickering or shutting off, that’s also a sign of a weak battery. 

Finally, frequent loss of charge is another telltale sign that a marine battery is failing. When a marine battery struggles or fails to hold a charge, expect the possibility that it’s time to replace it.