How To Tell If An Optima Battery Is Bad?

What Is An Optima Battery?

An Optima battery
An Optima battery is far better than a regular gel battery and the standard lead-acid battery in performance.
Credit: flickr.com

Overview

Optima battery is the superior spiral cell technology-based AGM battery. Pure Lead sheets designed for maximum surface are used in these batteries and rolled into a cylindrical shape. Though optima batteries have a different build, they function similarly to regular batteries but with additional features.

What Is Special About Optima Batteries?

As the Optima batteries are made out of pure Lead, they conduct electricity swiftly that provides ample starting power. Its composition also supports faster charging and slower discharge, making it an ideal battery that stays charged longer.

How Long Do Optima Batteries Last?

Optima batteries last for four years minimum, and with the moderate climate, you can expect it to last as long as eight years for domestic usage. Also, a few other factors decrease or increase the life span of the battery. Proper maintenance gives longer life, and abusive usage shortens it.

What Makes Optima Batteries An Excellent Choice For Off-Road Use?

The high cold cranking power allows optimum starting, and quick rechargeability provides a thoroughly charged battery. Also, the vibrations are 15 times lesser making it smoother and durable in the long run.

What Types Of Off-Road Racing Is Optima Batteries A Part Of?

SUVs, trucks with winches, Jeep, commercial vehicles, and vehicles with high audio systems are a few examples where Optima battery is mostly used.

Types Of Optima Batteries

The construction of Optima batteries is not similar to the traditional battery and requires proper knowledge of handling them in case of trouble.

When choosing an Optima battery, make sure it fits your needs. There are two types of batteries that serve varied purposes.

Starting Batteries

This type of battery is designed to discharge a small amount of power and recharge quickly using the vehicle’s system for charging. The power required to start a vehicle is very little and drawn in a small amount from the optima battery. However, it is recharged almost immediately using the charging system in the vehicle.

Starting batteries usually come in a dark-colored case with either a RedTop or a BlueTop.

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Deep Cycle Batteries

These batteries are produced to provide you with much power immediately for a high charge requirement on start. It is useful for multiple charge drawing devices of a vehicle onboard or large devices such as a stereo. In short, you need the deep cycle optima battery if you have a 12V fridge in your vehicle, or you need to power up a winch.

Deep cycle batteries are encased in a light-colored case with a YellowTop.

Which Battery Is Best For Each Type Of Off-Roading?

RedTop batteries are suitable for hot rods, SUVs, streetcars. BlueTop batteries are not for automobiles as they do not support deep-cycle usage and are suitable only for marine applications such as boats. YellowTop is the most potent type and is useful for commercial trucks and high-end audio system-loaded vehicles.

Manifestations Of A Bad Optima Battery

When your batteries cannot support starting your car, it does not always mean they are ready for replacement. It can mean they are deeply discharged and need a replenishment charge. You can check the status of the battery by figuring out the voltage.

Few other reasons you need to check your battery performance are slow cranking of the engine, the appearance of engine light, dim lights. Most Optima batteries are deeply discharged and can be brought back to life, mostly if they were not highly abused or old.

How To Check Your Battery’s Condition

Your battery requires thorough checking before you confirm it is gone wrong. The below checks will walk you through the process of verifying the Optima battery for its status. After performing these tests, you can confirm if it is salvageable or not. Below mentioned are the ways of how to tell if an optima battery is bad.

Basic Check

Corrosion is the main reason for underperformance or fault in most Optima batteries. It is easy to identify and fix the corrosive battery connections.

Steps For Checking Corrosion

  • Lightly jiggle the positive as well as negative clamps of the battery, one by one, and check for the presence of white powdery substance at clamps
  • Verify that the main power and starter feed to make sure they are not too tight
  • Confirm there is no corrosion and tightness to the negative cable of the battery
  • Finally, make sure the grounding straps are in place

Using sandpaper to clear the corrosion will help you to connect to the bare metal. So, this will allow you to make sure the connecting part is perfect. Also, adjust the tightness using a wrench, making sure it is reasonable.

If these above actions fix the working of your battery, then it is well and good. Else you need to go for the next steps using few tools. The two essential tools that help you check your Optima battery status are a multimeter and voltmeter. See how to use them and what else you need for performing these tests.

A multimeter helps in measuring the voltage of the battery. Use only standard multimeters to avoid measuring errors. Conventional battery chargers cannot charge an Optima discharged under 10.5V. So, it is vital to have an AGM charger to ensure the Optima battery has a fair chance of charging. Get ready with the below.

  • Keep your vehicle handy for load testing
  • Having a helper will make things easier
  • AGM battery charger to charge bad Optima battery
  • Make sure to set it at 20 VDC calibration

Your Optima battery should be in a sure charged state. Meaning you either charged it using an appropriate charger or drove the vehicle for at least a while right before your test. Now that your multimeter is ready at 20VDC, meaning 12V range DC, place the probe’s red end touching the positive terminal. Similarly, lay the black end of the probe touching the negative terminal of the Optima battery.

Interpreting The Readings:

Using the flowing ranges, you can check the status of your battery.

  • 100% charge – 12.7V to 13.2 V – NORMAL

This value is the standard charge range of your Optima Battery, and it confirms that your battery is usually working.

  • 25-75% charge – 12.0V to 12.4V – LOW

This value is the case when your battery is old or sulfated as it is not holding or taking charge. Sulfated batteries can occur due to the non-usage of Optima for a long time without any charge. It sometimes only won’t charge enough or discharges deeply when it should not.

  • 0 to 11.9V – DISCHARGED

This state indicates that the battery is discharged deeply when you have a low reading. It might be due to sulphation and may be recoverable or may need a replacement. On the other hand, if it displays 0 volts, the battery needs replacement as it indicates a short battery.

Load Testing

Excellent voltage readings do not always indicate Optima’s actual performance under load and need further testing. You can also perform this test at an auto parts store, having a battery tester, or do it yourself. To load test your battery, you need a vehicle, and a helper would make things easier. If you cannot have a helper, then use long alligator clips for connecting the battery with the multimeter kept on the windshield.

All you need to do is hook up the battery to the vehicle and note the voltage when the starter runs.

  • Set your multimeter at 12V range dc, usually at or 20VDC
  • The positive terminal of Optima is connected to the red probe
  • The negative terminal of Optima is connected to the black probe
  • Now let the helper or you start the four-wheeler
  • Check the multimeter reading when the starter motor turns and not when starting the vehicle

The most decadent load performance is possible right when the starter motor turns the engine. As soon as the engine starts, the alternator pushes the voltage up and does not give accurate battery conditions. Instead, it would give you the charging readings, which are irrelevant here.

It would be best if you achieved 9.5V to 10.5V for a minimum of 30 seconds. If you cannot achieve the said range for the required time, it may be two reasons. One is excess sulfation, and the other is an open-cell. Sometimes an open cell is detected only when load testing is the heat. When the heat is generated in the battery, an open cell finds it hard to keep things inside it from expanding.

As a result, the few parts that need contact will not be in contact, and it can also lead to cracks or breaks in terminal contacts inside. Sometimes these batteries look fine when cold and show proper voltage but go critical when the heat enters them. Generally, this is why an excellent cold voltage reading is not equal to a good performing battery. You need to perform specific tests on whether an optima battery is corrupt before you conclude.

Recharging An Optima Battery

Deeply discharged batteries below 10.5 V need an AGM charger as Optima batteries are AGM batteries. These batteries are designed with low internal resistance allowing the free flow of current and hence supply higher power than the regular battery.

The regular batteries cannot detect the Optima’s connection as these chargers do not recognize the batteries beyond 10.5V. Usually, standard batteries are considered dead at that voltage, but it is not Optima’s case. Hence, charging the bad Optima battery using a regular charger alone becomes impossible and requires an AGM charger.

However, a workaround is used using a regular battery discharged approximately to 12.2 volts to charge the Optima battery. Connect the standard battery charger to the typical battery for charging as well as the Optima. Here the regular battery gets the charger on, and the bad Optima battery draws power from it as the charger is now running. Once you charge the Optima to 10.5 Volts, you can connect the regular charger directly to it.

All you need to do is to connect the Optima battery to the regular battery using jumper cables. Now, connect the standard battery to the charge as usual and switch it on. After an hour, if it is hot to touch or its vents emit gas, then what you have is a bad optima battery. Immediately shut it down. If the battery is warm to the touch, then it is fine.

Every hour keep checking the voltage of the Optima battery till it reaches 10.5 volts. Once it does, you can disconnect the regular battery and charge Optima directly using the standard battery charger. Usually, 10.5 volts is achieved in 2 hours.

Read more: How Many Amps Is In A 12-Volt Battery?

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