When it comes to car batteries, choosing the one that fits your application should not be a tough decision. However, with so many choices available, what is the right choice for you? Although a car battery is not something typically at the forefront of consideration, when something goes wrong with it, it can become the biggest consideration of your day. When that happens, choosing a battery that fits your car’s needs and will last longer than a dime-store double-A is a must. When it is time to choose, might we suggest an OPTIMA battery? Contrary to popular belief, not all automotive batteries are created equal. If you don’t believe that, the folks at OPTIMA Batteries make a solid case for their power storage units being among the very best.
When talking about OPTIMA batteries, we all know there is the RedTop, YellowTop, and BlueTop batteries, but which one should you use in your car? Which one is best for a diesel truck? Can one be used in an off-road application? We’ll get to those questions in a minute. But first, let’s discuss a little about what makes an OPTIMA battery different from many others — fiberglass.
What Makes OPTIMA Different?
While a traditional car battery utilizes a flooded lead and acid construction, an OPTIMA battery relies on an Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM). An AGM battery is designed to do two jobs: deliver powerful bursts of starting amps and run electronics for a long time. Not only do they work very well, but this type of battery also tends to last longer than a regular flooded battery.
When constructing an AGM battery, the positive and negative plates are separated by an absorbent glass mat that absorbs and retains the battery’s acid. The plates are compressed into each cell and held under pressure in the plastic case. The internal compression limits the shedding of plate material caused by cycling and allows for significantly longer life. The element compression also lowers internal resistance and maximizes pulse power output. A rigid container maintains the necessary compression throughout the battery’s life. However, OPTIMA takes it a step further.
OPTIMA utilizes what they call Spiralcell technology which gives its batteries the familiar six-pack design. A series of individual spiral-wound cells composed of two, pure (99.99-percent) lead plates are coated in a precise layer of lead oxide and then “rolled.” The unique cell design has an internal structural advantage that helps it hold its shape even under harsh weather conditions, corrosion, and heavy vibrations, which traditional batteries are not built to withstand. The basic design also includes relief venting to release pressure from minor gassing that occurs during charging. The valves open at low pressure and close automatically to prevent air from leaking into the battery.
All of this sounds great, but when it comes down to it, which OPTIMA battery is best suited for your particular needs?
OPTIMA’s RedTop batteries are best suited for use in cars with high-compression engines and not a lot of extra accessories that require significant electrical loads, like large audio systems, winches, or high-output exterior lighting. The RedTop provides the strongest five-second burst of power when you need to start your vehicle. These batteries are ideal for providing clean ignition power to cars, trucks, and other vehicles that have properly sized alternators. This includes stock and modified vehicles that need a better battery for starting the engine. For you diesel guys, here is your best option.
If your car’s alternator can maintain an electrical balance during normal use, a RedTop battery is probably your best option.
Choose a RedTop
- If your primary need calls for high-power engine starting
- If you are not running a lot of in-car electronics or don’t have a heavy electrical load on the battery.
OPTIMA’s YellowTop will be right at home with drag racers, winch-using off-roading rock crawlers, and cars with power-draining electronics. The YellowTop batteries are designed to handle significant electrical loads when your alternator is tryi9ng to feed many items.
The YellowTop does not have the cranking power of a RedTop, but it is built to be recharged, drained, and recharged time after time. It will provide reliable starting and operating power for a long time. Although it is not technically a deep-cycle battery, due to its chemistry and internal makeup, the YellowTop is more tolerant of being repeatedly discharged to a lower voltage. This aspect makes it great for off-road vehicles with winches and “adventure-required” accessories.
Choose a YellowTop
- If you run electronics while the key is off
- If you have a high-demand audio system or multiple electronics
- If you need your battery to recover from substantial power drains
If looking at a BlueTop OPTIMA, you need to know there are two versions, one with a light gray case and one with a dark gray case. The BlueTop with the light gray case is designed for deep-cycle applications and the BlueTop battery with the dark gray case is designed for high-power engine cranking applications.
The significant difference in the BlueTop batteries is they have both automotive-type posts and male-threaded studs consistent with the needs of marine and RV applications.
Choose a BlueTop
- If you need a battery that can withstand deep cycling much like in a marine or RV application.
In short, the RedTop and YellowTop batteries are made to be the best performance automotive batteries, and BlueTop batteries are made for marine and RV applications.
I know what you’re thinking, “An OPTIMA costs so much more than most lead-acid batteries. How can I justify it”? An OPTIMA can deliver up to twice the life expectancy of a lead-acid battery. According to OPTIMA, their cranking batteries (RedTop and YellowTop) deliver a higher level of power to the starter in the critical first five seconds of the vehicle’s starting cycle. They are also leak-proof and maintenance-free. The tightly sealed cells mean the battery can be mounted in multiple positions (even on its side) without leaking or damaging your vehicle.
Many overlook using an OPTIMA battery because they are afraid they will need a special battery charger to work with the battery. Sure, OPTIMA does have a selection of quality battery chargers, but under normal conditions, most 12-volt battery chargers will sufficiently recharge an OPTIMA. In fact, most modern chargers now have built-in features or specific settings to charge AGM batteries like OPTIMA. (Do not use “Gel” settings, as they will not fully charge an Optima and could damage it over time.) For regular charging, OPTIMA recommends a 10-amp maximum charge of 13.8 to 15.0 volts. For float charging, they recommend a 1 amp maximum, to 13.2 to 13.8 volts.
The most important consideration when storing any battery is to make sure the voltage never drops below 12.4 volts. If your battery is in a vehicle that is not used regularly, and you do not use a battery maintainer (voltage monitor/trickle charger) your battery could be slowly discharging.
Although an OPTIMA battery has a much lower self-discharge rate than conventional batteries, all batteries will lose voltage over time. This is especially true if there are any small electrical drains (alarm clock, stereo memory, etc.). Therefore, they recommend using a battery maintainer that will monitor your battery and keep it fully charged while in storage to extend the battery life and ensure that it will start when you’re ready to go for a drive.
There you have it, knowing which OPTIMA battery is right for your application is now easier than ever.