One area where boat operators often fail to devote attention is maintaining their boat batteries. Regular maintenance of your boat’s batteries can pay great dividends by increasing battery life and allowing fewer battery problems while on the water.

Maintenance is critically important when there are prolonged periods when the boat is not used. This is especially true when boat operators shut down their vessels for the winter season which may result in several months of inactivity.

Spring always brings a rash of battery problems for boaters and anglers. These usually occur with the initial attempt to start the motor or it might occur shortly after initial use begins and leave you stranded out on the water.

If you fall in that category of boater that shuts down for the winter season, it is most important to make sure that you properly maintain the boat’s batteries over the period when the boat is not being used. In years past, this was accomplished in a number of different ways.

Most folks would just periodically charge the battery with the old type portable battery charger. That was fine as long as you remembered to do the charging and also remembered not to overcharge the battery.

Then along came the portable charger with a trickle charger that worked fairly well if you only needed to charge one battery at a time. If you had several batteries, you had to move the alligator clips from battery to battery. Over a period of several weeks, it is very difficult to operate a manual process of keeping multiple batteries charged.

I personally know from past experience that this is a pain staking exercise. I did it for many years and replaced too many batteries and too many battery chargers. Even with my dedicated effort to maintain my batteries, I still had regular battery problems.

I resolved my battery problems a few years ago when I invested in on-board battery chargers for my boats. The on-board charger allowed me to charge all my batteries together at one time and maintain their charge through the trickle charge feature of the on-board charger.

On-board chargers come in two categories, linear chargers and multistage chargers. The linear chargers have fallen from favor due to how they negatively impact battery life and performance. The on-board linear charger shuts off when the battery is fully charged and does not begin charging again until the battery drops below 90 percent capacity. This tends to reduce battery life.

The on-board multistage chargers are called “smart chargers” because they charge the batteries in different phases. By controlling the charging output in steps, the multistage charger reduces charge time and when the battery is fully charged the multistage charger drops to a maintenance mode that holds the batteries at a 95 to 100 percent charge.

The multistage on-board charger can charge both cranking and deep-cycle batteries at the same time. They are fully waterproof and this allows them to be installed in out-of-the way places on your boat thereby conserving space.

Installation of on-board chargers are easy to install and easy to operate. Basically when you return from a day on the lake or when there is a period of inactivity like during the winter, just plug in the on-board charger and you should be good to go the next time you need to use the boat whether that is next week or next month.

Having said all those good things about the new on-board chargers, boaters still need to do some regular battery maintenance. If the batteries are the sealed maintenance free variety, just periodically clean the terminals and connections. If the battery is not the maintenance free type, always check the fluid levels and top off with distilled water and periodically clean terminals and connections.

For maintaining my own boat batteries, investing in on-board chargers for my boats was the best decision I ever made. By choosing a to utilize an efficient on-board charger, you can be assured that your boat batteries will always be fully charged and ready to get your boat going and keep it going when needed. See you next week.

Outdoor columnist Bobby Peoples can be reached via e-mail at

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