It has been several years since I wrote the below information about the
Optima battery. Since then, they have moved their operation to Mexico.
It seems the current owner relocated there after buying the Optima company.
After discussing the performance of Optima batteries with a lot of my
friends, and reading hundreds of threads about Optima battery performance, I can
no longer recommend the Optima battery. What other Jeep owners are seeing
with their Yellow Top Optima is nothing like what I and many other experienced
with our first Optimas some 10 years ago. Aside from what appears to be
basic quality issues, the Optima company appears to believe that any premature
failure of their battery is because YOU did something wrong. Your
electrical system is bad, your alternator isn't charging correctly, you have a
bad voltage regulator, etc. In other words....sorry, the warranty on your
battery is void because we said you did something wrong.
Optima batteries use AGM (absorbed glass mat) technology which is great for
offroad use. There are LOTS of other companies around that offer quality
AGM (Sears for one) type batteries that your Jeep will certainly appreciated.
The info I provide below is still valid....just pretend the Optima name isn't
there and use "AGM" in its place.
With all that being said, here is the original write-up, done more than 10
Having been an electronics technician in the US Navy for 8 years
and then teaching electronics and RF communications for a college for almost 6
years and having held a ham radio license for over 25 years, I pretty much can
work my way through a DC circuit. As such, I end up fielding a fair share
of questions about batteries and electrical hook-ups for vehicles. As you
may or may not know, I run an Optima Yellow Top battery in Lady. I
am probably biased towards the Optima, but I've had no problems with them and
I've not ran into any Jeepers with that bright yellow battery hiding under the
hood who have had anything bad to say about it. So hey....why not go with
a proven product, right?
I was asked why I chose the Yellow Top instead of some other
brand. This was my response to the person, who was commenting about the
CCA rating of some autoparts chain store battery.
- Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) are not the only noteworthy property of a
battery. Along with this is the amp hour (AH) rating of a battery.
This comes into play when you want to do a much lower current draw for a
long period of time....which in my case would be running my ham radio
gear while out camping with my TJ. Many batteries on the market have a high
CCA rating, meaning they can dump a LOT of current in a very short period of
time.....but some of those do not have a high AH rating....so the source of
power they can draw on is limited.
- I don't know if the battery you are speaking of is a dry or wet cell
battery. The Optimas are dry (and so are some made by other companies) which
makes them ideal for a roll over situation.....they don't leak acid onto
your vehicle...nuff said. The plates do not vibrate and short together
because they are wound tightly together with a glass matt material that acts
as the gelled electrolyte holder. Since the plates can't short from
vibration, the chances of a failure from this common problem is greatly
- The Yellow Top Optima is specifically designed as both a SLI (starter,
lights, and ignition) and a deep cycle battery. The "deep cycle"
term used in Optima's vocabulary means it is designed for deep discharges at
HIGH current draws....say, around a 400 amp draw from a good winching
effort. (this is not to be confused with deep cycle RV/fishing boat
batteries that are designed for deep discharges with SMALL current draws,
like that of a trolling motor) The deep cycle Yellow Top is good for around
250 deep cycle discharges. Most batteries would cook long before that....say
around 50, if they made it that far. This is witnessed by anyone who forgets
to turn their headlights off and completely kills their battery. On a
conventional battery, you can not do that too many times before it begins
taking its toll on the ability of the battery to achieve and hold a full
- As far as a warranty goes, I have NEVER owned a battery living in Arizona
where it has survived 3 summers. Considering I have always owned 2 or 3
vehicles and I have lived here 16 years, that is a fair amount of batteries
that I can base this statement on. For the past 6 years, I have been buying PepBoys 72 month warranty batteries. The last one made it exactly 14 months
before it died hard and was replaced. Luckily, that one was in my wife's XJ
and not my TJ. Hers left her stranded in the church parking lot. Mine
would have left me about 20 miles from the nearest road. What I am trying to
say is that a warranty means nothing unless the product it is supporting
really works. I can not drive my Jeep out of the desert on a warranty!
I know Jeepers that are running Optimas that are 6+ years old. Most of them
usually pull them at that point, pop in a fresh one, and shuffle it off to
the family car for "lighter" duty. The warranty on the Yellow Top
I bought was 6 years, with the first 2 years being free replacement and
prorated for the remaining four years. This is not a flame against other
batteries....you asked about the Optima and why would someone decide to use
it. These were a few of the reasons I opted to choose Optima.
I received an e-mail from a fellow Jeeper who read the above post.
He wrote me about his upcoming battery and winch project with questions
concerning what kind of battery (Red or Yellow Top) to get and how many of them. This was my
response to him.
- The Yellow Top Optima is THE battery you want for winching. Optima will
NOT warranty the Red Top when used in winching applications.
- What you do NOT want to do is to connect the winch to the side terminals
of the Optima battery. Optima will NOT warranty that hookup. (it is not
heavy duty enough) Attaching it to the TOP terminals is just fine. I
personally confirmed this with their customer service folks and posted
the e-mail concerning this. You can see the
details of my winch hookup here.
You can spend a couple of $$ if you want, and change the
terminals on the end of the starter cable, etc., and set it up so that your
starter is connected to the side terminals and your winch is connected to
the top terminals. This does make for a nice clean setup.....but it is not
required in order to get everything to work properly.
- Having a dual setup is always nice, but not mandatory....here is why.
- They do NOT make an alternator (that you or I can afford) that can
recharge your battery as fast as a winch can suck it dry. My TJ's heavy duty
OEM alternator puts out 117 amps if everything is perfect. In reality, once
it gets hot, the output normally drops by 10~20%. So....when you have a big
Warn winch sucking 400+ amps from the battery and you are only putting back
100 amps, you are in a losing situation. In a perfect world (these numbers
are just to show the ratio of use and are not real world numbers), you could
winch for 1 minute and then you would need to charge the battery for 4
minutes to make up for what you took out. For many people, this kind of
winch use method is just fine.
- If you had two batteries, you could winch for a longer period of time
because you would have twice the battery capacity to start with. However,
the alternator can still only supply 100 amps of charging current.....so,
each battery would get half of that when you stopped winching and were waiting for the batteries to recharge. In the end, you could winch for twice
as long, but your charging time would also be doubled. This method can also
be the right setup for some people.
- Here is what I did in my setup. I only use my winch occasionally, and then
most likely it will not turn into a "winch fest", where I would be
winching 10 Jeeps over the obstacle.....if you get my drift. So.....with a
single battery, I am limited to how long I can winch before the battery is severely
discharged and I am going to have to let the Jeep fast idle and
recharge it. BUT....this is fine for me since like I said, it would be
sporadic winching at best for relatively short periods.
- If I regularly ran a trail(s) that had a section that required extensive
winching for me, I would probably opt for a second battery. The thinking
here is that I'll be able to winch for twice as long, and then I can
recharge my batteries once I am through the tough section and am just
crawlin' along down the wash.
- If I regularly ran a bunch of trails, that had LOTS of winching required,
AND I was a nice guy and helped my friends with my winch, I would certainly
run dual batteries AND I would install a BIG (read more expensive)
alternator that could charge my batteries 2~3 times faster than my stock
alternator. That would be the optimum setup, and also the most expensive. I
could winch for longer continuous periods of time AND my batteries would
recover much faster and be ready for more winching again.
- Now....forgetting about the winching requirements for a little bit, there
is another advantage to having a dual battery setup. By installing a battery
isolator (not too expensive) in your dual battery setup, you can safely have
one battery that will NOT ever be supplying power to your vehicle's power
hungry circuits.....those little energy eaters that are hooked up to your
starter battery. Should your primary starting battery fail, you have an
"on-board" spare....or put another way, should you play your
stereo all night long....leave the headlights on when you go to work,
etc.....you will still have a fully charged battery to switch in and get
- OK....I probably gave you more info than what you wanted, but I hope you
see the various ways by which you can setup your Jeep based on how you
expect to use it. The worst case scenario is that you get one Yellow Top and
use it for a while. If you find yourself either in need of a second
battery....or you want to be able to charge that one battery faster, you get
a 2nd battery or get a bigger alternator (or both).
- The nice part about doing this "electrical" mod is that unlike
many other mods, you don't waste your money by starting with the
"small" option and then seeing how it works. You do get to add on
to this one and continue to utilize your previously spent $$. Not always
true when doing lifts, tires, etc.
- Hope this helps.........Stu
December 3, 2000
I recently spoke with a good friend of mine who recently put a pair of Yellow
Tops in his Chevy Blazer. You would have to understand him to appreciate
his vehicle. Doug is an RF tech that does a lot of mountain top
maintenance trips. He has a ton of radio equipment in his vehicle, 400
watts of off-road lighting, a 1000W power inverter....well, you probably are
getting the idea.
He has always ran a dual-battery setup so as to provide ample current for his
electrical and electronic equipment. Not too long ago, Doug had been
running the "Black Panther" deep cycle batteries. He told me
that he bought a pair of them about 4 years ago and has had them replaced, under
warranty, about every 6 months. After 6 months of use, they fail to pass a
sustained medium current load test.
About a month ago, he got a pair of used Yellow Tops from a friend.
They had been removed from an ambulance that had been totaled in an
accident. The batteries had been in service for approximately 1 year and
were virtually flat when Doug got them. By flat, I mean there was almost
no voltage showing on a VOM when you checked them. It seems that during
the accident, one or more devices either shorted out or were turned on and the
dual batteries were drained down to nothing. This condition existed for
about 2 weeks before they were removed from the wreck and given to Doug.
Doug put them both on a charger and proceeded to bring them back to
life. Once charged, he put them into his Blazer and started using them in
the same manner as he had done with the Panther batteries. Doug told me
that they are working perfectly. He said they perform just as though they
were brand new out of the box. His power inverter runs about double the
time he use to get from it using the Panther batteries.
I've known Doug for almost 10 years now. He is very meticulous about
his work vehicle and if he says these 1 year old used (and abused) Yellow Tops
perform like they were brand new....well, that is good enough for me. I'll
take his word any day.