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Old 11-09-2019, 02:06 PM   #1
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Checking batteries during pre-purchase surveys

Iím under contract on a 2007 boat, and about to go to surveys. Of my many concerns is the current state of the batteries (house, starter, genset, and thrusters) and whether they will need to be replaced relatively promptly.

Can I get some feedback, please, on whether itís possible to assess the current quality and expected future longevity of the batteries during a survey? Is this possible during a day, or does it require a longer discharge/charge/discharge cycle.

Thanks very much in advance.
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Old 11-09-2019, 02:19 PM   #2
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You can get some indication of battery health. Here is what I would do: If they are flooded lead acid, check electrolyte level on some of them. If low, they have not been maintained well. Then, at beginning of survey, turn off shore power and put some load on the inverter. Say 500-600 watts with a small heater on low resulting in a 50-60 amp draw on the house bank. Check the voltage before you start the load test (should be 12.6V) and every couple of hours. A 400 Ah bank for example should let you draw 200 Ah before voltage drops below 12.2V or so. That would be 3-4 hours. Adjust load and time according to bank size. If voltage drops rapidly and/or inverter shuts down, the batteries need to be replaced.

if this is too much hassle, just assume the batteries have to be replaced and reflect it in your bid.
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Old 11-09-2019, 02:26 PM   #3
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That is excellent information. I will show up with a small heater as you suggest.

This seller drives a hard bargain, and unfortunately we want this boat. Without some objective indication of a need for a refresh, this Seller is unlikely to budge.

Again, many thanks!
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Old 11-09-2019, 02:29 PM   #4
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I would look at the date.

Any battery over 5 years old should be replaced as part of your new owner fitting out process.
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Old 11-09-2019, 02:29 PM   #5
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Well if you really want the boat and it checks out ok otherwise then accept that the batteries are probably going to need replacement and move forward with the deal. Good luck, hope it surveys for you.
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Old 11-09-2019, 02:32 PM   #6
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You can get some indication of battery health. Here is what I would do: If they are flooded lead acid, check electrolyte level on some of them. If low, they have not been maintained well. Then, at beginning of survey, turn off shore power and put some load on the inverter. Say 500-600 watts with a small heater on low resulting in a 50-60 amp draw on the house bank. Check the voltage before you start the load test (should be 12.6V) and every couple of hours. A 400 Ah bank for example should let you draw 200 Ah before voltage drops below 12.2V or so. That would be 3-4 hours. Adjust load and time according to bank size. If voltage drops rapidly and/or inverter shuts down, the batteries need to be replaced.

if this is too much hassle, just assume the batteries have to be replaced and reflect it in your bid.

I’m sorry but in my decades of maintaining flooded lead acid batteries as part of my profession, plus two decades in various boats anchoring out and running off of house batteries, I have found this not to be the case.

You are refering to a “open circuit” battery test.

A flooded lead acid battery under any apreciable load WILL go to 12.0 volts rather quickly and stay there. It will then drop in voltage slowly over the discharge process.

Some boaters here might experience what they think is contrasting results. That is simply because they have huge house banks compared to the average loads put on them by their boats systems. This would naturally result in a slower degradation to 12.0 volts.
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Old 11-09-2019, 02:34 PM   #7
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Battery testing

Any Battery test to give true evaluation of battery health & expected longevity would Include a few things like the load testing mentioned above but also a couple more things as well. Examples come to mind of these:

1. - I would check the specific Gravity of the electrolyte for each cell.

2. - Check for any date codes on the batteries to see their chronological age

3. - remove the surface charge first before any other testing.

4. - borrow a Midtronics battery conductance tester & use that to evaluate the batteries state of health.
They (Midtronics testers) do a pretty darn good job of showing you where the state of health of the battery is in it's limited life span. Many, like the one I have, give you a print out with a speed-o-meter type graphic showing where the battery is now health wise & lifespan wise.


The battery tester & it's print out -IMHO - will carry more weight in the negotiation on price that any home grown test you work out.

This is what the factory uses to determine battery health.

Good Luck.

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Old 11-09-2019, 02:46 PM   #8
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Great information all and, as happens sometimes here in TF, a little baffling on the divergent ideas.

How about another approach: once I ascertain the actual age of these batteries (assuming that I am able to do so), how old is OBJECTIVELY too old? That is, for run-of-the-mill lead acid batteries, does basic good maintenance practice suggest replacement at any accepted interval?

Thanks again.
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Old 11-09-2019, 02:53 PM   #9
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Lead Acid batteries and less than 10 throughout the boat?????.... hardly even something to consider for a sale....for the next cruise yes.


Fancy high tech batteries and charging system...I don't know enough to comment but from what little I know it could be a sales issue on a smaller boat.


Starter type lead acid batteries only need a simple load test that most load testers can handle. Borrow one from Advance Auto if you can.
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Old 11-09-2019, 03:42 PM   #10
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Load test mentioned using inverter only good on the house bank.
If Lead acid a hydrometer check may be your best bet and provide hard data to present.
I figure around 7 yrs as practical batty life assuming reasonable maint.
If at or near that life I would figure you will need to replace within a year or so or immediately if you are planning extensive cruising.
Playing devils advocate - From the sellers perspective I would argue that as long as everything operates properly then there is no need for seller to replace (or allow $) for new battys - I'd argue it's a used boat but everything works.
If you find odd individual cell readings for spec gravity that indicate a bad cell then you have a legit argument.
When I bought my current Mainship I negotiated around a similar situation where batty's were questionable (signs of poor maint/boiling over/ improper charging or bad cells) but everything started & ran. I presented hydrometer readings to seller and broker. We finally agreed on about 40%-50% cost of new battys as an allowance.
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Old 11-09-2019, 03:49 PM   #11
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Great information all and, as happens sometimes here in TF, a little baffling on the divergent ideas.

How about another approach: once I ascertain the actual age of these batteries (assuming that I am able to do so), how old is OBJECTIVELY too old? That is, for run-of-the-mill lead acid batteries, does basic good maintenance practice suggest replacement at any accepted interval?

Thanks again.
If I was buying a boat and any battery was over five years old I would just automatically replace it after I closed on the purchase. Batteries are a maintenance item and every boat needs to have some things done to it to fit it out for your cruising
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Old 11-09-2019, 04:13 PM   #12
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If I was buying a boat and any battery was over five years old I would just automatically replace it after I closed on the purchase. Batteries are a maintenance item and every boat needs to have some things done to it to fit it out for your cruising
Yes. I replace my FLA start batteries after 4 years irrespective of how they check out. After 8 years I throw away the FLA house bank T105s. My two AGM thruster batteries are a puzzle, the 1st two sets are toast after 5 years.

As Kevin says, just a maintenance item which I liken to impellers, heat exchangers and fuel filters. Change them out early works for me with no obsessing over getting the last 5% life.
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Old 11-09-2019, 04:54 PM   #13
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Thanks again all. It sounds as though I’ll just have to be taking a few big gulps here. The purchase contract called for the owner to produce his maintenance records within a certain period of time. When nothing materialized, we asked him for the records. A week later, he responded that he had no records but that he’d look for receipts. We told him to skip the receipts, and asked him to simply provide us with a list of maintenance tasks that he’s performed over the last three years along with the approximate date of performance. Still waiting on that one week later. He says that he has the oil changed on the main and genset each year, and it may be that he doesn’t do much more than that. He has no oil sample analyses to offer. Admits that it’s probably time for a bottom job, but that his diver says it “looks OK.” (We’ll see about that when it’s hauled.) If the boat weren’t so attractive in other respects, one of us might well have walked by this point. But perhaps I’m being overly sensitive and careful, because this is my first boat purchase and it’s in the $500k range.

Sheesh! Is it unusual to expect maintenance records when you’re up at that level?

Sorry about the thread drift. I’m starting to vent.
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Old 11-09-2019, 05:24 PM   #14
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Thanks again all. It sounds as though I’ll just have to be taking a few big gulps here. The purchase contract called for the owner to produce his maintenance records within a certain period of time. When nothing materialized, we asked him for the records. A week later, he responded that he had no records but that he’d look for receipts. We told him to skip the receipts, and asked him to simply provide us with a list of maintenance tasks that he’s performed over the last three years along with the approximate date of performance. Still waiting on that one week later. He says that he has the oil changed on the main and genset each year, and it may be that he doesn’t do much more than that. He has no oil sample analyses to offer. Admits that it’s probably time for a bottom job, but that his diver says it “looks OK.” (We’ll see about that when it’s hauled.) If the boat weren’t so attractive in other respects, one of us might well have walked by this point. But perhaps I’m being overly sensitive and careful, because this is my first boat purchase and it’s in the $500k range.

Sheesh! Is it unusual to expect maintenance records when you’re up at that level?

Sorry about the thread drift. I’m starting to vent.
Some owners have no records, some have extensive records.

To me, maintenance log books if they exist are something to be looked at pre-offer. A boat with good log book style records would be an indication of the maintenance style of the owner. I would be more inclined to make an offer on a boat with good records, and would scan the records pre-offer to see what work has been done. A lack of records is not necessarially bad, but having records is good.

As far as having the owner write down maintenance activity, that has zero value. I’d bag it and continue with your due dilligence.
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Old 11-09-2019, 06:01 PM   #15
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I would look at the date.

Any battery over 5 years old should be replaced as part of your new owner fitting out process.
Good advise on any newly-acquired boat.
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Old 11-09-2019, 06:21 PM   #16
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I don't keep any records except oil changes and fuel purchases, receipts for purchased equipment and services (including batteries) are also kept. I got 6 years on my AGM batteries, with probably 100 cycles a year average, so I expect I got my money worth ($300 a year to have electricity). I consider it to have been money well spent, and will replace them with identical batteries next season.

I agree they are just a maintenance item, as are water heaters and eventually refrigerators. New water heater this season also, the last one went for 20 years, six of them for me. It only had an anode in it for the last two years, before that I didn't know there was the option for it.

Some things wear out, with warning or without.
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Old 11-09-2019, 07:49 PM   #17
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Kawini:


You are focusing on the wrong things. For $500-1000 you can replace all of those batteries. Focus on the really expensive things, like the engine(s).


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Old 11-09-2019, 08:05 PM   #18
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David- The problem, I think, is that I am thinking of too many things! Believe me, Iíve got my eyes on the engine too!

But I hear and appreciate the advise about not sweating the small stuff at this stage. Itís been given by others to others before here on TF, and Iím sure it makes sense. Thanks for the reminder.
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Old 11-09-2019, 08:37 PM   #19
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I understand that you want to feel like you got a good deal by getting a discount for older batteries, but will you be happy if you loose the boat over the cost of batteries? I know if the boat was what I wanted and checked out ok otherwise, I would be really upset with myself if I lost the boat over that.
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Old 11-09-2019, 08:46 PM   #20
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Heck our Lindell 36 had 4 13 year old Lifeline 8ds when we bought it. They were still doing ok at 17 years but we decided it was time to replace them as our generator run times where creeping up at year 17 when we were anchored out for extended periods. If you like the boat donít sweat the batteriesEric
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