I don’t know if you’ve heard the buzz on the forums, but it seems everywhere I go I hear that Optima batteries aren’t the same quality as they used to be. Why? The #1 comment is that they sent the manufacturing out of our country and the quality control hasn’t been the same ever since. I recently took the opportunity to try and get to the bottom of this rumor because we have always had a lot of faith in Optima and were troubled to hear about this news.
I sent a message to Optima to get their side of the story and find out if their quality level has suffered for some reason lately? Jim McIlvaine, the eCare Manager at OPTIMA Batteries, Inc responded below.
There is no truth to message board theories and speculation about a decline in quality. The batteries we are manufacturing today are the best we have ever made. Many of the “bad” batteries returned to us under warranty now are just deeply-discharged and work fine, when properly-recharged. This is not a situation unique to Optima, in fact, it is quite common throughout the industry.
AGM batteries have much lower internal resistance than typical flooded batteries, which allows them to operate well beyond their specified ratings. That’s great news for a fisherman, who needs his trolling motor to keep operating seven hours into a windy day of fishing. That’s not so great news for a newer Corvette owner, who only takes his car out a few times a month, while the onboard computers slowly discharge the battery during storage.
The high internal resistance of flooded batteries typically prevents them from delivering much current much below 11 volts, while it is not uncommon for our tournament anglers to come off the water with their batteries discharged well into the single-digits.
The situation becomes compounded when folks go to recover these deeply-discharged batteries with chargers that have very simplistic charging and safety features, which I’m sure you’ve encountered in working on your blog. Many of these chargers will not deliver current to batteries that have been discharged below 10.5 volts (our chargers can recover batteries down to 1.25 volts), because it is assumed that such low voltage levels are indicative of a battery that has lost a cell. Some of these chargers will begin charging, but if the battery doesn’t reach a minimum voltage level within a short time frame, the charger will shut off and throw an error code suggesting the battery is bad.
While that can be the case, many times, it is not and these batteries are mistakenly assumed by both the consumer and the retailer to be bad. This is not unique to Optima, in fact, several other AGM brands have responded by simply voiding their warranty, if their batteries are found to be discharged below a minimum voltage level. I’ve mentioned this countless times on dozens of forums over the past few years, but no one has ever bothered to confirm whether or not this is true. It is true and it’s not hard to find in the warranty language of multiple AGM brands.
We can’t do that with our warranty, because we sell too many batteries (more than everyone else by a large margin) and would outrage too many consumers. We did create a YouTube video, which explains how to recover deeply-discharged batteries with one of these chargers that is using outdated technology.
Optima is owned by Johnson Controls, but we manufacture all of our own batteries in our own facility and they are the only batteries produced there. We never re-brand or re-spec our batteries for any of our retail partners.
Battery contracts come up for renewal on a regular basis. As a result, every online list I’ve ever come across that attempts to state who manufactures what has had outdated or incorrect information. Some brands/retailers have multiple suppliers that can vary based on group size or even physical location of the retailer.
The bottom line for any battery, regardless of brand, is proper voltage maintenance. If any battery is going to fail from a manufacturing defect, it is likely to do so well within the first year, if not the first month of use. Beyond that, battery lifespan is largely connected to how the battery is used and maintained. That’s why blogs like your’s are so important. If people aren’t using their batteries on a regular basis, they should be keeping them maintained with a quality battery maintenance device.
If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly.”
eCare Manager, OPTIMA Batteries, Inc.
He also included a link to a video that describes how to recover a deeply-discharged battery.
Obviously, Jim works for Optima and you have to be the judge about what he’s saying. Personally, the passion he obviously has for the subject tells me that he does not want disinformation being passed around about their quality when quality is so important to him and his company.
I think we would all like to treat batteries like a no-maintenance item when in fact they need proper maintenance just like any other part of our vehicles. We will continue to recommend and use Optima batteries and make sure that we properly maintain them.