Whether you’re in a kayak or a pontoon boat, your onboard battery maintenance is essential if you want a dependable trolling motor. Fortunately, today’s technology provides you with a lot of ways to go about it.
You can charge a trolling motor battery with a solar charger, an onboard charger, or a portable charger. Some people even charge their trolling motor batteries with the onboard motor, which is one of the more efficient methods if you are using both.
To charge a trolling motor battery, it’s a good idea to know what you’re working with. Trolling motor batteries are deep cycle batteries, just like the ones you will find on Class A, B, and C motorhomes, as well as larger boats.
How to Charge a Trolling Motor Battery
Whether you are using a single, 12v deep-cycle battery or a series of them (if you want to run far more than just the trolling motor), having a system set up to keep them charged is always a good idea. Some people prefer to charge their batteries after the day is over, but not everyone has that luxury.
If you have a lot of onboard equipment, including fish finders, live wells, and a pump, that’s a lot of juice, especially if you’re solely dependent on the trolling motor. No matter what charger you’re using, there will either be a single charger or an array of devices for monitoring purposes.
However, it all boils down to the two cables that go on the positive and negative terminals of the battery. That part of the hookup is relatively simple. After that, it’s a matter of turning the solar charger, charger, power bank, or onboard charger on and letting them go to work.
Most of these chargers (if they’re any good) will come with various features that monitor the status of the battery and avoid overcharging. They also provide features such as float charging and trickle charging.
Type of Charger Needed
That mostly depends on you and what kind of setup you have in mind. For small kayaks, a simple rig with a solar panel for trickle charging will suffice, especially while your anchor is on the bottom and you’re fishing. For larger craft, there may already be an onboard charger.
This isn’t always easy if you have a series of batteries because you have to install those solar panels somewhere, and they need to catch full sunlight as much as possible. Fortunately, the setup is pretty simple, and you can do it whenever you drop anchor and start casting fishing lines.
- Remove the battery from the trolling motor
- Ensure your solar panel is in direct sunlight
- Connect the solar panel cables to the + and – terminals
- Flip the charger switch on
There are typically two kinds—digital and precision, and if you have one, it likely came with the boat as part of the features and systems the boat has to offer. These chargers are basically power banks with 1 to 4 amps for each.
Since they are already installed, run your cables to the positive and negative terminals on your trolling motor battery and turn on the onboard charger when everything is hooked up.
These are usually single-bank chargers, and they’re smaller than onboard chargers. Like power banks for smartphones, they come in all shapes and sizes. They hook up to your trolling battery the same way solar and onboard chargers do.
If you want a good one, it should come with a microprocessor, multi-stage charging, automatic temperature adjustments, and a digital display or LED indicator lights.
How Long do Trolling Motors Last
Most of the big brand-name trolling motors out there will come with two and three-year warranties, such as Minn Kota, TourPro, Motorguide Tour, and Lowrance. At the very minimum, you should expect to get your warranty out of them.
With good preventative maintenance and proper winterization, you should get six or seven years out of a good trolling motor. However, there are a lot of factors that go into a trolling motor’s longevity.
- How often you use it
- Average speed during use
- Type of battery you use
- The degree of strain on the trolling motor (with the weight of the boat)
- How your trolling motor is mounted
- Preventative maintenance
- Proper winterization
- Type of trolling motor
Float versus Trickle Charge
Some of these things get far more complex than they need to be and the addition of the terms, trickle charger and float charger certainly don’t help. Knowing the difference, however, may end up saving your trolling motor and your battery.
A float charger will only charge your battery as the battery discharges. In other words, it only charges when the battery needs it to charge. Generally, a float charger will charge your battery up to about 80%, then pause, easing into the rest of the charge. It will push your battery to 100% bo no more.
A trickle charge is a small but constant charge on the battery. It will charge your battery to 100%, but it won’t stop there. If you leave a trickle charger on your battery, it will happily go about its business, destroying your battery in the process.
There are more complexities to it, especially when you have other devices involved, but that’s the general difference between the two chargers. Both are perfectly fine to use, so long as you keep an eye on the trickle charger.
It’s not difficult to charge a trolling motor battery. It may sound difficult on paper, especially when you start throwing around terms like inverters, converters, float chargers, trickle chargers, power banks, and more.
At the end of the day, the positive lead goes on the positive terminal, and the negative lead goes on the negative terminal. All of the rest is self-explanatory when it’s laid out in front of you.
A good battery charger is essential for your deep cycle battery and your trolling motor. Without it, you don’t have a trolling motor, and worse yet, you might be stuck out in the middle of the lake without any paddles.
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