For personal watercraft owners who experience seasonal changes, we must deal with long periods of time when riding our toys isn’t practical or possible. Even those of us with wetsuits can’t ride when our favorite lake freezes over. So this means a lot of us store our PWC’s in winter.
We cover winterization and storage topics in other posts, but I wanted to address how you should store your jet ski battery in winter. You should either take the battery out and place on a trickle charger, or disconnect the battery and place it on a trickle charger in your ski. I found this out the hard way in my first year of ownership. Not storing my batteries properly ended up costing me two new batteries in the next spring.
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How should I store my PWC battery?
If you are like me, the storage area I use for my Sea-Doos experiences colder temperatures in winter. Contrary to popular belief, colder temps are not good for battery life. One frequently stated myth is that batteries last longer when refrigerated. This simply isn’t the case for lead-acid batteries used in cars, boats, or PWC’s. Batteries are best stored at around 60 degrees Farenheit, not in extreme heat or cold.
So I remove both of our Sea-Doo batteries and take them to my home garage. I top off all the cells with distilled water, taking care to not overfill any compartment. I then place them on 2×4 blocks of wood on a garage shelf and connect them to smart trickle chargers. I use the Battery Tender Junior that I bought from Amazon, but if I were buying a new one now, I would choose the Battery Tender Plus, also from Amazon for a slightly higher price. Note that both of those charge at less than 1 amp. You cannot use a charger rated at higher than 2 amps for charging a personal watercraft battery, or you may damage it (source.) There are sites that have incorrect info on this that could lead to expensive battery damage, or even damage to your PWC when charging in place.
For anyone storing multiple batteries over the winter, a multibank charger may make sense. I store 2 Sea-Doo and 2 Sea-Ray boat batteries, all on separate Battery Tender Juniors. But the multibank version was released after I purchased all 4. If I were buying a unit now, I would strongly consider getting the Battery Tender 4 bank 12v 1.25 amp charger from Amazon. Much pricier, but you avoid needing 4 separate outlets and it takes up less space than 4 separate chargers. Something to consider if you fall into the multi-battery owner category.
Can you store batteries on concrete?
Yes you can. This is a common myth you will encounter is that leaving a battery setting on concrete will discharge it faster or damage the battery. This is simply not true (source). It is more important to make sure that the surface on which your battery is stored is resistant to any acid that may leak or vent during long-term charging. This is the reason I use blocks of wood. I use leftover pieces from other projects, and they are easily replaceable if damaged.
You can also buy special battery storage rubber mats, but I haven’t found any need for them. Modern batteries are already encased in plastic anyway. If you store on a garage shelf, be sure that there is nothing on the shelves below that can be damaged if the battery should leak. Also pay attention to where any leaked fluid may flow on your garage floor, or how it could affect any small children or pets in your household. It is important to keep the batteries in a location inaccessible to children and pets for this reason,
Do I have to cycle the jet ski battery charger?
If you purchase the correct charger, then you don’t need to do anything other than plug it in and forget it. Mine are placed where I walk past them almost daily on the way to my car, so I can take note of their status and notice if there are any problems.
If you store your batteries in a more remote section of your house or garage, check on them regularly. Taking a quick glance at the battery and charger weekly could prevent problems in the future. For example, should you trip a circuit breaker and the battery charger is no longer charging, you might not discover the dead battery until spring. At that point, it may be damaged beyond salvage, and you’re on the hook for a new battery.
If you use an older battery charger, which I don’t recommend, you would need to charge the battery to its full capacity and then take it off the charger. You will then need to place it back on the charger every few weeks in your garage through the entire time it is stored. Since it only costs $25-$40 to avoid this hassle, I recommend picking up one of the previously mentioned smart trickle chargers.
Proper battery storage can save you money and time
Paying attention to proper storage of your PWC battery can save you hundreds of dollars in replacement batteries and prevent lost riding time once summer returns to your region. Like a lot of things in life, an hour or so of preventive maintenance done once per year can save hours of hassle later.
If you have a standard wet-cell battery, be sure each cell is filled to near its upper capacity with distilled water. If you have a maintenance free battery, you can obviously skip this step. But it remains important to use a smart trickle battery charger regardless of battery type. This will keep your battery in good condition while preserving its maximum power storage capacity and prevent degradation for as long as possible.
See these links for more on winterizing your PWC or getting it out of storage. Batteries are also covered in more detail in this full battery guide, and in this article on where batteries are located.
As someone who ruined his first two batteries by fully charging them and then leaving them in my Sea-Doos in their first year, take my word for it: maintaining your battery can save you money and hassle over the long-term. Manually charging and then cycling will also work, but sacrifices convenience. An inexpensive smart trickle charger may end up being the best purchase you can make for your personal watercraft maintenance. For more recommended accessories, check our reviewed products here and our Accessories Store for general items.