They’ve been used in motor vehicles for roughly a century, and are sometimes taken for granted, so it can be easy to forget that your racing car is only as good as the battery powering it. And because a motorsport battery tends to cost more than a conventional one, it’s worth taking care of yours, and ensuring you make the right choice.
Equally, you should remember that a regular car battery simply isn’t designed to be used in a racing setting – it needs to be able to work with a high-performance engine.
These days, the choice of motorsport batteries is huge, which is excellent, but it can mean identifying the right one for your needs feels slightly bewildering. And, unfortunately, if you get it wrong, you may be racing with more weight than you need – or you could end up buying a new battery sooner than you’d like. Weight vs. capacity is always a tricky balancing act!
Motorsport UK only permits batteries conforming to their classification to be used in their events, so check that before you buy as well.
Most racing car batteries are lead acid, but they’re built differently, with plates generally fashioned from a purer type of lead. (Even up to 99%.) They’re thinner, so you can pack in more power in the same space. Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) technology replaces liquid electrolyte to contain the acid.
Among the benefits are price, a huge choice in terms of size, and good charger compatibility.
A key difference is the use of dry-cell technology, designed to have reduced internal resistance and as opposed to passenger car batteries, which tend to have wet cell batteries. Other advantages include lighter weight, smaller size and reduced weight.
Charge up fully after use – if you persistently store a battery with a low charge, it could sulphate the battery plates. If you charge and isolate it, a motorsports battery will hold its charge longer than a standard model. Alternatively, a good battery conditioner maintains and charges your battery during storage.
Finally, sealed lead-acid batteries are not considered hazardous, so you can have regular parcel shipping with no extra charges.
Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries
The chemistry of this kind of battery is more involved. But it can give similar power for a third of the weight, with shorter recharging time and a longer cycle life. These batteries also tolerate deep discharge better.
And while they cost more initially, this could perhaps be offset against the improved cycle life.
Admittedly, performance at colder temperatures may not be as good as with lead acid, but that ought not to be too much of a problem.
You’ll need a specific lithium iron charger, and charging often takes no more than an hour. Equally, a lithium battery will hold its charge much longer.
Again, charge when you’ve used it, and leave it disconnected.
What else affects choice?
- Location, location, location
Think about where and how to mount your battery. You may need specialised battery foam, for example, to stop damaging vibration, or heat insulation if it’s placed in a hot area.
- Size does matter
Check available space, and the size of your mounting bracket. And, clearly, the battery has to be mounted so that it can’t come loose. And you can get ready-made, tailored trays or brackets for most motorsport models.
- AH Rating
The AH or Ampere Rating is a guide to a battery’s capacity. You’ll need to check this but in fact can probably get away with a lower rating than for a road model. If you think about it, in winter, especially, lights, heater, wipers, in-car entertainment and the like can all be a drain on the battery.
- Cold Cranking Amps
Check this to be sure it’s enough for the power of your starter motor. (However, this is more important for vehicles using a wet cell battery.)
In conclusion, choose carefully to have the right battery for what you need, and have a good maintenance regime in place.
At Race Paddock, we can help you make a choice that’s spot-on for your requirements and are always happy to offer specialist advice.
We also sell a wide range of motorsport batteries, including lead-acid batteries plus lithium-based models from leading brands, alongside an extensive line-up of chargers.
Talk to us today.