Tech Corner: Is a Dual Battery Setup Really Necessary?

Pro Comp Tire A/T Sport

The allure of a proper adventure rig is like crack. It’s this perfect specimen of craftsmanship, from the ride itself to the thousands of dollars in aftermarket accessories. We just can’t get enough.

And what do most of the desirable add-ons have in common? They work on electrical power drawn from the battery. The more accessories there are, the more power will be drawn. This can be pretty dangerous if they’re left running while the vehicle’s charging system is not. Not to mention, running an engine to recharge a battery is a great way to waste gas. And draining power is a great way to wind up stranded. Luckily, there’s a way to have your cake and eat it too: a dual battery setup.

What exactly is a dual battery setup?

For those who don’t know, a dual battery setup consists of two car batteries being connected to a vehicle’s alternator – along with an isolator – to keep them separate. The backup battery provides a secondary source from which to draw power. That’s an obvious advantage when the vehicle isn’t running but you need to keep the beer cold, right?

When a vehicle is idling, the car’s charging system can’t do its job, which means that any lights or stereo use is drawing on power that can’t be restored. A secondary battery helps to eliminate this by providing reserve energy. But it can’t be credited with solving this problem entirely on its own. The real magic component is the battery isolator.

How does it work?

Genesis Offroad is a company that offers dual battery solutions for Jeeps and a growing number of other applications. They break down the role that smart isolators play in their setup.

“When your main cranking battery reaches 12.7 volts, the smart isolator separates the batteries, so that your cranking battery will have enough power to start the engine. The second battery continues to power your accessories for as long as it will last. After you crank the vehicle, your main cranking battery will be charged up to 13.2 volts first, and then the isolator will begin charging your accessory battery. By only charging one battery at a time, your alternator is protected from excessive strain.”

Pretty nifty, right? So, what about installation? Trust us, it’s not that hard. Complete kits, like those offered by Genesis Offroad, typically are designed to mount the batteries together under the hood. This cuts through a lot of red tape, allowing you to save time when deciding how or where to set the additional battery. However, if real estate under the hood is limited, the secondary battery might have to be mounted remotely. No need to worry though, as companies like Painless Wiring and Adventure Kings offer universal kits that can easily be used for these situations.

So do you really need one?

Essentially, each setup works by linking both batteries to an isolator to control the power supply. And it’s pretty much as straightforward as it sounds. The hardest part is finding a safe method and location for the secondary battery. As for the right battery, we recommend either Optima or Odyssey, as these companies have proven their names time and time again in the harshest of conditions.

A dual battery setup opens a lot of doors. Whether it’s chatting with friends over the CB, keeping things light while camping, or listening to a favorite song while enjoying lunch and scenery along the trail, it’ll keep you from having to worry about a dead battery. Going off road isn’t about going from point A to point B; it’s about enjoying the trail in between. Enhance the experience with a dual battery setup.

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