Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
August 7, 2013

Chances are, your garage houses three or four different batteries. You’ve got the battery in your daily driver, another in your vintage Mustang, and probably a few more in your lawn tractor, personal water craft, or perhaps a motorcycle or boat. All those batteries require maintenance, just like any other part on your vehicle. Let’s face it, how many times have you tried to start your Mustang and had a slow crank condition or simply no power at all after a long winter hibernation? Being able to charge, maintain, and condition is part of the maintenance required for a battery.

A battery is nothing more than a storage device, but over time that storage ability can be diminished by several factors, including “key-off” parasitic drain, battery water level, corrosion/resistance at terminals and cable mounting points, temperature and humidity levels, and more. There’s probably not a lot you can do about the temperature when its 40 degrees in your garage, but you can certainly ensure your cables are clean and tight (or replaced if needed) and the battery’s water level is correct. As for key-off parasitic drain, the newer the car, the more key-off drain you’ll find. A vintage Mustang with an aftermarket radio and a reproduction Rally Pac might have a key-off draw of 30 milliamps, but a modern car with a half-dozen body modules could easily be over 200 milliamps! Using a battery maintainer is the perfect answer to ensure your car or other garage gear is ready to go when you are.

Using that old metal buzz-box 10-amp charger you bought 20 years ago on today’s battery technology is not the proper thing to do. You need a modern battery charger/maintainer that offers a computer controlled multi-step charging process to ensure the battery is charged properly and maintains the charge for the longest life possible. Yes, you’ll pay a little more for these modern chargers, but they’ll pay for themselves in no time when your batteries last longer and you don’t have to buy replacement batteries so frequently. Plus, if you have an absorbed glass mat (AGM) style battery—like an Optima Red Top starting battery—then you’ll appreciate these modern computer controlled charging rates even more because many times the old-style chargers simply won’t charge an AGM battery properly—if at all.

Optima Batteries, the leader in AGM battery technology, saw this charging issue first hand and decided to develop their own line of chargers/maintainers to not only properly charge and maintain an AGM battery, but pretty much any 12-volt battery on the market. Just because you might have an Optima Red Top in your weekend ride and a regular flooded or “wet” battery in your daily driver or lawn tractor doesn’t mean you have to buy two different chargers.

Optima first launched their Digital 1200 about a year ago to great acclaim. The Digital 1200 has some great features, like LED lights in the tip of the battery clamps, a USB charging port, and 12 amps of power. However, some prefer a more portable unit with a few less features that’s easier on the wallet. So Optima launched the Digital 400 earlier this year at only $109. The Digital 400 can charge, maintain, and condition batteries just like its big brother and has 4 amps of charging power.

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Once the Digital 400 has determined the optimum charge rate, the charger will begin charging and you’ll see voltage and amperage rates on the LCD display along with LEDs lighting the percentage of charge. Once the battery is fully charged, the Digital 400 will automatically enter maintenance mode to keep your battery at a full state of charge and ready to go.