Optima Battery: Red or Yellow Top?

Optima Red or Yellow top? I bet you’ve got it wrong!

Optima batteries choose facts which one

If you missed the other stories about SEMA, then you didn’t read how Optima Batteries brought up car and truck enthusiasts for a “round table” of sorts to find out what’s happening with their customers.  Great idea, right? MyRideisMe.com, through Grease Girl and me, Pikesan, represented the hot rod and custom car crowd. Also strongly represented was the off-road, diesel towing/performance, drag racing and serious computer-audiofile segments.

Why’d Optima do it? Cause they’re serious about making batteries for enthusiasts. The showed me they care about their existing customers and want to earn more by selling a great product.

On the first day, I learned about the “Optima Paradox.” Red top or yellow top?  Ken, my expert technical guide, schooled me on how folks that need a yellow top see that it’s more expensive and buy a red top instead. Understandable, but wrong. Optima’s a premium product and costs more than a run of the mill wet battery. But, experience tells  you, or should, that getting the right parts for your ride, even if they’re a little more money, always pays off in the end.

Optima Battery choose facts which one?Optima battery choose which one

Breaking down what I learned, I expect some genuine disbelief, bordering on hate, in the way of comments from this story. Why? Because I’ve already found that some of my buddies are breaking these simple rules:

Red top is for starting.

  • High voltage, short duration “bursts” of power when cranking the motor
  • Put another way: Big-time cranking amps with only a little discharge because the motors starts and the alternator quickly takes over

Yellow top is dual purpose.

  • Purpose #1: Starting, like the red top
  • Purpose #2: Continuous or long periods of high demand, high power usage
  • Put another way: Crank it, over power your alternator, drain it, then let your charging system catch up. Repeat. This up-down, repeated cycling is what yellow tops are made for.

That’s the basics, let me add some other general rules (here’s where the wrench throwing starts)

  • If you think you need more than one battery, get yellow tops
  • If you use a “battery tender” or external charging source to keep your ride ready to roll, you need a yellow top
  • There’s no reason to have two red tops
  • If you’re not sure which one you need, you can’t go wrong with yellow top
  • Mixing red tops and yellow tops is wrong! (unless they’re wired completely separately)

Finally, the most general rule:
If you’re running anything on your ride that needs power, especially when the engine is off, that wasn’t there when it was built, you need a yellow top.  For example:

  • Air compressors for air bags, air horns or whatever
  • Stereos with big amps or multiple “Pimp My Ride” style 20 inch LCD monitors in the trunk
  • Winch or off-road lighting (or gasp, underbody neon like my PT Cruiser buddies)
  • Games systems, DVD players or some alarms

So was I right? Are you doing it wrong? I’m not the expert here, Optima is!  If you disagree, I’ll take your comments directly to them.