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Braille Battery vs Optima Battery


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I was just reading a discussion of Braille vs other batteries and it got me curious.  I went to the good ol' inter web and looked them both up.  Bottom line is that for the LS1 in my Z the two different batteries are within about $10 of each other.  At Summit Racing a Braille B2317R is $200 and an Optima 8004-003 34/78 REDTOP is $215.  Not going to get into how long they last.  I have the Redtop Optima in my Z and it has been performing wonderfully for me for about 10 years now.  I throw it on a battery tender in the fall and then just fire it up and drive it once the snows are over.  This year I haven't even done that due to the mild winter.  I put 1,500-2,500 miles per year on the car now vs the 8,000 I used to put on it but time is more of an enemy to the battery than miles.

Yes, I know you can get a great lead-acid battery for half the price of these batteries but when was the last time you had a battery last 10 years?  When it finally does die I'm going to opt for the Braille.  Price will be close to the optima and I'm always up for losing a little weight.

Just thought I'd throw some thoughts out.  :rolleyes: 

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Savage42 (Gary) is the son of Swede Savage of the 1970's time-frame.  Swede ran with the greats, Mario Andretti, Mickey Thompson, Dan gurney, etc. until his untimely death in 1973.  Gary started out up in Eugene, Oregon with his 280Z06 build which he is now close to finishing.  Gary has obviously been involved in the motor racing scene since he was a kid.  He did a lot of 510 performance stuff and also some vintage 'Cuda racing.  He's also the one who has the replacement friction pads for the R200 LSD's.  If you haven't seen his car you should look him up on this website and spend a bit of time drooling over it.

Gary is a great guy and almost for that reason alone when it comes time I'll replace my Optima redtop with a Braille.

Edited by Phantom
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  • 3 months later...

Did a little more research into what Braille batteries would be good for my LS1 280Z.  Actually I PM'd Savage42 and asked him. 

There are two.

One, the B3121 lightweight AGM battery, costs $229, and 

the other,  the Greenlight GU1R lithium battery, costs $599.

 

Either one will be smaller and lighter than a standard lead-acid battery or Optima but the lithium battery will last 3-4 times as long, will not self discharge if left sitting disconnected over a long period of time and is even smaller and lighter.  This should be enough information for those that are considering a Braille battery to evaluate their intended usage and pocketbook and make a decision.

Edited by Phantom
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I think I've covered a few key points in choosing the best battery for your application in a previous thread, but it seems that some additional facts may be beneficial in this case. 

 

First, the Red Top Optimas that were made prior to the buyout (owed by the Swedish) in 2002 were the bomb!  Very high quality, but once they were purchased by JCI, they found them to be "over engineered" and gutted them to reduce cost, hence the quality dropped and the failure rate increased dramatically.  A friend was a regional manager at one of the major national auto parts chains at in the late 90's-early 2000s, they averaged about 1 return/warranty a month, move forward a few years and that number increased to about a dozen a month.  Likely, you got one of the last of the early generation Red Tops and those would go a good 10 years.  Unfortunately, people think they are buying the same thing today as they had and that is not the case. 

 

As for having such a large battery in your car, the only reason is to have lots of capacity to 1) let your car sit for extended periods of time with a parasitic draw and not have the battery go down (without using a maintenance charger) or 2) you want to blast the stereo for a while without the engine running and not draw the battery down to a level that it won't start the car.  So, if you drive your car regularly or you use a charger (which is a good idea to keep you battery near 100% state of charge and compensate for parasitic draw) if the car sits, you can get away with a much smaller battery.  We also have to look at the fact that you are also switching from a flooded lead-acid battery that came stock back in the day (and in just about every OEM battery) to a maintenance free AGM battery for better performance AND you don't have to worry about acid eating up the sheet metal around the battery tray.  Also, if you relocate your battery anywhere outside of the engine compartment, you really don't want a flooded battery without having vent tubes running from the battery to outside. 

 

As for comparing batteries of different sizes, makes/brands, etc., not all batteries are created equal.  Most are designed and have spec ratings based on the application.  There are only a few American battery manufacturers in the USA, so pretty much all of the dozens of batteries out there come from one of them.  Just because they come out of the same plant doesn't mean they are identical.  Johnson Controls owns/makes nearly 20 brands of batteries including Optima, Die Hard and others, but they are not all the same with different stickers on them. 

 

There are often comparisons to the Deka batteries and Braille because they have models that are the same size and have the same case.  Deka doesn't even make batteries, it is a brand of powersports batteries that are designed for that application and NOT automotive applications.  The Braille product is designed & intended for use in automotive and race applications, have a racing warranty and the minimum performance levels required for this kind of use is higher than what you would need in motorcycle.  This is similar to the fact that the OE battery for Harley Davidson motorcycles are also the same size & case, but we sell to many HD dealerships and custom bike builders due to the fact that those batteries (along with the Deka) have a hard time cranking over the bikes with big motors and they have no problem when upgrading to the Braille equivalent.  (many forums stating this)   If using a battery in an automotive application, make sure to get a battery that is made for that kind of useage, as the demands are significantly higher and using a lower rated battery in that application will lead to poor performance and premature failure. 

 

This is similar to the Odyssey batteries, which all of the smaller AGM batteries are also designed for powersports and not automotive use.  In fact, other than the PC925 with a metal jacket, if you say you are using it in an automotive application, the warranty is void.  Not sure why the metal jacketed version is an automotive spec, as having a jacket that will absorb radiant heat and keep heat into a lead battery is a bad thing, but anyway......   Of course, you can buy and use whatever battery you'd like, but we sell a TON of our B3121 AGM batteries as the lightweight option for those running Red Tops in street & race cars and have for years.  We have hundreds of C6 Corvette owners running it and even a few Viper owners without a problem.  Heck, even Corvette Racing used them before switching to Braille lithium batteries about 4 years ago, but the benefits of Braille lithium is another topic entirely and hard to compare since it is a newer & significantly better battery technology. 

 

On another note, I was helping our west coast battery distributor at the Good Guys show in California.  They are a seller of many brands (Optima, Odyssey, Exide, etc.) of batteries with Braille being the premium lightweight AGM and only lithium option they offer.  We were at breakfast and talking about the Braille lightweight AGM models, in particular, the top 2 selling models with the B2015 being the 4 & 6 cylinder street/track car model and our B3121 being our workhorse V8 option or higher capacity battery for the 4 & 6 cylinder guys who want more power & capacity, but still around half the size & weight of a full size battery. 

 

We talked about the Odyssey PC680 and the Braille B2015 in particular, as they are similar in size and are both 15 lbs.  He just couldn't believe that the Braille had any more power than the Odyssey being nearly identical in dimensions and weight.  So, when we got back to the show, we pulled out their tester and had a brand new PC680 and a B2015 that had been sitting around with their display batteries for about 9 months.  (all lead batteries self-discharge, so the Braille was not fully charged as you can see based on voltage, pics below)  Anyway, as you can see, the numbers show the difference and with the Braille being down on voltage due to sitting, it still has about 50% more cranking power.  The B3121 averages in the 700-750 cranking amps, which is what you want for you LS or other V8 guys.  While cranking amps is important, the key is to have enough capacity to ensure the battery isn't easily discharged, which is another common mistake in looking at a smaller, lighter battery. 

 

I hope this helps a bit, as there are always opinions put on the internet (the bathroom wall of the world) and not always based on fact.  Feel free to buy whatever battery you like, but just like many of the other parts on your car, you can buy cheap or you can pay more for quality (" you get what you pay for").  It's always good to get quality information to make the best decision on what is best for you based on application, needs and budget.  Now you know more about batteries than most!  :) 

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I forgot to mention that production (of Optima) moved to Meixco a few years ago and then reliability really went down the toilet. Peter Brock called and got a Braille after going through a couple Optimas in 6 months. I've heard that they have worked on some of that, but not a good thing even when warranties, as it's still time & effort, let alone being stuck somewhere at the wrong time. Their focus seems to be spending serious money on marketing as "the ultimate power source" instead of making a better product. Braille is small in comparison and has become a global brand used by OEMs with virtually no marketing budget and got there with quality products and word of mouth.

Edited by Savage42
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  • 1 month later...

"First, the Red Top Optimas that were made prior to the buyout (owed by the Swedish) in 2002 were the bomb!  Very high quality, but once they were purchased by JCI, they found them to be "over engineered" and gutted them to reduce cost, hence the quality dropped and the failure rate increased dramatically.  A friend was a regional manager at one of the major national auto parts chains at in the late 90's-early 2000s, they averaged about 1 return/warranty a month, move forward a few years and that number increased to about a dozen a month.  Likely, you got one of the last of the early generation Red Tops and those would go a good 10 years.  Unfortunately, people think they are buying the same thing today as they had and that is not the case."

This information posted by Savage42 finally got me curious so i went back and checked my records on my Optima battery.  I purchased it on Dec, 7, 2002 so it was probably produced prior to the buyout by JCI.  That would further make sense as the battery is still surviving after nearly 13 years.  Then again, I have a 96 month warranted lead-acid battery that has now lasted 98 months in my Suburban,  The Optima back in 2002 only cost me $101.50 which seemed like a fortune at the time but has turned out to be well worth it.  When it does die I don't think I;ll get another Optima, though, based on the information from Savage42 and a couple posts by Miles in another thread, The Clock and Engine Idle Speed.

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Savage42 - Should the B2015C be good for an RB26? I currently run one with it but its no use, won't hold its charge and discharges very easily, my fault though, when setting up the RB after the swap I discharged the battery too much by lots of cranking and then couldn't get it on charge for another day after that, I reckon that killed it

 

I intend to replace it with the same, provided you feel the 2015 is up to the job, don't really want to go bigger unless I have to as it mounted behind the pass side seat.

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The typical recommendation for a 4 or 6 cylinder lightweight AGM battery is the B2015. The B14115 is more of a race/track model, as the low capacity is not ideal for a street car. The B3121 is the lightweight option for V8 machines that are looking to cut the weight & size of a full-size battery like Optima, etc. we have hundreds of C6 Corvettes and some Vipers running the B3121 for years and was the AGM battery Corvette Racing used to run in their factory ALMS cars until upgrading to lithium back in 2011. The GreenLite G20 or GU1R is the ultimate upgrade, so it really comes down to what is best overall based on what you are looking for. Hope that helps.

Edited by Savage42
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Actually, you have some incorrect information there, KTM.  Actually, DEKA is a brand and is not a manufacturer.  There are only a few American battery manufacturers left and all lead batteries made in the USA come from one of them.  Enersys (who makes Odyssey), Johnson Controls (has 20 brands including Optima, Die Hard, etc.) and East Penn (makes batteries for many companies and under numerous brands including DEKA).   WIth them all coming out of a few plants, you wouldn't think an Optima and Die Hard battery are the same become they are both made by JCI.  Just like tires and many other car parts, you can get anything from low to high grade, but "you get what you pay for" in most cases.

 

As you noted, the DEKA and most of the smaller Odyssey batteries (not counting full group size) are designed and made for powersports, primarily motorcyles and other small displacement vehicles.  Being that they are made and sold for that application, the power & performance requirements are based on a level required for that kind of use.  The warranty is VOID when those batteries are used in automotive application, so that should also tell you something, as they are NOT designed for that kind of use!  Now, many people put the smaller AGM batteries in their cars, most commonly the Odyssey PC680 in the 4 & 6 cylinder cars and the PC925 in those with 6 & 8 cylinders and a mix of experiences with them, as well.  

 

Being that Braille is specifically designed, used and even warrantied for street and race car use, the minimum power levels are much higher than that of those batteries used in a bike or other small engine vehicle.  The batteries are contract manufactured to different minimum specs and those not meeting that level are sent back.  This must be done to ensure performance and reliablity since our batteries are used in high demand applications.  All of the Braille lithium batteries are built by hand in Sarasota and EVERY Braille battery is shipped out that facility!! 

 

If you do research, you will also find that in the motorcycle market, there are many forums where the Harely Davidson owners and those with custom bikes with large motors have serious battery issues and hard starting with batteries like Big Crank, DEKA and even the OE Harley battery, all the same size & case.  FACT: a large number of Harley dealers and custom bike builders Braille Dealers and only use Braille due to the higher performance, which is needed when you cram a 2.0-2.5 liter V-twin into a motorcycle.  If the Braille B3121 battery was & is used by Corvette Racing, hundreds of C6 Corvettes owners and even some VIper owners for years, then it will certainly start a Harley.

 

So, if you are fine with a lower price, lower performing battery (which may well fit your needs & budget), there are always less expensive options out there.  For those needing & wanting a better/higher performance battery, there are options there, as well. 

 

Everyone seems to think that Odyssey is the best powersports/racing AGM battery out there. (excluding the Optima marketing hype as the "ultimate power source")  Here is a comparison a battery distributor did recently at the same time with the same tester.  This is a brand new PC680 versus a 9 month old Braille B2015 that wasn't fully charged (can tell by voltage), both of which are 15 pounds and similar in size.  Even without being fully charged, the B2015 puts out 50% more cranking power and would be closer to double when new & fully charged. 

 

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So, when you use a smaller battery to replace a large one (the only reason to have a huge battery is for capacity & ability to sit for long periods of time & still start the car without using a charger), when used in the same application, the PC680 would be worked much harder (relative to its size) and will end up reaching its cycle life & failure point much sooner than the better performing battery. 

 

There you have it, facts and real world use.  Go buy what you want.  The funny thing is that most people don't think about the battery until it doesn't work, aside from racers that are looking to save weight and get better electrical performance, but that is the minority. 

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  • 7 months later...

Well - after almost 14 years of service my Optima Red top died - or maybe I should say it imploded.  I noticed it was only around 12 volts coming out this past winter but it seemed to be doing OK.  I went on a run today, car started OK but just a bit slower than normal.  Everything seemed fine for about 8 miles and then I noticed I was having throttle control issue, the car was bucking in first & second gear.  Got to my destination, shut it off, did my business , and came back out to a car that would barely crank over.  Made some calls and while I was waiting for the cavalry to arrive i tried to start it again and this time it started and seem to run OK.  Started for home and then the symptoms started showing up - the car was bucking, tachometer wasn't reading correctly, speedometer (CableX driven) was not working at all, and the turn signals were really weak. Barely made it home but a minute after I shut it down in the garage I had my Fluke meter out and was checking the battery.  Yup - 8 volts.  Not enough for the ECU or anything else to operate properly.  It's a testimony that the car even started and got me home,  Braille battery in my immediate future.

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After going back and forth with Oscar De Leon at Advanced Battery Systems who is the Braille West Coast distributor several times I put a Braille GU1R Lithium battery on order today - along with a lithium specific battery tender, a side mount post adapter kit and a battery hold down kit.  "In for a penny, in for a pound".

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The ETX-30L is a size, the same as the B3121. The biggest problem I see regularly is that size is standard for Harley Davidson and other powersports applications and not designed, marketed or intended for automotive use from most of those battery manufactures who build & spec them for a use that requires less power. We expect (and have) Corvettes, Vipers and large number of circle track cars running the B3121 and warrantied for use in street & race cars.

 

We also have Harley & custom bike builders that buy & sell Braille because the stock Harley battery and the other low cost (also low performance & quality) only last 6 months and they have no issues using a battery that is used for engines much larger. Going small and not having adequate power will overwork the battery relative to its size and dramatic reduce cycle life.

 

Hope that helps add some clarity to the situation, as even compared to Odyssey batteries, the Braille equivalents (same size & weight) has anywhere from 50-100% more cranking power than Odyssey. even using the small Odyssey batteries in automotive applications voids the warranty and since they use those batteries are also used for things like backup power, they compromise cranking power for deep cycle ability. Now you know more than you probably care to about batteries. :wink:

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