TESTED: Super Mini Booster battery charger


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An onboard backup battery seems like a great idea but its bulk and weight can negate its benefit — until you’re stranded without power. That’s why every boat could do with a Super Mini Booster, writes Paul Tuzson.

TESTED: Super Mini Booster battery charger
TESTED: Super Mini Booster battery charger
Marine and motor mechanics are often sceptical of so-called "convenient" starter packs. Their effectiveness can deteriorate over time and they’re simply not designed to offer the benefits of a new battery for very long. Of course, you could always carry a spare battery, but that’s a heavy and bulky solution. Then again, you could opt for a Super Mini Booster — which effectively bridges the gap between a heavy spare battery and a lightweight quick-start pack.

CRANK IT UP

The packaging on the Super Mini Booster says it’s a starting battery with deep-cycle capabilities, which means that basic testing of the unit was pretty easy. I simply found lots of cars and boats with flat batteries, attached the leads and turned the keys. It easily spun all the motors I tried, up to and including a 5.0lt V8 Commodore engine where the existing battery was completely dead.

I achieved the same results in boats. The Booster had no trouble starting all sorts of motors, up to a 5.0lt inboard in a Malibu sportsboat. This was the biggest engine I tested, but the manufacturer claims the product has successfully turned motors with displacements of up to 6.0lt. Given the ease with which it turned the 5.0lt V8s, I have no reason to doubt that claim.

It did, however, fail to start one particular vehicle — a Nissan Patrol with a high-compression diesel engine. This was a bit disappointing, but I suppose you can’t please everyone — drivers of vehicles fitted with such engines will simply have to find another solution. Meanwhile, if you do own a vehicle for which the Booster’s capacity is suitable, you’ll certainly be glad you have one if you get stuck.


SUPER POWERS

One of the Super Mini Booster’s big advantages is its built-in intelligent charging system. This causes a red LED on the top panel to flash when the unit is low on power — the lower the power, the brighter the LED glows and the faster it flashes. When the plug-pack supplied with the Booster is connected, the red LED stops flashing and glows bright red. When charging is complete, the LED then changes from red to green. The Booster can be safely left on permanent charge without damage, although it’s not designed to replace a standard car or boat battery.

Peter Kent, the owner of Regal Marine — a Victorian distributor of the Super Mini Booster — says he was sold on the product after his staff began using it around the boat yard. "Lifting starter batteries up into boats on trailers is one of every marine mechanic’s pet hates, but with the Super Mini Booster that’s no longer necessary," he said.

Automotive mechanics hate lugging around heavy starter batteries too, and every technician I showed the unit to immediately wanted one for their own workshop.


USE AND ABUSE

As part of his rigorous product assessment Peter said he deliberately abused a Booster in a couple of ways. Firstly, he left one permanently connected to one of his vehicles. This should always be avoided, as it rams a fast and constant charge into the unit, but in this instance there was no resulting damage. Next, he used it to turn a dead motor for far longer than the recommended maximum of four seconds — again with no detrimental effects. I should stress that Peter was deliberately attempting to cause the Booster to fail — as the saying goes, don’t try this at home kids.

The Super Mini Booster is supplied with a cable and plug that allow charging from a standard 12V socket. Its small size and light weight mean it’s quite practical for storing in a boat, car or caravan.

The Booster also comes with a 12V socket that’s connected to the main leads by smaller clips. This can be used to power 12V accessories like radios, stereo equipment, pumps, LED or incandescent lights and specialized 12V appliances (e.g. hair dryers, kettles and mini air compressors) — these can all run directly from the socket. Connecting an inverter means you can also power laptops, power tool batteries and many other 240V items.


THE WRAP

At $250 the Super Mini Booster isn’t particularly cheap, but its price appears to be justified based on its quality and performance. I haven’t used one on a long-term basis, but I can definitely say the Super Mini Booster does everything its maker claims.

For more information visit www.superminibooster.com or call Regal Marine on (03) 9874 4624. You can also call the Australian representative for Super Mini Booster, Mark Raiti, on 0417 447 799.

RATING 4.5 STARS


CAR VS BOAT BATTERIES

Car batteries and boat batteries are both lead / acid systems but their construction is markedly different. Car batteries have thinner lead electrodes with large surface areas exposed to the acid electrolyte. This arrangement delivers a lot of current over a short, concentrated period. Such batteries are not designed to be completely discharged by a constant load over time. They work well in cars because as soon as an engine starts the alternator immediately begins recharging the battery.

Boat batteries have thicker electrodes than starting batteries and are designed to tolerate a deeper discharge. I didn’t break open the case of the test unit to examine the internal structure, but it seems to have a foot in each camp. This makes it an effective starting system, but it also seems to function quite well as a supplementary source of current for reasonably low-draw appliances. Even after it had started half a dozen cars it ran my laptop through an inverter for hours. It is, in fact, rated at 14amp/hrs.

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