JCF sat down with IT engineer and Jeeper Shane Smith to learn how dual-battery systems work and whether they are the right fit for your Jeep.
What are the benefits of going with a dual battery system?
There are several benefits to having dual batteries, especially for off-roaders. The single stock lead acid battery is not well-suited to handle all the extra accessories that we like to add to our vehicles. Having two deep-cycle batteries will allow you to run all those accessories longer without being recharged.
A winch is the most common addition to a four-wheel-drive vehicle, but a winch can pull a tremendous amount of current during a hard pull. It’s very easy for a winch to kill a single battery, even with the engine running. With dual batteries, that winch load is spread across both batteries, so that you won’t end up with a dead battery while winching. Also, all batteries eventually die, so when that inevitably happens, you will have a backup battery to get you home.
Can you give us a brief description of how your system works?
Our system designates one battery for cranking, and the other battery for the accessories. When the cranking battery is fully charged, the smart isolator links the 2 batteries together so that the accessory battery can be charged up. Everything will run from both batteries, giving you extended run time when the engine is off.
Once the batteries drain down to 12.7v, the smart isolator separates the batteries to protect the cranking battery from being drained by your aftermarket accessories that are connected to our power and ground bus bars. The factory fuse box is hard wired to the cranking battery, so it is still possible for the radio, headlights, or 12v outlets to drain the cranking battery.
If you are unable to start the engine, simply press the built-in boost button one time to temporarily link the batteries together like jumper cables. This lets you use the power in the second battery to help start the engine.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I studied electronics and computer programming in college, with a BA in information technology from Mississippi State University. I spent 20 years as an IT systems engineer, working in large datacenters. Back in 2010 I was laid off from my tech job, and decided to start a 4×4 shop while looking for work. I spent several years working a day job in IT while working from 5 p.m. to midnight or later building custom Jeeps.
I needed a nice dual-battery system for a custom search-and-rescue Jeep for a first responder in Florida and could not find anything to fit the needs. There were a couple basic battery trays on the market, but we had to get an isolator, a spool of wire and a bag of ring terminals and figure out how to hook it all up. That project got a custom dual battery system to run the three winches and 28 switches that controlled everything.
I knew there had to be a market for a completely integrated system that would not require any wiring, so I took what I learned from that project, tweaked it to be easier to manufacture, and put it into production. The response from the market was great, so I switched gears and got out of doing custom fabrication to focus on the manufacturing side. A year later I launched the G Screen monitoring system as an optional add-on for the battery kit, and we’ve added several more products since then.
Where are your dual battery systems made?
All our kits are made right here in Mississippi. It was very important to me to find high-quality components that were made in the USA. We strongly believe in supporting USA manufacturers.
What type of batteries does your system use?
Any brand of battery will work, but it must be a Group 34 size. That’s the largest size that we could shoehorn under the hood. We prefer Odyssey batteries because they have the most cold-cranking amps and reserve capacity, as well as the best reputation on the market.
What other accessories would you recommend with your dual battery systems?
It’s a bit silly that Jeep didn’t put a voltmeter on the dash, so we came up with the G Screen to give the user as much info as possible in a small package. It’s a 1-inch LCD screen that shows the voltage of each battery. It also tells if the batteries are connected or isolated, and it serves as an in-cab boost button. Our optional digital air pressure sensor kit turns the G Screen into an air pressure gauge for monitoring an on-board air system.
We also make very heavy-duty quick-connect cables for accessing the battery power from outside the vehicle. These cables use industry-standard Anderson Powerpole connectors which are great for guys who want to charge a battery on a trailer from the vehicle’s alternator. Our quick-connect jumper cables have a mating connector so you can plug jumper cables in at the front or rear bumper. These are popular with service vehicles or guys who want the convenience of using jumper cables without opening the hood.
What Jeep models is your system compatible with?
Our Jeep JK kit fits all model-years from 2007 to present. We also have a kit for the Polaris RZR 900/1000, which is also very popular. For other vehicles, we offer a couple universal kits that the customer can mount into other trucks or SUVs.
What other products does your dual battery system work with?
Our dual-battery system gives you a convenient place to connect accessories that need direct battery power. The sPOD is a great compliment to our kit. By connecting an sPOD to our power and ground bus bars, all the extra circuits that you connect to the sPOD will run from both batteries while they are connected together, and then run only from the accessory battery when they are isolated. This way the accessories on the sPOD will not drain the cranking battery.
How does your customer service work?
We are a small, family-owned and -operated company. When you call, you get me, Shane, the owner, on the phone to answer your questions.
Do you have anything new coming out in the near future?
By the time you read this, we should be launching our new dual-battery kit for the Toyota Tacoma. Over the next year, I’ll be designing more vehicle-specific kits to bring the same great features from our Jeep kits to other vehicles. I’ll be starting with Toyota vehicles and then I’ll do a kit for other trucks and side-by-sides.