Extra electronics accessories -- including high-end entertainment systems, winches, GPS units and radar detectors -- can demand more power from your car battery. Having add-ons is also one of the most common reasons that users at Amazon.com say they need a high-performance battery. Both user reviews and expert sources give the Optima YellowTop top high marks.
Optima batteries are not standard lead-acid batteries, They're specialized absorbed glass mat batteries (AGM). The unusual inner components allow for a longer shelf life and extra resistance to degradation. "You can let these batteries sit up to one year and your vehicle will still start," says Mike Payne with Classic Trucks.
Another feature that sets the YellowTop apart is its dual-purpose classification. Most automotive batteries are SLI batteries: They are made for starting, lighting and igniting an engine. They are not designed to operate for long without being recharged. The YellowTop combines the SLI feature with deep-cycling capabilities. In describing this combination, one Amazon.com user says these batteries are "designed to deliver lots of power to accessories for a long period of time and then still be able to provide enough power to start." In addition to working well for cars loaded with aftermarket electronics, the one-two punch of the dual-purpose YellowTop makes it ideal for large engines, heavy-duty trucks and race cars with no alternators.
The YellowTop D34 provides up to 830 cold-cranking amps (CCA). One Amazon.com user says that even with accessories left on overnight, "it has plenty of CCAs to turn over the engine the next day, plus it is not damaged by being drained." There isn't a size 65 in the Optima line, but the YellowTop group size 34 is comparable when installed with a wing adapter that's available from Optima.
Some drivers switch to a YellowTop because their previous battery was unable to provide enough power. "I have many toys connected to my Mustang and was having trouble keeping the charge on my old battery. I highly recommend this battery for your charging issues," says one user at Amazon.com. Another comments, "Strong start every time, doesn't drain fast at all, and my headlights also don't dim nearly as bad as they did previously with an AC Delco battery."
Though not technically a high-performance battery, the Optima RedTop is also considered by users to be a more cost-effective option in the high-performance category. With a price tag of $155, it costs more than a DieHard Gold (est. $125), but not as much as the YellowTop (est. $185). It delivers 720 CCA and 90-minutes of reserve capacity, which is still more than many standard batteries. Also an AGM battery, the RedTop has a slightly higher overall rating of 4 stars at Amazon.com, versus the YellowTop's 3.8 stars.
Both Optima RedTops and YellowTops are available from local dealers, or they can be purchased online. Some users at Amazon.com warn that buying from an unauthorized dealer means that Optima's 36-month free replacement warranty is not honored. A few others complain that packaging is so poor, their battery arrived damaged. However, one recent comment states, "I was hesitant to order after reading the reviews about the batteries arriving damaged but I can assure you that issue has been fixed." Many of the ratings at Amazon.com reflect this packing issue, not the quality of the battery itself.
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Users rate Optima's YellowTop and RedTop batteries on Amazon.com. The high-performance YellowTop receives an average of 3.8 stars from 120 users across all available sizes, though the ratings also include low scores for poor shipping and warranty issues with Amazon. RedTop, a starting battery, gets an average of 4 out of 5 stars, with ratings and reviews from 170 users that cover all offered sizes.
Review: Optima Batteries 8012-021 D34 YellowTop Dual Purpose Battery, Contributors to Amazon.com
2. Classic Trucks
Mike Payne discusses the differences among the RedTop, YellowTop and BlueTop Optima batteries in this review. While he does not perform any tests, he supplies a full array of details on specifications and suggested uses for each battery.
Review: How To Change A Car Or Truck Battery - OPTIMA Batteries Review, Mike Payne, Oct. 2009