TESTED: OPTIMA Digital 1200 Battery Charger

The OPTIMA Digital 1200 battery charger – not intended for children under the age of 16.  And no animals were harmed during the making of this article.


Having used OPTIMA batteries over the last 10 years with success, including several R35 REDTOPs and D51 YELLOWTOPs, I’ve honestly never found myself ordering any other battery for either of my project cars since.  Losing some weight without sacrificing cranking power has always been a benefit I’ve welcomed, and the batteries can look cool in engine bays with the right color scheme to boot.

However, like with any other battery, I have had these batteries go dead from time to time when a car sits for weeks on end.  Whenever a car battery is left unattended for long periods of time, a slow discharge starts to occur and—even worse—eventual corrosion, which can render the battery permanently useless if there’s enough of it.

“The corrosion that happens inside a battery is called ‘sulfation’ “, says OPTIMA’s Scott Parkhurst.  This can occur when a battery sits without use for extended periods of time.  Basically, crystals form on the lead plates and limit the effectiveness of the battery.”  In the battery world, this would be called “abuse”.  How beastly of us.


Surely we’ve all seen this at one time or another.  This is what a little sulfation looks like around a battery terminal.  Eventually, enough of this gets on it that the car won’t start.  Thankfully, this is easy to clean.  When this happens to the lead inside the battery, however, it can be a different story.

When electrolytes begin to break down, the sulfuric acid starts to break up.  The free sulfur ions begin to come together and stick to the lead plates inside the battery to form crystals, which grow and harden over time.  When this happens, things start to deteriorate quickly.  The most common cause of this is not enough use of the battery over time.


A car battery has lead inside of it.  This is the inside of an OPTIMA Spiralcell.  You can see the lead plates where this sulfation can occur.  While a little bit of sulfation is normal, and broken up by a charge, too much of it becomes difficult to break up with any charge, and any battery is rendered useless at that point.

Earlier this year we had an OPTIMA REDTOP 35 in our Project Supra installed because, after 2 years of silence, the engine was finally turned over (yes, finally!).  However, the car was left unattended for several weeks again and the battery quit cranking the car over.  Thinking it needed a simple recharge, the project’s shop, Modified by KC, hooked it up to their large Die Hard charger overnight, but it still wouldn’t see past 7 volts!


Here’s the shop’s battery charger in all its glory.  Even with an overnight charge, the OPTIMA REDTOP 35 never saw over 7 volts.

We hooked up another Black and Decker charger lying around but this simpler unit would only spit out a “Battery Shorted” message, and not even start the charging process.
When we told OPTIMA this, they challenged the situation by sending us one of their own chargers—the Digital 1200—to do the trick.  Click on the next page to see how it was able to rescue our $200 battery!

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