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The difference between lead-acid and gel batteries

Technology that makes travel safer

More often than not, very little thought is put into choosing a new or replacement battery for your vehicle. That’s usually because a battery gives you little to no warning that its time is coming to an end. And when that end does come, it usually happens when you are out in the bush or across the border, leaving you frustrated, stranded and needing an urgent replacement battery.

Before you head off to your nearest battery dealer and replace the dead battery with another old-fashioned lead-acid battery, make sure you read this article first.
Chances are, you currently have a traditional lead-acid battery in your vehicle, which is understandable, as for a few years there hasn’t been much innovation in the battery industry. That is, until recently with the introduction of the Gel battery.

We tested the new Willard GEL battery extensively to find out more about their revolutionary approach to multi-purpose batteries. Apart from being well-suited as a single power source for high load applications in vehicles, it can be used for portable solar systems, UPS integration/home-based power backup systems, and as our preferred use; a dual battery system for your vehicle, as well as for trailers and caravans.

Watch the video below to go over a couple of the use cases for the Willard GEL battery:

What sets a gel battery apart from its lead-acid battery predecessor? Well, quite simply, it is the way the fluid is stored and activated inside the battery. A gel battery has similarities to a traditional lead-acid battery, yet it has silica added to the electrolyte creating a gel-like substance rather than the liquid found in traditional batteries. This thickening of the electrolyte ensures that gel batteries can be installed in a variety of positions and do not emit as many fumes, offering improved safety and performance.

As old lead-acid batteries wear, some of the acid and water may evaporate which will disturb the mixture. This may cause the battery to overheat or boil, producing an unpleasant smell from the gaseous discharge, and even smoking in more severe cases. Now imagine leaked battery fluid swishing around your 4×4 while overlanding with passengers! Remember, when a lead-acid battery degrades enough or cannot hold a charge, the amount of hydrogen and harmful gas produced will increase dramatically.
A gel battery (often referred to as a gel cell battery) is still a type of lead-acid battery, however it is valve regulated. When the electrolyte is mixed with sulphuric acid and silica, it becomes a relatively stationary gel substance. The gel allows the battery to utilize the acid and electrolyte in the same way it would with a traditional battery, without any added maintenance, offering increased internal solidity due to the gel.


No leaks
Gel batteries are sealed but enjoy valve control, regulating excess internal battery pressure. This helps in managing battery swelling due to high heat and temperature changes.

Vibration resistant
One of the biggest complaints with fluid cell batteries is that they are very susceptible to extreme vibration and other impacts. Gel batteries absorb the impact and vibrations, making them great batteries ideal for overlanding rigs and competition 4×4’s.

No fumes and less ventilation
Because these batteries are comprised of a gel substance there are minimal fumes created as a result of use. This means that there is a reduced need for ventilation, which increases the potential applications gel batteries can be used for, as well as making them easier to charge anywhere.

Maintenance free
Because the batteries are comprised of gel instead of liquid, there is little to no maintenance to keep the battery functioning properly. Plus, the new gel technology is a lot safer.

Minimal risk and damage
If a lead acid battery is knocked or damaged, you could be in for a very bad time. The fluid is exceedingly difficult to clean and not to mention very dangerous to anything it comes in contact with. Gel batteries will not leak if the casing gets damaged, so there is a lower risk of harming the equipment and having to clean up hazardous materials.

Resistant to discharge deterioration
Allowing a lead acid battery to discharge will severely impact its lifespan, eventually rendering it useless. Gel batteries are deep cycle batteries which means that they can discharged more frequently and still be recharged without damage.

Install anywhere
Gel batteries have the added advantage of being able to be used in virtually any position, because they don’t leak. This greatly increases the number of applications gel batteries can be used for and the primary reason they are recommended for all overlanders, 4×4 enthusiasts and adventurers.

• Spill-proof
• No gas discharge
• Maintenance free
• Low self-discharge rate
• No terminal corrosion
• Higher discharge resistance
• MSDS sheets not required
• Excellent deep cycle performance
• Withstands high fluctuations in temperature
• Can be housed near electronic equipment
• Shock and vibration resistant

Another added bonus of the Willard GEL battery, which alludes to its multi-use design, is the addition of two extra threaded battery terminals. This allows the user to have the main battery leads from your vehicle or caravan connected to the main terminal points and all your accessories connected to the additional threaded terminals. Now that’s convenience for you.

For more information on the Willard GEL battery, including pricing and size options, please complete the enquiry form below. A member of their team will get in touch with you.

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    Disclaimer: Although the information shown above is presented in good faith and believed to be correct at the time of publishing, SA4x4 makes no representations or warranties as to the completeness or accuracy of the information. SA4x4 has no liability for any errors or omissions in the content freely displayed. Please note that all the prices shown below are subject to change without notice. Due to the nature of imported equipment shown above, please understand that we as a South African market are very dependent on the Rand/ Dollar exchange rates.

    SA4x4 encourages all patrons and users to check pricing of items shown online with vendors directly via our contact form.

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