Battery Replacement and Upgrade (All Models)

New Optima Battery
Problems when the Battery Dies
Official Battery Disconnect Procedure with Passive Immobilization
Care in Choosing New Battery
Offical Battery Replacement Procedure
Improved Unofficial Replacement Procedure
Upgrading to an Optima Red Top Battery

Problems when the Battery Dies
If the battery is disconnected or dies (whether due to old age or leaving the lights on), the situation on a Range Rover P38 and later models is more complicated than for more simple old fashioned vehicles. The problem is the all-pervasive alarm system, which is inclined to lock the doors if it senses anything unusual. When the battery is nearly dead, it can lock the doors, especially annoying if you have left the key in the car. Accordingly, I find it better to do "preventive maintenance" and change the battery early to avoid this problem. When the battery power is getting low you may notice strange things happening such as flashing lights and fault messages on the dash while cranking, indicating the electronics are not getting enough voltage. Don't wait til the battery dies completely -- replace it!!

Care in Choosing New Battery
Be careful that you replace the battery with an approved sealed type. Nick Warden reports that in  January 2004 the electronic air suspension on his 2001 4.6 HSE failed completely, due to the right-hand front air line failure caused by battery acid spilling on it. The problem had been caused by an incorrect replacement battery of the non-sealed variety being fitted several months earlier.  It had boiled over on occasions and caused the air line corrosion. If you are not going to use a standard sealed type, another option is to upgrade to the Optima battery as described below.

Official Battery Replacement Procedure
When replacing the battery on P38 and later model Range Rovers, you should leave one of the doors open (preferably the drivers door) to prevent being locked out. This should prevent the locking system from automatically locking the vehicle and arming the alarm when the battery is being disconnected. Then, disconnect the battery negative lead first, and complete the replacement procedure normally. Afterwards, you need to put the key in the ignition to reset the alarm system and ignition transponder. You also need to key in the radio code to get it working again, and resynch the windows and sunroof. This procedure is described in the owners handbook.  On the Mk III Range Rover, you even ave to reset the steering sensor after reconnecting the battery.

In Europe and other markets where passive immobilization is enabled (see alarm system page), the official battery disconnect procedure is to put the ignition key in, turn it to the on-position and back to off. You then have something like 10 seconds to disconnect the battery. If you don't follow this procedure, you will have to use the Emergency Key Access (EKA) method to get the engine started when you reconnect the battery. Kent Clarstroem reports that after many trials, he has found the best solution if you have not used the complete official procedure is to at least leave the key in the ignition. Make sure you leave the drivers door open or you will be locked out! Also noteworthy is that if you do end up having to use the EKA procedure, close the bonnet/hood first. Otherwise, EKA will appear to work but the engine will stay immobilized!!

Jumper TechniqueImproved Unofficial Battery Replacement Procedure
To avoid having to mess with all the details and problems caused by disconnecting the old battery, especially if you catch the problem before power is lost completely, you can maintain power during the changeover by jumpering the cable clamps using wither the new battery or a spare, such as a jump starter pack. Marlon Patton first reported this ingenious procedure as follows:
"My battery was recently dead, and to avoid having to reset the codes I performed an experiment and it worked.  I took another old battery and jumper cabled it to the range rover terminal clamps towards the back so I could still get to the terminal bolts.  I had the new battery ready and took off the clamps and had a friend hold them by the cables so the jumpers were still attached. Then I lowered in the new battery and attached the terminals and it worked! I didn't have to reset the codes or even worse take it to the dealer and be charged $200 for a battery change."

Kevin Kelly came up with the same idea. When he got in his new Range Rover 4.6HSE at the airport recently he noticed that is cranked a little slower than normal. Picking up a new battery on the way home, he then reviewed the hazards and travail of using the official procedure and decided that it was a lot easier to just use his 12V jumper pack when changing the battery so he would not have to re-set anything or enter the radio code.  The photo at right shows the jumper cables attached to the cable terminals of the old battery on Kevin's 4.6 HSE.

Note: In attaching or removing the jumper cables, there is a danger of a spark causing a fire by igniting gases from the old battery. This is why jump starting instructions always tell you to connect the ground last and somewhere away from the battery. You can minimize this risk if you are in a well ventilated area (you can also blow around the battery or spray comressed air if available). If your jumper battery pack has a switch in it as many do -- then you can connect it before switching it on. Otherwise, you  might try using a spare jumper cable to connect to the negative battery terminal lead and make the final connection somewhere away from both batteries. As always, be careful and use these procedures at your own risk.

Upgrading to an Optima "Red Top" Battery
Kevin Kelly reports he had great luck with the Optima Red Top battery in his Classic, and it was still going strong after more than 6 years when he sold the truck. So, when the battery in his new 4.6HSE started showing signs of weakness (see above) he stopped by Costco on the way home and bought a new Optima battery. He reports: "The good news is that now that Costco is selling Optima batteries the price has come down. I paid $149 at an auto parts store in early 1997 for my Optima and the one I bought last night was just $99." Kevin offers the following information about thedifferent types of Optima batteries available.

All Optima batteries have thin lead plates wound into a tight spiral cell, with an absorbent glass-mat in between to hold the electrolyte solution unlike the traditional car battery with a stack of thick lead plates surrounded by acid. The Optima design allows for more power, a longer life,vibration resistance and since it will not leak you can mount them sidewaysor even upside down. The Optima batteries have more initial starting powerthan a comparably rated conventional lead acid battery.
Optima makes batteries with three different color tops:

The Optima Red Top is designed for standard auto and truck applications where starting puts the most load on the electrical system. It is the best Optima battery for people who do not have extreme electrical system loads (like a winch) and who do not use electrical items in their vehicle for long periods of time when the engine is not running. It is now available from
Atlantic British for $169.

The Optima Yellow Top is a deep cycle battery. It will last a lot longer than the Red Top starting battery if heavy electrical loads (like a winch) or use of electrical items for long periods of time (like running a stereo or 12V fridge for hours at a time with the engine off) that run the battery down on a regular basis. (I recently found it is now available from
Atlantic British for $199). The Yellow Top is still a decent starting battery but due to a different chemistry for the paste material on the plates and a stronger acid it has a little less starting power than the Red Top. Update May 2004: Wayne Hubbell reports: "Optima now makes a D31A battery that fits perfectly in the Range Rover tray. It is a sealed, deep cycle "yellow top" with tremendous cranking current and very good reserve. I have had great luck with their batteries under desert conditions".

The Blue Top Optimas are their Marine batteries and Optima makes both starting (Blue Top, Gray Case) and deep cycle (Blue Top, White Case) marine batteries. The only difference between the "Marine" Optima batteries is the addition of threaded marine terminals in addition to the standard battery terminals. Optima batteries last much longer than regular batteries in boats since the abuse on a battery in a boat in rough water is much worse than in any vehicle.

For more information go to: or
http://roverparts.comBatteries and Lifter
As an interesting footnote, Kevin also reports that the aftermarket battery in his 4.6 had a plastic lifter to get it to the proper height (see photos) and just as he was about to use it with the Optima he realized that the plastic cap (not shown) that snapped to the top of the Optima to protect the terminals was also designed to snap on the bottom of the battery to lift it up (the photo at left just has the lifter from the old battery in it). The old battery and the Optima are both about the same height and need the lifters so they are tall enough to come in contact with the hold down on the 4.6.

All photos on this page courtesy of
Kevin Kelly




  Return to Top

Return to Upgrades
Return to


If you have corrections, comments or suggestions,  email us.  

Page revised February 1, 2012