Battery Trays - Lock Down Your Electrons

Most of us that have upgraded to a better battery also need a better battery tray.

Why?

Your old tray usually won't fit your Optima, Deka, or a dual battery setup. Not only is it not safe to bungee your battery in, but many trail safety inspections require a solid battery hold-down (you can read that as "bolted-in") and serious competitions won't let you through the door without a securely mounted battery.

We surveyed a few options for what we think are the better battery trays. Some are more fabricator-friendly, most are unfinished, and all of them will require some type of mounting.

If you landed here looking for a plastic battery tray, this is the wrong place - try here instead.

Table of Contents

Why Metal, Solid Battery Trays Are Important

Trail-Gear Bolt-In Single Battery Tray Dimensions
Like many of these trays, the Trail-Gear tray will fit a few different AGM batteries - notably the ones that are rebranded Dekas.

Over the years, we've seen many rigs on the trail running with barely-bungeed-in batteries and "Cheap Tricks" type articles that tell you to use a garden hose strap to secure your battery to your rig.

This "budget" strapping is usually accompanied by a too-large battery poking over the edge of the battery tray. If it isn't obvious, we don't consider these methods to be secure.

Bungees also break down and eventually snap, something you don't want when you're bouncing down the trail.

Exposed battery terminals on a bouncing 4x4 with an unsecured battery is pretty dangerous for you and your rig - even in a rollover, a crunched hood that contacts the terminals can be a problem.

Not to mention that it looks like hell.

So let's solve this problem:

A Few Things to Consider

Battery trays are pretty simple, but there are a few differences among the manufacturers out there:

Steel battery trays are easy to mount in a custom setup since you can weld right to them.

Sheetmetal aluminum battery trays aren't as common and are going to be flimsier than their steel counterparts. We do have two billet aluminum trays below that are not flimsy.

Pay attention to mounting:

Some of these battery trays have mounting holes predrilled and some have none at all (like the RuffStuff). If you're a perfectionist, you might want to drill your own holes.

There are 4 dual mounting configurations to consider when you're looking under the hood:

  1. Side-by-side - long sides of the batteries go together
  2. End-to-end - short sides of the batteries go together
  3. Right angle - one short side goes against one long side - use two single trays
  4. Separate - often this means that one battery goes on each side of your engine bay - use two single trays

Do you need a battery box or a battery tray?

Battery trays are open and get you easier access to your battery terminals. Battery boxes are completely closed. You probably don't need a battery box unless you're:

  • Competing with an organization that requires a battery box
  • Bringing the battery in the cab where there are humans - you always want a firewall or some type of metal shielding between you and your batteries.

Most wheelers shouldn't require a battery box in the engine compartment and most of us would have trouble fitting one in a modern rig anyway - they tend to take up an inch or two more of precious space.

Battery To Tray Fitment - WHERE THINGS GET DICEY

We're going to talk about a few of the different Optima battery configurations so that you can avoid some common problems.

Why Optima?

Most aftermarket battery trays prioritize Optima batteries in a Group 34 size range.

All batteries are in a particular BCI Group.

Huh?

BCI groups are basically internationally recognized battery size and configuration standards. It means that you can take your Land Cruiser from the US to Mongolia or Peru and still get the same battery size (well...assuming they stock that size).

BCI group numbers look like "34" or "34M".

Now, pay attention:

Optima, and most manufacturer's provide size information in terms of the absolute size.

What's that?

It just means that they include the terminals in the dimensions, so you can't easily determine the dimensions of just the battery casing.

Also, some of the casings are different. We'll point that out below.

Finally, some batteries have their terminals reversed. Again, you'll see that below.

Optima RedTop 34 vs. 34/78 vs. 34R

Optima RedTop 34 Battery
This is the standard RedTop. The top is completely flat, there are no "feet", and there are no side terminals.
Optima RedTop 34/78 Battery
This is the same as a standard Optima 34, but also has the side terminals. This results in a slightly wider width and the upraised terminal ridges on the top.
Optima RedTop 34R Battery
From the standard Optima 34 configuration, this battery has the positive and negative posts reversed, and it also has plastic protrusions on the ends.

These batteries all have the same electricity-holding specs, but have slightly different casings.

The standard 34 Optima RedTop will fit in any of the holders below and has only two top terminals.

The Optima 34/78 is just like the Optima 34, except it has side terminals that make it slightly wider.

The Optima 34R is exactly like the Optima 34 with two big exceptions:

  1. The battery terminals are reversed.
  2. The bottom of the casing has some additional protrusions.

You'll probably notice that the plastic "feet" on the 34R are problematic. If you want to use something like the ICT Billet Tray, you'll need to use a standard 34 - the 34R won't fit due to the protrusions.

We wouldn't suggest it, but other people have been known to cut off the feet....

Optima YellowTop D34 vs. D34/78

Optima D34 YellowTop Battery
This is just like a RedTop 34, but in deep cycle plus cranking form.
Optima D34/78 YellowTop Battery
Like the RedTop 34/78, this battery has additional side posts. It's a deep cycle plus cranking battery.

While RedTops are just a cranking battery, Optima YellowTops are a cranking and deep cycle battery, which makes them a little more resilient when you're drawing your battery down while winching.

If you were looking at the RedTops above, you'll notice that there is no reversed terminal version here that fits the below battery trays.

The Optima D34 has standard terminals and a small footprint.

The Optima D34/78 is exactly the same, but adds side terminals and raised ridges on the cap for the additional terminals.

Optima BlueTop 34M vs. D34M

Optima BlueTop 34M Battery
Similar size to the D34M.
Optima BlueTop D34M Battery
Similar size to the D34M.

Both of these batteries are very similar in size. You'll see that each has 5/16" stainless terminals.

The Optima 34M and the Optima D34M are both for cranking and deep cycle. However, RedTops and YellowTops are generally the batteries we see on trail rigs.

Other Batteries That Might Fit

Some other brands of performance batteries may fit these trays (but not the ICT). You can try these part numbers:

Deka Intimidator:

  • 9A78DT
  • 9A78CDT
  • 9A78
  • 9A34
  • 9A34R

O'Reilly Super Start Platinum:

  • 78PLT
  • 34/78PLT

Auto Zone Duralast Platinum:

  • 78DT-AGM
  • 78-AGM

Sears Diehard Advanced Gold AGM Battery:

  • Group Size 78
  • Group Size 34
  • Group Size 34R

Carquest Next Generation Extreme Service:

  • NG3478

Duracell AGM Auto Battery:

  • 78DTAGM

Aluminum Single Battery Trays - BOLT-IN

IHC Billet Aluminum Battery Tray

ICT Billet Aluminum Battery Tray with Battery
This aluminum tray fits Optimas with the standard 6-pack configuration. It won't fit batteries with staggered cells.
ICT Billet Aluminum Battery Tray - Mounting
This tray already comes with six drilled and countersunk mounting holes.
ICT Low Profile Battery Tray Specs
Outside dimensions 11.2" x 7.9" x 1"
Weight 2.07 lbs
Fits these Optima RedTops 34 and 34/78
Fits these Optima YellowTops D34 and D34/78
Fits these Optima BlueTops 34M and D34M
Does not fit Optima 34R

This is probably one of the cleanest battery trays you can buy. We like it because it perfectly fits an Optima, has no clutter on top, and will never rust. It's also only a few more bucks than a comparable steel battery tray with an over-the-top hold-down.

What we don't like:

Well, it only fits Optimas! We've seen setups that clamp standard batteries from the bottom, but nobody seems to make them for a straight bottom battery.

Also, this tray is made to bolt on. The hardware and countersunk holes look great, but we'd love to see this in an undrilled configuration.

ICT Billet Aluminum Universal Battery Tray

ICT Billet Aluminum Battery Tray with Optima
These trays fit an Optima well, but can also fit larger batteries.
ICT Billet Aluminum Battery Tray
If you use longer all-thread and get rid of the tubing you can fit a taller battery.
ICT Billet Universal Battery Tray Specs
Outside dimensions 8 1/2" W x 11 1/4" L
Weight 3 lbs
Fits these Optima RedTops 34, 34/78, 34R
Fits these Optima YellowTops D34 and D34/78
Fits these Optima BlueTops 34M and D34M
Also fits batteries up to 6.95" W x 10.5" L x 6.7"+

This battery tray is a little less Optima-specific than the previous one. It has four mounting holes at the perimeter and one of the larger footprints of any of the trays here.

One of the nice things about this tray is that it can also take tall batteries. Basically you have these configurations:

  • Provided all-thread and tubing: 6.7" high
  • Provided all-thread only: up to 7.4" high
  • Use your own all-thread: whatever height you want

The all-thread is 3/8"

Can't fit your battery in another tray?

Try this one.

Taylor Cable Aluminum Battery Box

Taylor Aluminum Battery Box
Outside dimensions 9 1/2" W x 13 1/2" L X X 10" H
Inside dimensions 9 1/4" W x 13 5/16" L X X 9 3/4" H
Fits these Optima RedTops 34, 34/78, 34R
Fits these Optima YellowTops D34 and D34/78
Fits these Optima BlueTops 34M and D34M
Fits other batteries up to Inside dimensions minus 1/2" on each long side for the 3/8" bolts
Taylor Cable Aluminum Battery Box - 48100
If you're bringing your battery in the cab with you or competing in a race that requires a box, this is an easy choice. It's aluminum and includes a hold-down in the box.

If you're building a buggy or anything that leaves your battery exposed to people, you should stick it in a battery box.

This isn't to prevent people from playing with it or touching it:

It's so that if the battery explodes or ruptures, it's contained inside some metal structure. This tray is a 3 piece design, made with 0.040" aluminum. (Honestly, it would be nice if it was a little thicker.)

The battery has its own clamp, and the entire assembly is secured to your frame/whatever structure you fab with 3/8" bolts.

It you do mount your battery in the cab, this box also has a vent tube - always handy when you don't want to breath in fumes from an off-gassing battery!

Doesn't really apply to most of our readers:

This box also meets NHRA Rule 8:1 by enclosing the battery and mounting it with 3/8" bolts.

Steel Single Battery Trays - WELD-IN OR BOLT-IN

RuffStuff Steel Battery Tray

RuffStuff Single Battery Tray Specs
Inside dimensions 6 7/8" W x 9 3/4" L x 6 5/8" H
Weight 7 lbs
Fits these Optima RedTops 34 and 34/78
Fits these Optima YellowTops D34 and D34/78
Fits these Optima BlueTops 34M and D34M
Does not fit Optima 34R
RuffStuff Weld or Bolt-On Steel Single Battery Tray
This tray is not pre-drilled for mounting. Weld or bolt it on.

This steel battery tray from RuffStuff is strong, light, and has metal where you need it. Just another great product from RuffStuff!

We like quite a few things about it: It's made from 2 single pieces of steel bent into shape. There are no welds to fail!

This is a plus:

To mount it, you need to either drill holes or weld it in - there are no mounting holes.

The clamp and tray are reversible. Some other boxes can only accept the battery in one position and can't be switched. This means it's a little more flexible when you're mounting it, and it's a little more flexible if you need to remount it in the future.

Note that the dimensions we have for it are for the inside:

You could fit any battery that fills those dimensions, but it'll likely be a Group 34/78.

One thing we don't like:

Because of the "universal" nature of the positioning of this tray, the clamp necessarily has wings that stick out on both sides of the tray. If this is a problem, say for mounting up against a firewall or fender apron, check out the Trail Gear tray below.

Trail-Gear Steel Battery Tray

Trail-Gear Bolt-In Single Battery
It's probably worth noting that if you need a little extra height, you can shim the single vertical hold-down bolt, and slot the two horizontal hold-down holes.
Trail-Gear Bolt-In Single Battery Tray Dimensions
Like many of these trays, the Trail-Gear tray will fit a few different AGM batteries - notably the ones that are rebranded Dekas.
Trail Gear Single Battery Box Specs
Outside dimensions 8 1/8" W x 10 3/8" L x 7 15/16" H
Fits these Optima RedTops 34, 34/78, and 34R
Fits these Optima YellowTops D34 and D34/78
Fits these Optima BlueTops 34M and D34M

At first glance:

We didn't really love this battery tray as much as the RuffStuff, and they are fairly similar. It's got that huge cheesy logo on it and it can only be mounted in one direction.

But the key difference between the two is the clamp mount.

With the RuffStuff battery tray, you can't mount one of the long sides up against a flat surface - the clamp wings stick out on both sides.

But the Trail-Gear tray has a flat back. The clamp is bent and positioned so that there's no thread stickout past the back of the tray.

Well thought-out design!

Randy Ellis Designs Steel Battery Tray

Randy Ellis Single Steel Battery Tray - Side
Both sides of this tray bolt down. It's easy to add spacers to either side if you need a little more height.
Randy Ellis Single Steel Battery Tray
We like that the open ends on this tray will fit longer batteries, but you need to make absolutely sure that the clamp still securely holds your battery in place.
Fits these Optima RedTops 34, 34/78, and 34R
Fits these Optima YellowTops D34 and D34/78
Fits these Optima BlueTops 34M and D34M

This tray isn't our favorite, but we're including it here because of the open ends.

They are both a blessing and a curse!

The open ends should allow you to fit a longer battery if necessary (like the RedTop 34R), but you'll also need to make sure that the clamp is actually holding the battery securely.

If you find that your rig vibrates hardware loose on a regular basis, this tray isn't the best choice.


This tray also has wings for the clamp, which means you can't mount the long sides flat against a vertical surface.

Speedway Motors Universal Battery Tray

Speedway Motors Universal Steel Battery Tray Specs
Outside dimensions 7 1/4" W x 10 7/8" L x 6 1/2" H
Fits these Optima RedTops 34, 34/78, 34R
Fits these Optima YellowTops D34 and D34/78
Fits these Optima BlueTops 34M and D34M
Fits batteries up to 10 3/4" x 7"
Speedway Motors Battery Tray
This is a budget tray, but it'll fit more batteries than the Optima-oriented trays above. Note the mounting.

Frankly, this battery tray doesn't have quite the style of the other trays we're looking at here.

However:

It's sized to fit bigger batteries, so if you aren't using a Group 34/78 battery and you need a larger metal battery tray, this may be the one for you.

While most of the trays here use 10 gauge steel for their construction, this one uses 14 for the bottom plate and 12 gauge for the rest of the frame.

It's made to mount to a vertical surface, with the mount holes being 1" apart. This is not the ideal battery tray for off road use, but if you need to fit a big battery, there isn't a lot else out there.

This tray also happens to have a zinc finish - one of the only bolt-in, finished battery trays here.

Steel Dual Battery Trays - WELD-IN OR BOLT-IN

RuffStuff Specialties Side-by-Side Dual Battery Tray

RuffStuff Side-by-Side Dual Battery Tray Specs
Outside dimensions 15" W x 10 1/8" L
Dimensions for each compartment 7 3/16" W x 9 3/4" L X X 6 5/8" H
Fits these Optima RedTops 34, 34/78
Fits these Optima YellowTops D34 and D34/78
Fits these Optima BlueTops 34M and D34M
Does not fit Optima 34R
RuffStuff Weld or Bolt-On Steel Side-by-Side Dual Battery Tray
This is our only side by side battery tray. It's great if you have room to do this in your engine compartment, but this arrangement is too tight for most of us.

This side-by-side dual battery tray from RuffStuff has close tolerances to make sure your Optima fits tightly.

The one thing we like about this tray is the center divider and clamp setup. If you decide to remove one of your batteries at some point, the other battery will still be secure.

Another nice feature of the clamp is that you can face the battery terminals out or in - the orientation of each battery isn't fixed once the tray is installed.

This battery tray is not predrilled. You'll have to fab a flat surface or a mount to weld or bolt it to.

Watch the wings!

This battery tray has clamp wings, which means you can't flush mount the tray to a vertical surface like a fender apron or a bedside.

RuffStuff Specialties End-to-End Dual Battery Tray

RuffStuff End-to-End Dual Battery Tray Specs
Outside dimensions 7 1/8" W x 20" L
Inside dimensions 6 7/8"" W x 20" L X X 6 5/8" H
Fits these Optima RedTops 34, 34/78
Fits these Optima YellowTops D34 and D34/78
Fits these Optima BlueTops 34M and D34M
Does not fit Optima 34R
RuffStuff Weld or Bolt-On Steel End-to-End Dual Battery Tray
There's a good chance this is the only end-to-end dual battery tray out there! Weld or bolt it on.

This is a great end-to-end battery tray that doesn't cost a fortune. It has a lightweight steel design that can be welded or bolted anywhere.

It has no predrilled holes for mounting.

Unlike RuffStuff's side-by-side tray, this tray has no divider between the batteries. If you need to run only a single battery you should be fine, but you'll want to double check that the remaining battery is clamped tightly.

Like RuffStuff's other boxes, the clamps will allow you to mount the battery with the posts to the front or the back of the box.

The clamps are secured with 1/4"-20 hardware.

Watch the wings!

This battery tray has clamp wings, which means you can't flush mount the tray to a vertical surface like a fender apron or a bedside. Need a flush mount? Check out the Trail-Gear unit below!

Trail Gear End-to-End Dual Battery Tray

Trail Gear End-to-End Dual Battery Tray Specs
Outside dimensions 8 1/16" W x 20 3/4" L x 7 15/16" H
Fits these Optima RedTops 34, 34/78, 34R
Fits these Optima YellowTops D34 and D34/78
Fits these Optima BlueTops 34M and D34M
Trail-Gear End-to-End Dual Battery Tray
This tray allows you to mount batteries end-to-end, and will also sit flush against a vertical surface.

This battery trail has plenty of mounting holes both on the back and the sides of the tray to mount to horizontal and vertical surfaces.

The best feature?

Like the single battery version, you can mount the back of this tray flush against a vertical surface. There are no bolts or clamp wings sticking out that'll jab into your truck bed.

The clamps are even slightly offset to keep the clamp bolt threads from sticking out the back of the tray.

Since it's steel, you can weld it to any steel surface.

We aren't super keen on the fancy logos lasered into the mount, but it is solid and well thought out.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tyler Branham

Tyler came out of the womb with a Birfield in one hand and a stick of 6010 in the other, ready to weld any piece of trail-busted steel back together. He has wheeled, broken, and modified a variety of rigs, from Toyotas to Jeeps to Fords to Chevies. He likes doing long distance overland travel and would happily spend every night in the bed of a pickup under the stars.

Last updated: Feb 2019