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Choosing a Replacement for the 96+ SHO Battery 

  Thanks to Sheriff Buford T. Justice:  - updated 11/9/01


The factory Motorcraft battery is a 36R and in my situation lasted three and a half years or 43,000 before it died with little warning. A battery is excluded under ESP, and the factory 36 month warranty would pay for a new battery on an all or nothing basis. Just before my warranty expired this summer I load tested the battery looking for a battery but it passed. One can not say I did not anticipate and try for a free battery.

The 36R is a uncommon case size, a low profile design for hood clearance yet powerful as car batteries go. Motorcraft may be the only seller of true 36R batteries and many places I called had no listing for 96+ Tauri. Interstate and Exide do not make a 36 or 36R. The "R" means the position of the top terminals are reversed (Ford requirement). A non "R" could be used by installing the battery rotated a half turn but then cables would have to cross the top of the battery and they are too short to reach the top posts.

After 3 hours of calling about the only source I found for 36R was at the dealerships where prices varied between $79.95 and $111.93. This is what my best options looked like:

SHO Batteries










Motorcraft 36 R









Interstate 34R










Generic 58 R








Optima 800 S - 34










The 58R typically lacks the reserve capacity is significantly undersized. The 34R group is also an undersized replacement but much closer in size and capability.

The Motorcraft battery is semi-sealed, you can pry open the top to add distilled water. The Optima is completely sealed meaning no corrosion and it is trunk mountable. With a completely sealed battery you can not open the cells and check PH for dead cells or add distilled water. They do have the advantage that since they do not breath the corrosion of the terminals and body parts near the battery is eliminated.

I could not get Amp-Hr ratings for any battery except the Optima and Motorcraft, disappointing because of the way headlight delay and alarm systems place demands on the battery. No other replacement battery has the Reserve Capacity or Amp-Hr of the Motorcraft.

By design the Optima trades away some Reserve Capacity for Cold Crank Amps which would help in a larger motor hot rod but works against a modern luxury car with a small motor like the SHO that do not need the huge CCA to turn over.

Optima batteries, once difficult to find, have been distributed by Interstate for the last three years, so I spent some toll free time picking the brains of their technical staff looking for special insights. Their wisdom was that the Optima was overkill unless the car is stored for long periods or had other special requirements (heat, vibration). It is difficult to justify a battery, even an excellent battery that cost twice as much as their 34R. The two critical abilities required for the 96+ SHO with all the accessories, Amp-Hr and Reserve Capacity are not what they should be.

One other consideration is weight, the stock battery location a foot or so in front of the front tires. A light weight battery should improve the weight distribution. The batteries I could get a weight on were all about 38 pounds with the exception of the group 58 which dimensionally is less than half the volume of the 36R or 34R. It should be a LOT lighter.

The only battery relocate-able to the trunk with out a battery box or worries about corrosion and fumes is the Optima, if you see a blower in your future this could be an important consideration. If a Optima is marginal in it's stock location, how would it perform in the trunk? Working for the Optima is an excellent resistance to heat, cold, vibration, sealed maintenance free and generally superior construction. Is it TWICE as good as a regular Interstate Megatron?

One other thing I learned about purchasing batteries. Most battery inventory is owned by the retailer and a battery can be in stock for years before you buy it. Only Interstate rotates stock and sells on a consignment basis meaning you always get a fresh battery from Interstate and consequently Interstate has a tenth of the returns of the other brands including Motorcraft. Auto stores have less margin to negotiate away with Interstate batteries but with say Motorcraft you can pay twice as much and still get an old battery.

Your nickels, your choice.




Tim & Bob


I can't keep quiet on this subject. I've worked for GNB Batteries (Gould) for 27 years. We make industrial batteries here in Illinois. The batteries in the SHO are made by GNB in Dallas Tx., Shreveport La, or Dunmore Pa. They are a silver/cadmium alloy originally developed for the Seawolf submarine. This alloy is made to take a lot of heat and is good for desert conditions also. The Optima battery (cadmium alloy) is a sealed recombinant design developed by GNB 10 years ago for the industrial market. We make very large batteries of this design. In these batteries all the acid is absorbed in a matting surrounding each individual plate. This is how they can be classified as Non-Spillable and can be placed on their side or even upside down as there is no free acid. The ones that we make vent at 5 - 10 lbs and do not usually see this type of pressure. These are typically used as backup power for the communications industry and other critical operations.


The problem with the SHO and the use of typical car batteries is the constant drain on the battery by the computer (about .05A I believe). Maintenance Free (calcium alloy) car batteries are made to use only 20% of true rated capacity and are not made to be used as deep discharge batteries which is what is happening in our cars. The Optima type battery is intended for this type of application in a very cleaver design. The next best choice would be the old type of battery that has an antimony alloy. These require more water and maintenance but are made to be discharged to 70%. Heat is indeed a problem under the hood as I have seen temps of +175F this summer under the hood. Heat is murder a battery and if you already have one which requires more water you would probably be adding it every week. I still like the idea of moving the battery to the trunk.


Well that's my 2 cents worth for now.


Paul Nimz

'97 red

P.S. Bob

We probably made some of those high $$$$$$$$$$ batteries for the Air Force.





Looks like quite a bit of work compiling this list and has allot of good information. It seems like the Motorcraft battery is the best way to go when you consider money wise and performance. The Optima may have more CCA but the Motorcraft has more RC which is the length of time the battery will run your car in the event of an alternator failure. That 10 minutes can mean the difference of being stranded in a bad place or making it somewhere safe. BUT, without a volt gage we would never know when the alternator failed till it was too late, as you found out and I did last May. Although CCA is important, this is the amount of current the battery can deliver to the starter for 30 seconds at 0 degrees. Most of us will never need that kind of power unless you live in Montana where it can go for more than 1 week straight and never get above 0 outside. If mine doesn't roar to life in the first second or two something is big time wrong. Also there is no such thing as a completely sealed lead acid battery. All lead acid batteries have to vent to some capacity during charging, even if through the terminals. I used to supervisor a lead acid / NICAD battery shop. Before I retired from the Air Force I was involved with testing a sealed lead acid battery which costs $$$$ for an aircraft that costs more than the gross national product of many third world nations. So far with $$$$$$$$$ spent, it hasn't been developed to where it is completely sealed (ventless). I checked my Auto Zone store and the closest they have is a 34 series battery but the terminals are on the wrong side and they were duel post batteries which would prevent your battery cover from going on. My nickel's worth. When my battery went out, the alarm started making strange noises through the stereo speakers and was doing weird stuff. Battery was replaced under warranty by a Ford Dealership at no cost for the battery and the tow. That 1-800 I'm in trouble number sure worked good for me.

Bob Fijal


Dear Paul,

Are you suggesting that either the Motorcraft or Optima is the preferred route? I went with the Interstate Megatrend because I was pissed at Ford, the extra $20 and Interstate did not have the Optima that day. What type of chemistry does the Interstate have?


Tim Wright



your battery piece is just fine except I think you put too much emphasis on the Optima's AH lower number. I find the nicest thing about it is the car cranks much better with it than any other battery I have ever had, reserve cranking isn't as important with fuel injection as it used to be with carbs where flooded cars were a constant problem. About what you should buy, I would go with the $80 Ford OEM part. It is sealed, it fits and your old one lasted about as long as you can expect modern batteries to last.

Don M.



It looks good. Your right on the batteries being on the shelf for a long time. I now work as a parts manager at an Auto Zone store. Batteries have a sticker on the side of them with a letter and number, such as F/9. The F/9 is July 99, meaning the battery was manufactured in July 1999. Make sure you check this when you buy a new battery. When our batteries reach 1 year old, we are required to pull them from the rack and then sell them as used batteries. There still good batteries but you don't get the warranty. If you see one over 1 year old on their racks, bring it to their attention. It will make a good battery for second car, etc and should only cost around $29.


Bob Fijal

Hey Tim,

I just replaced my battery. I was all ready to give up and buy the Motorcraft 36R based on your review on the web site. For kicks however, I tried the AutoZone web site and found that they FINALLY started making a 36R. It is actually a 36R-D has 650 CCA and 130 RC just like the Motocraft. HOWEVER it comes with a 7-Year warranty, the first 2 years are FREE replacement. All this for $50.00. Needless to say, I've got one under the hood.

I thought I would pass this on to you for the web site. I'll keep you posted should I have any problems with it.

Thanks again for all your work with the site!

Eric Eaton 96SF


While wasting some time yesterday I stopped in an Advanced Auto Parts store. They had the type 36R-1 battery in stock for $63. The specs looked comparable, actually the listed RC was higher at 180. This was a house brand battery, I didn't quiz anyone there about who actually made it.

Seems like a relatively inexpensive alternative for the budget conscious SHO owner. I was surprised to find more than one in stock!


'98 TR


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