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Old 09-04-2013, 05:27 PM   #1
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2012 Lounge battery replacement write up

Last week I replaced my coach batteries and thought I would provide a brief write up for anyone needing to dig in back there. Mine AI is the regular length lounge model so yours may be different, but on mine the Group 24 batteries are stacked one on top of the other in a battery box that drops through the floor in the curb side rear corner of the coach. A little back story before I begin. I had flattened my OE batteries by accidentally leaving the tank heaters on over night without hooking up to shore power. I had also had trouble with my BIM and solar charge controller so when it was in the shop having those items repaired I asked the service center to check and replace the batteries if needed. They did replace them and I was surprised that the new batteries were "only" $115 each. After living with them for several months and never being happy with their capacity, I decided to look into the matter for myself. I discovered that the replacement batteries were actually marine starting batteries, not deep cycles. In shopping for the best Group 24 AGM deep cycle to put back in there I settled on Lifelines as the battery of choice and found a great dealer down in Texas at Centex Batteries (Marc there is great!). $512 dollars later I had a fresh pair of batteries waiting to install.

Step one, remove the rear seat back (4 - 13mm nuts on studs) and lower cushion (2 - 13mm nuts on studs at back of cushion, two 11mm nuts with phillups screw head bolts on front of cushion). You will want to remove the rear nuts with the seat in the upright position, then slide it to a semi reclined position and lay on the floor inside to remove the front bolts. For the nuts on the lower cushion, a wratcheting box wrench will speed the process considerably. There are multiple unused bolt holes on the lower cushion bracket so I marked the correct ones with sharpie pen and grease pencil (on the unpainted and painted parts respectively) prior to dis-assembly.

If you have not worked around automotive 12v systems before you need to stop and make your own decision about proceeding with this on your own instead of paying a professional to do it. Improper or careless handling of automotive batteries can be VERY dangerous resulting in severe burns, fire or even explosion. The risk is severe so proceed at your own risk.

Once you have the cushions out of the way, the battery box opens with a fiddly thumb release latch (if I had had my reading glasses on this would have probably been easier, but since I could not really see what I was doing it took a moment to figure out how to release the latch, see pic).

Once you are inside the battery box I suggest you take a picture of the orientation of the various cable ends so you can put them back that way when you reinstall. You should disconnect the negative cable from the top battery first, then be sure to disconnect both cables from the shared negative ground stud on the side of the box before proceeding. At this point I wrapped the exposed negative cable ends with electrical tape for safety. Next remove the positive cable from the upper battery, wrap the end in electric tape and lay the end up and out of the way. Remove the nut from the hold down strap and you are ready to lift the top battery up and out of the vehicle. A helper would be beneficial in this process. Once the battery is out, lift the hold down/battery shelf assembly out of the battery box to provide access to the lower battery. Again, start with the negative battery cable before proceeding to the positive, then the hold down nut. Getting the 2nd battery up and out of this deep hole in a difficult to reach place may be hazardous to your back. I did it by myself, and my chiropractor thanks me for that. His kids need braces.

As they say, "installation is the reverse of removal" but with a couple of caveats. Getting the battery hold down nuts back on was the hardest part of this job. The Lifeline battery cases are slightly different than the batteries I took out and it was very difficult to get the hold downs back over the studs that the nuts screw onto. The bottom one was not too bad, but I thought I was going to have to come up with a new hold down on the top battery. After wrestling with it for some time I did finally get it back on and secure to my satisfaction. It should go without saying that securing the batteries is of the utmost importance as a positive terminal contacting the chassis could easily start a fire or explosion. Your life and your RV are in your hands here. The other notable step in reinstallation is that the battery terminals on the Lifelines were designed in a fashion I had not seen before. The top post is also tapped for a bolt to go in the top of it, while the batteries I was replacing had separate post and nut terminals. I was able to hook everything back up just fine, but I did have to modify the insulating terminal on the top battery's positive post. I was nervous about the proximity of the positive battery terminal to the side wall of the battery box. Getting the rubber battery post insulating cover modified and back in place made me feel much better, but I also shoved a piece of cardboard in there for a little extra protection. See pics for details.

I have not had a chance to field test my new batteries to determine the improvement in capacity, but I am confident it will be significant. The Lifelines were 20 lbs heavier (each) than the batteries I replaced, a significant indicator of capacity. I'll be happy to report back once I have some experience with them.

Please post any additional tips or safety concerns as I don't want to lead anyone astray. Sorry for the poor cell phone picture quality.
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Old 09-04-2013, 05:31 PM   #2
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more pics
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Old 09-04-2013, 05:32 PM   #3
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Old 09-04-2013, 05:59 PM   #4
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Oh, I also wanted to mention that, for those of us with TrippLite inverter/chargers, there has been a lot of discussion about the proper settings of the DIP switches. After reading the manual, looking at the Q&A on the TrippLite website and talking to my new Battery Guru, Marc, I have concluded that for best life of a Lifeline battery switch B4 should be down for highest charging amps ... per what I read on the Tripplite website up is 11 amps and down is 45 amps (Lifeline recommends a minimum of 20 charging amps per 100amp hours of battery capacity ... so for my two 80amp hour batteries thats a minimum of 32 amps charging).

Also, Lifeline recommends a charging voltage of 14.2 to 14.6v and a float/trickle charge of 13.1v as the best with anything up to 13.4 being acceptable and 13.8v being too high (this is all temperature dependent, but based on my expected charging environment, those are good targets). Setting A1 to down for the "wet" setting puts the charging voltage at 14.4v and the trickle at 13.5v vs up (AGM setting) at 14.1 and 13.6v. Neither is ideal, but down is closer to Lifelines recommendation. My two cents on the matter anyhow. To see what I read on TrippLites site, click the following link, then click on "Q&A" and then click on "Battery Charing" and read their response:
Tripp Lite PowerVerter® 750W RV Inverter/Charger with Hardwire Input/Output (RV750ULHW)


Again, I'd love to hear others input, but based on what I am reading "on the internet" these seem to be the best answers.
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Old 09-04-2013, 06:03 PM   #5
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Oh, and if you really want to be a battery geek, read this (I am still working on it):
http://www.lifelinebatteries.com/manual.pdf

Page 19 is where the good stuff is.
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Old 09-04-2013, 10:56 PM   #6
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Wow, great writeup Russ! I'm headed for Jalama Beach in the morning so this gives me something to read on the beach I'll also set B4 down again.
Thanks
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Old 09-05-2013, 02:13 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by russ240 View Post
Also, Lifeline recommends a charging voltage of 14.2 to 14.6v and a float/trickle charge of 13.1v as the best with anything up to 13.4 being acceptable and 13.8v being too high (this is all temperature dependent, but based on my expected charging environment, those are good targets). Setting A1 to down for the "wet" setting puts the charging voltage at 14.4v and the trickle at 13.5v vs up (AGM setting) at 14.1 and 13.6v. Neither is ideal, but down is closer to Lifelines recommendation. My two cents on the matter anyhow. To see what I read on TrippLites site, click the following link, then click on "Q&A" and then click on "Battery Charing" and read their response:
Tripp Lite PowerVerter® 750W RV Inverter/Charger with Hardwire Input/Output (RV750ULHW)

Again, I'd love to hear others input, but based on what I am reading "on the internet" these seem to be the best answers.
After reading the Lifeline manual, setting switch A1 to the down position makes sense. I thought AGM batteries were gel cell batteries, but according to the manual, they're lead acid - or wet cell (I learned something new ). I wonder why the AS factory set switch A1 to the up position (gel cell) as a default when they installed a wet cell battery? This is going to take some more reading...
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Old 09-05-2013, 06:13 AM   #8
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Your write-up on battery removal matches pretty well with what I had to do back when my Interstate was brand-spanking new. Parasitic drains I hadn't yet identified spanked my batteries hard, to the point that I felt it prudent to remove them and charge them on a bench under controlled conditions.

The only difference is, lacking anyplace to plug into shore power where I store mine, not having enough house battery power to start the generator, and not even having enough power for the BIM to connect the house system to the chassis system for charging the house batteries by alternator (the BIM itself is powered off the house system), I couldn't move the seat from its full upright position to access those machine screws in front. Talk about a pain!

As a precaution, these days I store my Interstate with the sofa semi-reclined, so the machine screws are already accessible in case the batteries die again. I can reach far enough in to access the nuts in back with the seat semi-reclined, so that allows seat cushion removal without having to move the seat, if necessary.

And a word of advice for battery removal, it's a lot easier to lift them out through the rear doors than from inside!

This thread turns out to be very timely for me. I'm also considering replacing my batteries with Lifelines, since my dealer so kindly allowed my house batteries to deplete down to 9.9 volts while the unit was in his care for work on the generator (which coincidentally I'll have to take to my local Cummins dealer because the Airstream dealer couldn't find what was wrong).
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Old 09-05-2013, 08:48 AM   #9
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russ240,

Nice write up and photos! I'll be anxious to hear how this new setup works for you.

A couple of questions:
  • What is the model # of the Lifeline batts you installed?
  • Do you have a battery monitor installed? If yes, which one?

Thanks,
Wayne
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Old 09-05-2013, 08:55 AM   #10
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One of the reasons the Tripp-Lite was set to the low charge mode was to minimize the current draw when the rear A/C was on.

That was a great write-up for battery replacement Russ.
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Old 09-06-2013, 06:21 AM   #11
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They are the GPL-24T. I have not yet installed a battery monitor but I am contemplating a solar upgrade like David's as well as an upgrade to a Magnum inverter/charger. When/if I do that I'll install a monitor at the same time.
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Old 09-06-2013, 09:22 AM   #12
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They are the GPL-24T. I have not yet installed a battery monitor but I am contemplating a solar upgrade like David's as well as an upgrade to a Magnum inverter/charger. When/if I do that I'll install a monitor at the same time.
FWIW, the Lifeline GPL-24T has a capacity of 80Ah (20 hr. rate) so 2 in parallel gives you 160Ah. My 2 Trojan 6v FLAs (connected in series) give me 240Ah (20 hr. rate); or 50% more Ah. FLAs aren't for everyone or for every situation and they do have one important disadvantage; the requirement that electrolyte levels get checked on a regular basis. They work great for me mainly because in my Twin, they are easy to access. I check them every couple of weeks; not a big deal for me. So in my case the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. For 50% more capacity and a lot less $$ along with some other advantages, I'm happy to check them!

The Trimetric battery monitor I added gives me a way to see what's really going on with my batteries. This is one of the best additions I've made so far. The Magnum monitors look pretty nice too.

Do let us know how the Lifelines perform for you.
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Old 09-06-2013, 09:39 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by wayneskid View Post
FWIW, the Lifeline GPL-24T has a capacity of 80Ah (20 hr. rate) so 2 in parallel gives you 160Ah. My 2 Trojan 6v FLAs (connected in series) give me 240Ah (20 hr. rate); or 50% more Ah. FLAs aren't for everyone or for every situation and they do have one important disadvantage; the requirement that electrolyte levels get checked on a regular basis. They work great for me mainly because in my Twin, they are easy to access. I check them every couple of weeks; not a big deal. So for me the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

Do let us know how the Lifelines perform for you.
Lifeline 6v GPL-4CT AGM batteries are rated for 220 amp-hours and are almost the same size as the 12v GPL-24T, but a few pounds heavier. When I get my Lifeline batteries— after I get the generator repaired— I will have a talk with the local Lifeline dealer before making up my mind whether to go with the GPL-24T or GPL-4CT batteries.
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Old 09-06-2013, 10:00 AM   #14
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In the 'solar world', we use Lifelines exclusively as the battery of choice. Thee are many reasons for this, but primarily: they do NOT outgas unless severely overcharged, they are the easiest battery to re-charge, having only 2% internal resistance vs. 12% for most FLAs (flooded lead acid) types and they can be placed in any orientation except upside down....requiring absolutely NO MAINTENANCE.

That makes the Lifeline the best battery for difficult access installations like the one pictured above. We also typically use the 6VDC GPL-4CT or larger GPL-6CT units for a battery bank of 220 amp/hours and 300 amp/hours respectively.

In 6VDC golf cart type batteries, the plates are double the size of those in a 12VDC unit, since there are only 3 cells per battery, hence requiring 2 batteries to make up a 6 cell or 12VDC battery.

Larger plates, better construction and lower internal resistance make for a great battery combination.

The only down side to all of this........they ARE expensive. But the up side is their longevity when properly charged. The 2 longest in-service battery banks that I have installed are currently in their 9th year and still show 95% battery capacity. I think that speaks for itself.
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