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Old 11-07-2010, 11:53 AM   #1
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Battery Basics - What am I doing wrong?

I recently went to drop the foot on my 03 International CCD (only had it for 2 seasons), and the battery was pretty much dead. I replaced a dying (but only a year old) battery this season (May) after not being able to run the heater overnight on a long trip when dry camping.

Here is my deal – the camper is plugged in when sitting next to the house. I use it as an office when we are not on the road. I have not been disconnecting the battery – just leaving things hooked up. Is this possibly causing my problems? My assumption is that there was something that would maintain the battery health, much like a car.


I’m looking for any advice before I start searching the web / pulling things apart and trying to figure out what is going on.

Thanks in advance for any help / advice you can provide.
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Old 11-07-2010, 12:30 PM   #2
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If you leave your Airstream connected to shore power 24/7 and don't check your batteries regularly, it's possible that your batteries boiled dry from overcharging. We use a battery switch to disconnect the batteries most of the time, which prevents overcharging and other problems like parasitic loads draining the batteries when not connected to 110 VAC.

While the links below pertain mainly to dead batteries, the info on marine battery switches will probably help your problem.

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f449...ady-70476.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f449...ast-68507.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f449...why-67735.html
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Old 11-07-2010, 03:24 PM   #3
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Upgrade the converter.

Most are very poor when it comes to battery maintenance.

There are two approaches that work well. One is that used by the IntelliPower ChargeWizard converter and the other is that used by the BatteryMINDer maintainer. Both do well at keeping a battery charge up without causing excess corrosion of the plates and both employ desulfation techniques which helps maintain good battery life.
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Old 11-07-2010, 03:33 PM   #4
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We ya have to check them batterys. DONT be buyin NON -Service type or sealed batterys. I have batteries I bought 3 yrs ago at AUTO ZONE .They are deep-cycle marine batteries.They have caps that can be removed and the water level checked. I check about once a month and refill if necessary with DISTILLED WATER. I also leave the AS hooked up to shore power 24-7 when at home.
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Old 11-07-2010, 07:41 PM   #5
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Thanks all for your suggestions. I think I will look into all 3 (upgrading the converter, adding distilled water (if necessary - hope this is the case) and adding a disconnect).

Now - here is another rookie question - where is the converter? There is a substantial electric component under the dinette seats, and I believe there are some components under the front bed. I'll dig around next weekend.

Thanks again all for your help!
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Old 11-07-2010, 08:17 PM   #6
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You may have to look at replacing the batteries altogether. If they sat for a while without charging, they may have sulfated up which will in turn prevent them from getting a full charge.
If the water level in them dropped to below the tops of the plates, there is likely damage to the plates so adding distilled water to batteries in that condition will not necessarily correct that.
I just had to replace both my coach batteries in our motorhome. While the batteries were only a few years old one of the cells went bad - I think shorted out - causing that battery to take a disproportionate charge and it boiled fiercely while on the road charging off the alternator. I did not see any obvious damage to that battery when I serviced it earlier in the year.
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Old 11-07-2010, 09:01 PM   #7
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You may not be doing anything wrong, as long as you had purchased a deep cycle battery (they will take a discharge and then a recharge without damage). If you leave the trailer plugged in, the converter should recharge the battery. My 2000 19' Bambi has only one battery. I leave the trailer plugged in when we aren't using it, and it does a fine job of keeping a charge so that it will give us a couple of days if camping without hook ups. Have only had to add water once. Original battery was replaced in 2007. Find and check the converter output to the battery.
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Old 11-07-2010, 09:29 PM   #8
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Cool Battery Basics - What am I doing wrong?

Points to remember about batteries and RVs

1. Batteries are like bananas, they quickly deteriorate
2. A healthy battery will use about 1 ounce of water per cell per month under normal conditions
3. Most power converters on RVs are inadequate to maintain proper charge
4. Batteries should be kept clean on top as well as having terminals cleaned and connections tight
5. Batteries should not be stored on concrete floors
6. Use Deep Cycle, RV, & Marine Batteries for House batteries in RVs
7. Use a good hydrometer or digital voltmeter to check battery condition

I usually test my own batteries, but have found Interstate Battery to be a reliable place to test my batteries if I have doubts about my results. This means you have to take the battery to them, which is usually a hassle, but sometimes worth it.
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Old 11-08-2010, 09:06 AM   #9
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It's myth management time

re: "a deep cycle battery (they will take a discharge and then a recharge without damage)" -- all lead acid batteries (and all chemical batteries for that matter) suffer damage as they are used. Deep cycle batteries can handle deeper cycling a bit better than starting batteries but it is a difference of degree, not of kind. That difference is nearly insignificant in terms of the manner by which most RV batteries are used.

re: "Batteries are like bananas, they quickly deteriorate" -- If treated properly, you should expect around 5 years of battery life from a wet cell lead acid battery. They only "quickly deteriorate" if they are abused.

re: "A healthy battery will use about 1 ounce of water per cell per month under normal conditions" - but not if treated properly. Loss of electrolyte is an indication of over charging. Loss via evaporation is minimal in modern batteries. I find a properly maintained RV battery may not need to have any water added after a year of use.

re: "Batteries should not be stored on concrete floors" -- this was true many many years ago but, since the advent of modern battery casings it is no longer an issue.

re: "Use a good hydrometer or digital voltmeter to check battery condition" -- these do not check condition, only state of charge. Hydrometry is hazardous to both you and your battery and requires proper hazmat precaution and procedure. Both hydrometery and voltage measurements require proper interpretation to account for temperature, recent battery history and other factors.

The best way to test your batteries is to observe how they behave as you use them. If properly taken care of, they will degrade slowly and give you plenty of notice as to when they need replacement. That's the 80% odds, anyway.

There is a lot of misinformation about batteries out there, even from reputable sources. You have to read carefully and maintain a healthy skepticism to learn what applies now to the particular case you have in mind. Take care!
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Old 11-08-2010, 09:13 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bryanl View Post
It's myth management time

re: "a deep cycle battery (they will take a discharge and then a recharge without damage)" -- all lead acid batteries (and all chemical batteries for that matter) suffer damage as they are used. Deep cycle batteries can handle deeper cycling a bit better than starting batteries but it is a difference of degree, not of kind. That difference is nearly insignificant in terms of the manner by which most RV batteries are used.

re: "Batteries are like bananas, they quickly deteriorate" -- If treated properly, you should expect around 5 years of battery life from a wet cell lead acid battery. They only "quickly deteriorate" if they are abused.

re: "A healthy battery will use about 1 ounce of water per cell per month under normal conditions" - but not if treated properly. Loss of electrolyte is an indication of over charging. Loss via evaporation is minimal in modern batteries. I find a properly maintained RV battery may not need to have any water added after a year of use.

re: "Batteries should not be stored on concrete floors" -- this was true many many years ago but, since the advent of modern battery casings it is no longer an issue.

re: "Use a good hydrometer or digital voltmeter to check battery condition" -- these do not check condition, only state of charge. Hydrometry is hazardous to both you and your battery and requires proper hazmat precaution and procedure. Both hydrometery and voltage measurements require proper interpretation to account for temperature, recent battery history and other factors.

The best way to test your batteries is to observe how they behave as you use them. If properly taken care of, they will degrade slowly and give you plenty of notice as to when they need replacement. That's the 80% odds, anyway.

There is a lot of misinformation about batteries out there, even from reputable sources. You have to read carefully and maintain a healthy skepticism to learn what applies now to the particular case you have in mind. Take care!
After A LOT of research on my part, both in person with Interstate Battery folks, as well as extensive web reading, all of Bryanls statements are true. I will add, try to limit the discharge cycles to no more than 50% of battery capacities. Digital Voltmeters and Hydrometers are only part of the data you need in your analysis arsenal.

Read...and reread websites devoted to batteries (including differences in wet cell, gel, etc.)

Randy, at Bestconverter.com (68overlander on this forum) is a GREAT resource, can give you direction and has the proper goods to analyze and maintain your setup to your type of usage.
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Old 11-09-2010, 09:23 AM   #11
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Cool Battery Basics - What am I doing wrong?

Bryant I am amazed you have considered my suggestions Myths. I have spent much of my adult life either teaching or researching automotive technology as well as owning 13 RVs and performing most of my own preventive maintenance on these units. RV #12 had six batteries, all of which were 7 years old and still performing well when I sold it. The battery information I shared here on the Forum came from ESB Inc. Electric Storage Battery Inc, one of the largest makers of batteries in the US. If these are myths, they are at least pretty well founded in facts.
Comparing the lead-acid battery to a banana is my way of saying take care it, its fragile. Using a hydrometer is somewhat dangerous since you are dealing with sulfuric acid, but other than rubber gloves and eye protection I don't think it requires a Haz-mat suit. Let's face it, anything you do with batteries is hazardous, but that goes with the territory of owning an RV. Safety is paramount when doing any repair or maintenance on our units, and if you are not trained to know how to perform the task and keep safe while doing it, Leave It To A Professional!
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Old 11-10-2010, 09:27 AM   #12
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Oh, sorry. I didn't see them as suggestions.

Thanks for the banana clarification. That helps put things in perspective.

I didn't say Haz-mat suit - I said hazmat precautions and procedures. That stands as the current recommendation in the industry. Hydrometry is 'old school' and not necessary in the RV context, anyway, since the advent of modern, cheap, DVM's.

When it comes to batteries, there are very many 'myths' and misunderstandings. Some have long histories and haven't kept pace with technology. Some are just marketing hype. Some are misunderstandings carried on via rumor and gossip.

From what I have seen on these forums, a lot of folks have spent a lot of unnecessary money and misdirected effort because they just took advice from supposed 'experts' in forums and on websites without a proper evaluation or skepticism.

And that is what moves me. I just don't like seeing people waste money or effort. I don't like single source, uncritical acceptance as a principle guiding decisions. I don't like seeing things that just aren't so being misrepresented.
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Old 11-10-2010, 10:32 AM   #13
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Smile Battery Basics - What am I doing wrong?

Bryanl:
From what I have seen on these forums, a lot of folks have spent a lot of unnecessary money and misdirected effort because they just took advice from supposed 'experts' in forums and on websites without a proper evaluation or skepticism.

I agree with you, Bryanl. I use the DVM to evaluate my batteries IPO the hydrometer. There are many well-meaning experts on the forums it seems, so I like you, encourage everyone to do lots of research. Our RVs are highly technical as well as basic simple, and I guess that's the challenge.

BTW, I hope you and I don't qualify for expert. Ex=has been, Spert=drip under pressure. A little humor to give us a smile.
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