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Old 09-10-2008, 07:27 AM   #1
1 Rivet Member
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 5
Batteries, Baking Soda, Leaf Blower & Mice

Hi Gang,

It's that time of year again. We're now into September's warm sunny afternoons with no flying bugs and leisurely lunches on our deck's comfy chairs. Our two cats are sprawled out beside us. My Honey is reminiscing about campsites we've enjoyed during past Septembers.

But - reality intrudes. As New Englanders - our lives (our "to do" lists) have always been dictated by the four seasons. September is the month when each of our Airstreams have their pair of batteries removed from their compartments so I can inspect them carefully. While at it, I check each cell to determine if it needs a sip of distilled water. While doing this I wear rubberized gloves (some lessons learned are always remembered).

One battery in our '89 32' Excella had dampness on top of the battery and white caked powder at the bottom of its compartment. Oooops - what gives here? Six months ago in April, both batteries and their compartments had no white powder. Did I overfill this battery? I don't think so. Is something amiss with my solar system? I doubt it. I'll be asking myself these and more questions in days to come.

While the compartment was empty, I smothered the caked white powder with baking soda and sprinkled water on it. It bubbled for awhile, then I flushed it with water, then smothered it with more baking soda and flushed again - and then again until the compartment looked clean.

While the compartment was air drying, the electrolyte level in each battery of cells was checked. Every cell in each battery was down slightly by less than a teaspoon (estimate). I topped off each cell with distilled water using a small funnel to help my aim.

After wiping down each battery and not finding anything else out of the ordinary, it was time to reinstall. The washed compartment was still wet and had small puddles. Impatient to get the job done, my gasoline powered leaf blower came to the rescue. Two minutes later, the compartment was bone dry as was the entire area around it.

This time, when I reinstalled the batteries, I put each one in the opposite compartment from the compartment it had been in. Thus, each battery now has had a turn being first in line to receive juice from the four solar panels. Does this make any difference or is it merely a superstitious ritual like what baseball pitchers do before pitching a ball, i.e. lick their finger, adjust their hat, kick the dirt, etc.? Someone will tell me.

While positioning the batteries back in their compartment, I slid the ground post end in first. Once when I slid the positive post end in first, I bumped the compartment's metal trim. That got my full attention. No one ever said I wasn't a quick study when I see sparks. I still use scrap plastic (cut up milk container) to cover the positive terminal while sliding the battery's positive post past the compartment's metal trim.

With everything buttoned up, I checked our controller (Solar Boost 2000E "Solar Charge Controller"). The reading was 13.60 and charging. Hopefully we're good to go but I'll stay attentive.

Next, I checked the two batteries in our '67 22' Safari. The cells in one battery were almost up the line, while the cells in the other battery were right at the line. Neither battery had dampness around the cell covers nor white powder anywhere. After using an eye dropper to put distilled water in the low cells, I replaced the covers, the vent tubes and secured the battery boxes under the couch.

This time I noticed the needle to our Solar Guard Regulator and Meter did a little dance as it started integrating the distilled water. Then, it settled down to a steady charge (13.50 volts) as the three solar panels did their thing.

Today has been a pleasant September Sunday afternoon. One Airstream is ready to spend a quiet Winter in our side yard and the other is ready to roll and explore. Life is good.

And, oh - by the way, our anti-freeze and peanut butter mouse traps are ready for customers to walk the plank. This Summer, I had burial services for 9 mice: 3 from our '63 22' Flying Cloud, 2 from our '67 22' Safari, 1 from our '89 32' Excella and 3 from our garage. And I thought I had sealed up all the little openings in each trailer. That project will have to be revisited.

Last Winter was the first time I used this type of mouse trap. Now that I've seen how effective these traps can be all year long, they are a done deal 365/24/7 - when we ARE NOT living in an Airstream. When we ARE living in one of our Airstreams, our cats join us. Their mouse trap technique grosses me out. When I wake up in the morning and greet our cats --- if they don't move, but are sitting up straight (at attention) and staring at us with a slightly silly grin, there is usually a headless mouse at their feet.


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Old 09-10-2008, 12:32 PM   #2
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mustang's Avatar
1986 31' Sovereign
Kent , Ohio
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 803
Hello. My thought is, The way the battery is charging or being charged.
Your battery caps have breathers. When the battery charges, the cells bubble, Moisture (acid) out the breathers.

I would first check to see if the battery sides are hot or warm, that is a indication they are being over charged. It may simply be normal.

I put white lithium on my posts after I clean and connect them. They also sell a spray product that appears red. Baking soda is good for use in removeing white powder, it nuteralizes acid.

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Old 09-10-2008, 12:50 PM   #3
Full Timers/Diesel power.
Mike Leary's Avatar
1983 31' Airstream310
Cactus Hug , Arizona
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 2,540
Images: 11
I have had those problems with all four of our coaches. I switched to AC/Delco
"Voyager" years ago & have had no issues. Plus, they're sealed, no remembering to check
the fluids. Available from Chev/GMC dealers.
"A settled wisdom, plus the itch to be elsewhere"
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Old 09-12-2008, 09:43 PM   #4
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1978 28' Ambassador
Morada , California
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 1,583
Mike...those Delco 'voyager' deep cycle batteries are indeed maintenance free, flooded cell batteries...

However they are not really 'sealed'...if you look close there are two vents that allow the battery to 'breathe' as it's being charged, and discharged, etc. These vents will leak battery fluid if the battery is placed on it's side...not a likely to happen in our AS rigs!

Also, the internal plates are actually made with an expanded lead alloy type grid, not of a 'casting' as most other batteries. The 'voids' in the Voyager plates that are filled with the 'paste' are larger, and sometimes prone to losing their bond easier than cast grids types...

I hardly see Voyagers in by battery biz any more...but I guess they are still available, as you have indicated. They wouldn't be my first choice as an RV battery, higher pricing being a factor.

I always recommend battery buyers look up a 'Battery Specialist' in their local area for the best information on the proper battery for their needs. You will usually get the straight scoop, and choices offered my be more diverse that what you'll get from Auto Dealers and Big Box might same some $'s as well....
Ray & Pat; Morada, CA
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Old 09-13-2008, 06:13 AM   #5
Well Preserved

1993 21' Sovereign
Colfax , North Carolina
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 20,362
A quick tip to save $.69 a year...:
We use a small box of baking soda in our fridge to absorb odors, etc. It gets changed a couple of times a year to keep things smelling fresh, but it's still perfectly capable of neutralizing the battery stuff, so you can use the used box of Arm & Hammer rather than tossing it, and buying another one just to clean the battery.
Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy, and taste good with ketchup.
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leaf blower, mice, solar, vintage

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