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Old 05-16-2019, 06:45 AM   #1
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2002 30' Classic S/O
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Connecting/Disconnecting Batteries

This morning I had one of those blinding flashes of the obvious. It is often stated, and I have done so myself, that the safe way to disconnect/connect a battery is to disconnect the negative terminal first and connect it last. The rationale for this is that without a ground reference the positive terminal will not arc through a wrench to ground if the wrench accidentally comes in contact with the vehicle sheet metal or frame.

This philosophy has its source in automotive mechanics where, if the engine is not running, the battery is the only potential source of current. This is not true in our trailers with multiple batteries, converters, and solar chargers which is referenced to ground at the distribution panel. The positive terminal of the battery with its negative terminal disconnected is connected to the trailerís 12 volt distribution system which is still being fed by any other batteries, the converter if shore power is connected, and a solar system, if fitted, unless itís disconnect switch is activated. While those sources are typically protected by fuses or circuit breakers, a short burst of high current is still possible.

I apologize for repeating this inappropriate safety guideline.

Al
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Old 05-16-2019, 07:32 AM   #2
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A good reminder. When I disconnect the batteries (for example, at the end of the camping season to store them on a charger in my garage), I am not connected to shore or solar power and I remove the negative cables from both batteries first (end of camping season is a NEGATIVE thing so thatís how I remember it). Reverse that process to start the season (a POSITIVE thing so connect the positive cables first) - again, with no other connections to shore or solar power.

This has worked for me for the past 5 years. The only exception being when I had them on the charger at home - I also left the connector cables on so I wouldnít lose them - and I bumped one of those cables across pos/neg and man that sparked and ate a little chunk of lead out of the post it hit.....scary for sure.

Are you saying the inappropriate safety guideline is failing to include the caveat that you must not be connected to any other source of power when disconnecting the batteries? If so, I donít know that you need to apologize for that. Itís a very good reminder nonetheless!
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Old 05-16-2019, 08:35 AM   #3
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Not wrong advise. Just incomplete. I turn off converter and disconnect both ground cables and then the positives. Connect positives first then grounds. If I had solar I would cut it off also.
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Old 05-16-2019, 09:24 AM   #4
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Connecting/Disconnecting Batteries

Adds to the established need for a good manual disconnect switch at the positive connection of the batteries. Cuts off all the possible sources of power from the trailer side of the wiring.

There has been much discussion about putting the manual switch on the negative side of the batteries, but considering the other power sources like the converter and solar panels (like my rig has), I think from an engineering point of view the main disconnect switch really needs to be positioned in the positive lead from the batteries.

Then, once that switch is set to Ďoffí if you are working on the batteries themselves the best practice is still to pull negative cable first, then positive.

Admittedly, I have an all plastic battery box, so itís very hard to hit stray metal around it with a metal tool, but negative post disconnect first is a long-standing safety habit with me. I also position all the removed wires so they canít touch, and put electrical tape around the positive lug for safety.

There are a few stainless steel fasteners in the bottom of the box that are grounded to the Airstream frame. My luck would have a hot wire land right on one. Murphyís Law still lurks!!
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