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Old 10-04-2014, 06:01 PM   #1
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Battery Tray: Not a Mod, Just a Cleanup

During August in Montana I finally made the time to carry out a thorough reconditioning of the battery bay area on my ’02 Dutch Star. The battery bay and its pull out tray assembly had been suffering considerable acid corrosion and rust. I had flushed the area a few times with heavy doses of baking soda, but I was unable to make the time to disassemble and recondition. The two pictures on the left were taken just before I started the job. This is the account of the reconditioning.




The first order of business, of course, was planning and documentation. I had previously ascertained with info here on the forum that I could run the Dutch Star on shore power without the battery banks in the circuit. This was a relief. It removed time pressure from the job, and meant that the total time off grid would only be about an hour at each end. As things turned out, the batteries and other parts were out of the coach for about five days.

I photographed and diagrammed all connections to the batteries. The coach was disconnected from all external power sources. Battery and power system switches were off. Then I sequentially disconnected, double plastic-bagged, and labeled all cable connections and jumper straps. Standard safety precautions applied.

When I actually started removing the batteries from the tray I was shocked at the extent of the corrosion beneath and behind the batteries. You can also see in these pics how I bagged the cable ends. I used double thickness of heavy duty food storage bags, and taped them into position. I then clearly labeled each bag according to my diagram with a large black marker. This system worked well and was convenient to apply.




With batteries out, I temporarily secured all the cables up and out of the way. The next step was the removal of the tray assembly from the bay. The battery tray rides on eight rollers, four on each end. Three rollers are below each tray arm, carrying the weight, and one is above, acting as an idler, guide, and retainer. The tray, absent the weight of all batteries, easily slides outward but can only be removed after the removal of the two upper rollers. The rollers are secured by heavy SS hardware, but are easily removed. Once the tray is out, the frame that holds the rollers and guide arms is detached by removing four bolts that attach the frame to the metal floor of the battery bay. Now the bay is cleared and all parts are ready for cleaning.




The batteries themselves clean up easily. A soft wire brush on the terminals, a soda wash to neutralize any corrosive, a wash with Simple Green and a good rinse and they look like new! The battery connector straps and associated hardware required some work at the parts cleaner and the wire wheel, but they soon yielded, and came out looking pretty good. The tray rollers, which are actually just fairly heavy ball bearings, were a bit more of a challenge, requiring some soaking and hard work at the parts cleaner. Two of them were beyond salvage (corroded solid), and had to be replaced. Of the other six, two had some noticeable pitting on the outside but moved freely, and the rest seemed fine. They all felt a little “not perfect” when spun, and I would not have allowed any of them to pass muster if they were required to turn at high speed under load. But as drawer rollers, albeit heavily loaded, the only real test was free movement. More on these rollers a little later.




Now I had to face the real fun part. The tray, frame, and the battery bay itself were scraped, wire brushed, acid neutralized, thoroughly cleaned (twice), and lightly sanded. I had to leave some light rust coating in place for the chemicals to work with, according to the prep instructions of the Loctite Extend rust treatment that I was using.




Cleaned and sanded, I blew everything off with compressed air, and applied multiple coats of the Extend. Each successive coat is applied while the previous coat is still tacky. The compound reacts with the oxidation and the metal, and dries to a neutralized coating. I applied three coats.




According to Loctite, the Extend leaves a final coating that is suitable for use as a prime coat. I wasn’t quite sure whether to rely on that, plus the final coat was mottled black, brown, and metallic. I like to have a uniform surface over which to paint, to avoid misses. So I also applied a coat or two of standard gray primer, as necessary. I then applied three finish coats to all surfaces, white to the inside of the battery bay (for better visibility), black to everything else. You can see that I also took the opportunity to repaint the lower frame section that holds the latch point for the battery bay door. I also cleaned and reconditioned the rubber seal for that door.




With the painting completed it was time to reassemble and reinstall. That brings us back to those pesky tray rollers. The real problem with most of the rollers was not acid corrosion, but merely oily road grit- years of it. The initial installation was inadequate to the task. These are plain open bearings, with no protection from any dust, grit, or fluids. They had apparently been installed dry, and with open sides failure was inevitable. The picture on the left below shows the original type installation. I looked for sealed bearings sized for direct replacement, but the two distributors I spoke with in Missoula could not locate any. So I had to work out my own solution. These bearings are 1-1/2” o.d, with a ½” i.d. bore. I poked around a couple of ranch supply places—as a lot of you know, in farm and ranch country, Hardware is King!—and found some 1-3/8” fender washers. Bingo!

So I tried to remember how to do this as I was taught back around 1959, rolled up my sleeves, glopped a big handful of bearing grease into my left palm, and proceeded to hand-pack all eight bearings. (Who does that anymore?) One fender washer on each side to act as grease retainers, and they mounted right up. (see the picture on the right below) I didn’t even have to lengthen the mounting bolt. Not as good as a sealed bearing, but they’ll keep 99% of the grit out and most of the grease in for a long time. In any event, they’ll last longer than I will!




The battery tray frame reattached with the four bolts. The tray slid right into the frame and I reattached the final upper roller on each side. With everything reassembled, I put a rubber friction liner in the bottom of the tray and replaced the batteries- in the correct orientation, of course, referencing my diagram. Cables were reattached per the diagram. The only awkwardness and difficulty came with hanging the cable bundles to the overhead attach points. They had to be suspended low enough to allow adequate flex and movement, but high enough to prevent the bundles from jamming behind the batteries when the tray was pushed in for closure. Not a difficult concept, but this had NOT been done before, accounting for at least some of the great difficulty in closing the tray. There was no room for my arms to reach into the battery bay except from either end, so I was working totally blind, with my face pressed hard against the raised door. There was much innovative language developed that afternoon, I assure you.




Regardless, in due course the job was done, and my battery bay is now better than new. The tray slides in and out easily—well, fairly easily, as it does still weigh about 300 lbs.—and it looks good. Now, we’ll see how long it lasts!!

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Old 10-04-2014, 06:05 PM   #2
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Looks really great John! Great job!!!! Nicely detailed write up and the photo's are worth a thousand words....Mine looked about like yours did, and my process was just like what you did.............Mineral oil added..........still looks the same as when I got done.
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Old 10-04-2014, 06:16 PM   #3
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JFXG ... a very nice write-up and documentation of the project. Enjoyed reading it and looking at the pictures. Nice job on the bearings.

Steve
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Old 10-04-2014, 06:32 PM   #4
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Thank you for the detail. Definitely better than new!!
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Old 10-05-2014, 01:31 AM   #5
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Great job!
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Old 10-05-2014, 02:41 AM   #6
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Great job, and great writeup. You can work on my coach any time!
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Old 10-05-2014, 03:53 AM   #7
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Excellent write up John it will be in QT's # 3 for future reference.
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Old 10-05-2014, 04:06 AM   #8
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Nicely done. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 10-05-2014, 05:15 AM   #9
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Did something similar on my coach in 2011, applied "fluid film" on top of the batteries, mostly on posts/connections. Does a great job, still looks like on the day it was done.
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Old 10-05-2014, 10:41 AM   #10
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JFXG that is a great job and write up. To help prevent future corrosion damage and a repeat of this job I recommend using mineral oil in each cell of the house batteries. I have been using this for the past 5 years and have no corrosion. Every year or so I clean the terminals and cable ends to remove any microscopic electrical barriers. Mineral oil use is disparaged by some, but it works and doesn't damage anything. I also add a little water once a year.

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Old 10-05-2014, 01:01 PM   #11
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Awesome rebuild. I really liked the white.

Have you considered a secondary roller tray locking device? Some have experienced latch failures especially after considerable corrosion.

Something as simple as a bolt run thru the inner and outer frames. Just a thought.
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Old 10-05-2014, 01:06 PM   #12
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John......who cares about the batteries......I really liked the way you laid out the story with multiple pictures! Very impressive.
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Old 10-06-2014, 08:47 AM   #13
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Thanks to all for the kind words, and suggestions!
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Old 10-06-2014, 09:11 AM   #14
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Great job John! My starting batteries just died and you're inspiring me to not only replace them but re-do the tray/compartment as well.
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