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Old 08-10-2011, 02:14 AM   #1
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How to check batteries?

I would like to check the condition of my batteries... Both for water levels and with a hydrometer to examine their state. We are currently plugged-in to 30a power & I assume my charger is working at keeping the batteries fully charged.

Anyway, my question is do I need to do anything before I start removing the battery caps and examining water levels etc... Should I unplugged the shore power? Should I turn-off the in inverter charger? Are there any special precautions I should take before fooling around with the batteries? Many thanks for any advice or precautions.
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Old 08-10-2011, 04:35 AM   #2
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I assume you are talking about the house battery's. You should fill all cells with distilled water to proper level, check your cables for clean and tight, then charge 24 hours. then turn off the charger, let the battey's sit for a couple of hours, to stablize before checking.
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Old 08-10-2011, 06:02 AM   #3
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2X on what bbeane said. Also, you are dealing with battery acid. Eye protection and some rubber gloves are in order. You should clean the top of the batteries if they have a bunch of junk and dirt on them. Good old baking soda and water works great. Do not get any of it in the battery cells.
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Old 08-10-2011, 06:32 AM   #4
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Here is some information that will help also.
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Old 08-10-2011, 07:45 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by bbeane View Post
I assume you are talking about the house battery's. You should fill all cells with distilled water to proper level, check your cables for clean and tight, then charge 24 hours. then turn off the charger, let the battey's sit for a couple of hours, to stablize before checking.
Jack I also forgot to mention, turn off all electrical loads charger/inverter, master disconnect S/W. Also when working on battery cables remove the ground(-) first, and install it last, helps prevent electrical spikes, and sparks.
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Old 08-10-2011, 10:26 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Jack1234 View Post
I would like to check the condition of my batteries... Both for water levels and with a hydrometer to examine their state. We are currently plugged-in to 30a power & I assume my charger is working at keeping the batteries fully charged.

Anyway, my question is do I need to do anything before I start removing the battery caps and examining water levels etc... Should I unplugged the shore power? Should I turn-off the in inverter charger? Are there any special precautions I should take before fooling around with the batteries? Many thanks for any advice or precautions.
Do you own a car? If so, do you check the battery? What precautions do you take? Same thing with an RV.

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Old 08-10-2011, 10:47 AM   #7
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I use a refractometer to check electrolyte...It will also check the freeze point of coolant....imho...more accurate..
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Old 08-10-2011, 11:25 AM   #8
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As noted above...be sure to add distilled water...you can get it at Wally World.
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Old 08-10-2011, 11:58 AM   #9
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There is no need with modern batteries and DVM's (digital voltmeters) to get into specific gravity. As noted, proper hazmat precautions are needed plus there is the risk of contamination.

Also note that there is a difference between the condition of your battery and its state of charge. State of charge is what is measured by voltage or specific gravity. Battery condition used to be measured by a load test but modern conductivity testing is less harmful to the battery.

As for your built in converter and battery charger - look at what it does to the system voltage. If it sits around 13.6v all the time, the odds are that you'll do your batteries a big favor by upgrading to one that knows about multiple stage battery charging in addition to battery maintenance.

Battery maintenance is no longer the old trickle or float charge thing. Nowadays you should use a battery maintainer that will keep a full charge without causing loss of electrolyte plus apply a technique to inhibit sulfation. Progressive Dynamics chargewizard or WFCO are examples of modern converters that do effective charging plus effective battery maintenance.

It is very easy to go overboard in monitoring and checking your batteries. It can be fun with electron counters. It can be dangerous as with hydrometry. But it is seldom really needed.

Keep an eye on your battery voltage and you can see battery state of charge and, with experience, you can judge battery condition. Watch when the converter/charger is plugged in. It should go up to 14.4v or so for a while and then drop to 13.6 and then to a bit less for the long term. When off grid, you'll see the voltage dip when a large load is applied but otherwise just slowly drop as your time off-grid continues.

If the voltage gets below 12.2v as measured after resting for a half hour or more of no significant charging or discharging, then you know it is time to get it charged.

If you find your batteries frequently need water added, then you know they are being overcharged. With a good modern converter, you should not need to do more than check every few months just to make sure. IMHO, any worrying about batteries indicates something other than the battery needs fixing. Get the right equipment and learn good usage habits and battery worries should fade into the background.
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Old 08-10-2011, 04:55 PM   #10
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There is no need with modern batteries and DVM's (digital voltmeters) to get into specific gravity. As noted, proper hazmat precautions are needed plus there is the risk of contamination.

Also note that there is a difference between the condition of your battery and its state of charge. State of charge is what is measured by voltage or specific gravity. Battery condition used to be measured by a load test but modern conductivity testing is less harmful to the battery.

As for your built in converter and battery charger - look at what it does to the system voltage. If it sits around 13.6v all the time, the odds are that you'll do your batteries a big favor by upgrading to one that knows about multiple stage battery charging in addition to battery maintenance.

Battery maintenance is no longer the old trickle or float charge thing. Nowadays you should use a battery maintainer that will keep a full charge without causing loss of electrolyte plus apply a technique to inhibit sulfation. Progressive Dynamics chargewizard or WFCO are examples of modern converters that do effective charging plus effective battery maintenance.

It is very easy to go overboard in monitoring and checking your batteries. It can be fun with electron counters. It can be dangerous as with hydrometry. But it is seldom really needed.

Keep an eye on your battery voltage and you can see battery state of charge and, with experience, you can judge battery condition. Watch when the converter/charger is plugged in. It should go up to 14.4v or so for a while and then drop to 13.6 and then to a bit less for the long term. When off grid, you'll see the voltage dip when a large load is applied but otherwise just slowly drop as your time off-grid continues.

If the voltage gets below 12.2v as measured after resting for a half hour or more of no significant charging or discharging, then you know it is time to get it charged.

If you find your batteries frequently need water added, then you know they are being overcharged. With a good modern converter, you should not need to do more than check every few months just to make sure. IMHO, any worrying about batteries indicates something other than the battery needs fixing. Get the right equipment and learn good usage habits and battery worries should fade into the background.
I agree 100%. Like a lot of other things, some folks spend a lot of money and sometimes do harm by over maintaining there RV.

Jim E
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