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Old 02-07-2004, 02:30 AM   #1
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I just thought I would post here a topic about a dangerous senerio about batteries after a fellow RVer came to me for help. It seems he was awakened in the middle of the night to this very bad odor he thought was at first sewer gas. Then he heard a tapping noise. He got up and went outside to investigate what might be going on when he found his batteries we just boiling away. He was able to turn off the charger section of his inverter. The next morning he came to me for help in this matter. I check the house (6 volt) batteries to find that the specific gravity of all but one cell of four batteries was very low (dead). Checked the voltage on the chassis batteries (maintainance free) to find they were only at 7.4 volts and swollen.
I told George that he would need all new batteries and then we could check the charger in the inverter to be sure it is working properly. His rig is designed to where when plugged into shore power it will charge the chassis batteries too if need be. This was the tapping noise he heard. It was the snapping in and out of the charging solenoid for the chassis batteries. This is where the danger laid. The batteries were off gassing hydrogen (the bad smell) profusely and a spark in the right place could have caused a huge explosion. The batteries were four years old and the terminals were badly corroded.
We removed the batteries and installed new ones, cleaned the cable terminals and coated with terminal spray. Checked the operation of the inverter/charger and all turned out well. No problem with the charging circuit thank goodness.
Summary: If your batteries develop a bad cell the chargers do not know this (unless you have a temperature sensor on them) and will continue to charge even if it boils them to death. This is why it is important to check the condition of these things on a regular basis (monthly). If every thing is perfect, you will not even have to add any water for years. Lose connections can do the same but usually you will notice dim lights or things not working properly but these large amp inverters or chargers can overcharge as a result.
I hope everyone has a great RVing summer and be kind to yourself; do the maintainance!

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Old 02-07-2004, 02:30 AM   #2
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I just thought I would post here a topic about a dangerous senerio about batteries after a fellow RVer came to me for help. It seems he was awakened in the middle of the night to this very bad odor he thought was at first sewer gas. Then he heard a tapping noise. He got up and went outside to investigate what might be going on when he found his batteries we just boiling away. He was able to turn off the charger section of his inverter. The next morning he came to me for help in this matter. I check the house (6 volt) batteries to find that the specific gravity of all but one cell of four batteries was very low (dead). Checked the voltage on the chassis batteries (maintainance free) to find they were only at 7.4 volts and swollen.
I told George that he would need all new batteries and then we could check the charger in the inverter to be sure it is working properly. His rig is designed to where when plugged into shore power it will charge the chassis batteries too if need be. This was the tapping noise he heard. It was the snapping in and out of the charging solenoid for the chassis batteries. This is where the danger laid. The batteries were off gassing hydrogen (the bad smell) profusely and a spark in the right place could have caused a huge explosion. The batteries were four years old and the terminals were badly corroded.
We removed the batteries and installed new ones, cleaned the cable terminals and coated with terminal spray. Checked the operation of the inverter/charger and all turned out well. No problem with the charging circuit thank goodness.
Summary: If your batteries develop a bad cell the chargers do not know this (unless you have a temperature sensor on them) and will continue to charge even if it boils them to death. This is why it is important to check the condition of these things on a regular basis (monthly). If every thing is perfect, you will not even have to add any water for years. Lose connections can do the same but usually you will notice dim lights or things not working properly but these large amp inverters or chargers can overcharge as a result.
I hope everyone has a great RVing summer and be kind to yourself; do the maintainance!

Mike & Amy, Fulltimers
RVSA Certified RV Technician (independent)
Dinasaur Board Distributor
No Wet Distributor
Norcold Authorized Servicer
Muffin our Shih Tzu
Ashley and Candi at school
2000 GulfStream 39' Scenic Cruiser
NASCAR #3 & #8
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Old 02-07-2004, 03:23 AM   #3
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Thanks, Mike, for that excellent advice.

I've seen a number of battery explosions in automobiles and it's not a pretty sight. Fortunately for all involved there were no injuries (well, the cars were damaged, but no people hurt ).

It's a great reminder to all that the batteries should not be overlooked as a very important item on any maintenance checklist.

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Old 02-07-2004, 06:40 AM   #4
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I have only heard and then seen the results of a battery explosion however this was way back in the early Eighties when I was working as a heavy duty equipment mechanic.

These issues are indeed rare however under the right conditions they can be very dangerous. Take the time as suggested and keep an eye on your batteries and terminals.

RV Wizard; Thanks for bringing this important subject up.

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Old 02-07-2004, 11:36 AM   #5
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Thanks, Mike. If I hear that tapping sound, I'll have an idea of what to look for. I think my Xantrex charger/inverter has an inside switch to turn off the charger.
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Old 03-26-2004, 07:53 AM   #6
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RV Wizard, you may just have saved my hide.
I was having a problem with the gas detector alarming, only happened when the coach was closed up at night with the Fantastic fan running and a bedroom window slightly open.
I checked all the propane fittings and connections with a hand held gas detector and found no leaks. Convinced that the detector must be faulty I disconnected the monitor, dumb move from I guy who has been RVing for 30+ years and should know better. i just happened to be reading some of the older posts on the forum and came across this one by RV Wizard, I realized that I had just had to top off the water in my batteries recently and they took an awful lot of water. I took my trusty gas detector around to the battery compartment and before I got the compartment door open it was alarming. I aired the compartment out before disconnecting the two 45 amp convertors and turning the battery disconnect off, didn't need a spark right then. I'll make along story short, the batteries had some bad cells, the convertor/charger was working just as it should by continuing to try and charge them. The battery compartment is sealed off from the rest of the coach, however where the cables went through the compartment the seal was not air tight and when the Fantastic fan was pulling air out and causing a negative air pressure the gas from the boiling batteries was pulled into the coach. Needless to say I have 2 new batteries and the gas monitor is re-connected.
So again I thank you RV Wizard for your post which may just have saved me from a disaster.
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Old 03-26-2004, 10:29 AM   #7
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RV Wizzard.
Your the man.... Great advice.



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Old 03-26-2004, 10:50 AM   #8
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Thanks RV Wizard

This is indeed valuable information. Our maintenance free Delco Marine/RV batteries are always on the RV charge ...I've been checking them about once or twice a year. Those batteries were installed when we purchased the RV in January 1998. Yes, I'll be checking them on a regular basis from now on out.

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Old 03-26-2004, 06:00 PM   #9
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I am glad to hear that some of what I have experienced had helped some others. I have learned a lot off this forum too. Let's keep the info flowing!
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Old 03-27-2004, 07:07 PM   #10
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New house batteries put in before I bought my coach at the end of January. I just noticed some white powder around the ground connections in the battery compartment that I don't remember being there when we took delivery.

Is it normal for this build up so quickly? What would you recommend to put on the connections to prevent future build up? They are nothing but long screws where multiple ground leads are run, and nuts were used to sepaarate the connectors on the screw.

Thanks,

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Old 03-28-2004, 01:39 AM   #11
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Clean the affected area well and use a dielectric grease as you reassemble the ground connections. Be sure the water level is correct in the batteries. Do not over fill but do keep plates covered. You may want to check to be sure the charger is not over charging the battery bank. When batteries are fully regharged check voltage and look for excessive gasing from caps. If so you will want to correct that problem.
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Old 03-29-2004, 04:47 AM   #12
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I would like your opinion on adding 'battery oil' with the distilled water.

Thanks
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Old 03-30-2004, 01:01 AM   #13
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I don't have an opinion as I have heard of it but do not have any experience with it. A properly operating system will not need any water added as the caps are designed to allow the hydrogen gases out and condense the water in the cap and drip back into the cell. I have checked by batteries every month and have yet to add any water. Have spent summers in FL. living full time with same result.
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Old 11-03-2004, 07:09 PM   #14
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I have a new coach purchased in June. It came with 65 warranty problems that is now down to the last 9 that are currently being repaired. I have used the coach for 2 weeks out of these 5 months and the rest of the time it has been in 4 different shops for warranty repairs.
Two of the three batteries have now been replaced. The starting battery was bad when I took delivery and was replaced first. The dash computer failed and it was thought the converter was bad but the factory warranty department determined it was only a defective battery that had 4 bad cells in it, and was replaced. I now only have one original battery left and it must fail before it will be replaced.
The chassis was built last year and the batteries were dated April, 2003.
The factory advised they will no longer be using Exide batteries due to the high failure rate.
I am happy to see the original info in this post so I will know what to look or listen for while this last battery fails
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