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Old 07-06-2006, 06:16 PM   #1
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I just wanted to share my latest setup. Let me give you a little background. We like to boondock in the national forests in Colorado for weeks at a time. Last summer we found that we needed to run the generator to charge the house batteries more than we like. (Any is more than we like) We watch a few hours of satellite TV, take showers, run the heater a little bit and of course lights. I have an Iota 75 amp converter. I had two 6 volt Trojan 145 batteries. I have a Link 20 battery meter and find we use about 50+ amp hours a day. We usually spend most of the days on Jeep trails in our Geo Tracker toad. So when we returned in the evening we would run the generator to recoup the previous day's loss while showering and running the furnace to warm the coach. I thought why not have the Tracker do the recharging on our daily treks. So this is what I did.

First, I installed a deep cycle yellow top Optima battery behind the drivers' seat. This is a D34/78 Optima battery with 55 AH capacity and will recharge faster than a conventional deep cycle battery. There is just no room under the hood for a second battery. It needed to be an Optima since it was in the interior and we often drive on Jeep trails that a roll over is a definitely a possibility which is not a good situation if a tipped battery is able to leak acid. I installed battery terminals on the exterior of the Tracker so I can connect battery jumper cables without opening and hoods or compartments. I connected the Optima to the external battery terminals with #4 cables. I then added an on/off battery switch to connect to the Tracker starter battery. This allows me to isolate the Optima battery from the Tracker when not driving but would allow the Tracker to charge the Optima battery when we do drive.

Secondly, I decided to add a second pair of golf cart batteries to extend our reserve. I added a marine A, B, A&B, Off switch. Terminal A was connected to one bank of golf cart batteries and terminal B connected to the second set of golf cart batteries. I then added a pair of external battery terminals like I did on the Tracker. I connected the + external terminal to the cable that powers everything in the RV via a #4 cable. I connect the RV to the Tracker via a 20' #2 battery jumper cable. Both vehicles have the external battery posts mounted on the front center of the vehicles so connecting the vehicles is easy from many parking postions and can be 20 feet apart.

To use the setup, I turn the Tracker battery switch to off which disconnect the Optima from the Tracker. I then connect the 20' jumper cables. Then I turn the RV battery switch to off which disconnect both RV battery banks. This order prevents the two RV clocks from resetting. This allows the RV to totally be run via the Tracker Optima battery. I have tested this setup and the Optima battery can easily cover our daily routine of RV living. The Tracker is able to recharge the Optima battery in 30 to 40 minutes of driving.

Some may ask why not just install solar. Well solar is too expensive and in Colorado in the summer the prime solar times is often interrupted by the monsoon rains. We usually stay in deep ravines with little direct sunlight. Solar is iffy at best in this situation. This setup is dependable as long as you plan to drive if you don't drive you can always run the generator. If we knew this setup would work as well as it does we probably did not need the second golf cart battery bank but the older set of golf cart batteries are starting to show age and we did not want to be in the boondocks when they fail.
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Old 07-06-2006, 06:16 PM   #2
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I just wanted to share my latest setup. Let me give you a little background. We like to boondock in the national forests in Colorado for weeks at a time. Last summer we found that we needed to run the generator to charge the house batteries more than we like. (Any is more than we like) We watch a few hours of satellite TV, take showers, run the heater a little bit and of course lights. I have an Iota 75 amp converter. I had two 6 volt Trojan 145 batteries. I have a Link 20 battery meter and find we use about 50+ amp hours a day. We usually spend most of the days on Jeep trails in our Geo Tracker toad. So when we returned in the evening we would run the generator to recoup the previous day's loss while showering and running the furnace to warm the coach. I thought why not have the Tracker do the recharging on our daily treks. So this is what I did.

First, I installed a deep cycle yellow top Optima battery behind the drivers' seat. This is a D34/78 Optima battery with 55 AH capacity and will recharge faster than a conventional deep cycle battery. There is just no room under the hood for a second battery. It needed to be an Optima since it was in the interior and we often drive on Jeep trails that a roll over is a definitely a possibility which is not a good situation if a tipped battery is able to leak acid. I installed battery terminals on the exterior of the Tracker so I can connect battery jumper cables without opening and hoods or compartments. I connected the Optima to the external battery terminals with #4 cables. I then added an on/off battery switch to connect to the Tracker starter battery. This allows me to isolate the Optima battery from the Tracker when not driving but would allow the Tracker to charge the Optima battery when we do drive.

Secondly, I decided to add a second pair of golf cart batteries to extend our reserve. I added a marine A, B, A&B, Off switch. Terminal A was connected to one bank of golf cart batteries and terminal B connected to the second set of golf cart batteries. I then added a pair of external battery terminals like I did on the Tracker. I connected the + external terminal to the cable that powers everything in the RV via a #4 cable. I connect the RV to the Tracker via a 20' #2 battery jumper cable. Both vehicles have the external battery posts mounted on the front center of the vehicles so connecting the vehicles is easy from many parking postions and can be 20 feet apart.

To use the setup, I turn the Tracker battery switch to off which disconnect the Optima from the Tracker. I then connect the 20' jumper cables. Then I turn the RV battery switch to off which disconnect both RV battery banks. This order prevents the two RV clocks from resetting. This allows the RV to totally be run via the Tracker Optima battery. I have tested this setup and the Optima battery can easily cover our daily routine of RV living. The Tracker is able to recharge the Optima battery in 30 to 40 minutes of driving.

Some may ask why not just install solar. Well solar is too expensive and in Colorado in the summer the prime solar times is often interrupted by the monsoon rains. We usually stay in deep ravines with little direct sunlight. Solar is iffy at best in this situation. This setup is dependable as long as you plan to drive if you don't drive you can always run the generator. If we knew this setup would work as well as it does we probably did not need the second golf cart battery bank but the older set of golf cart batteries are starting to show age and we did not want to be in the boondocks when they fail.
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Old 07-06-2006, 06:40 PM   #3
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Have you thought about installing a battery isolator rather than your switch setup in the Tracker??
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Old 07-06-2006, 06:50 PM   #4
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Yes I did. It certainly would be better other than the voltage loss of the isolator but I had the battery switch and we only are doing this for a few weeks of the year. The rest of the year that Optima battery will be used in our show car so it will get double duty. That allow the Tracker to return to normal with no auxiliary battery in the way taking up floor space and the battery auxiliary battery connections safely disconnected and tucked away when the battery switch key is removed.

Let me add a side benefit to this setup. When we are traveling in the Tracker for the day we are running a laptop computer for GPS and an electronic refrigerator. Previously when we would be out hiking or otherwise out of the vehicle for extend times we would have to shut off these items to save the starting battery. Now we can leave them running without worrying about a dead starting battery as long as we turn off the battery switch.
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Old 07-07-2006, 12:53 AM   #5
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Like the old saying, "Where there is a will there is a way"! Skitime, thanks for the post. I am sure others may follow. Good luck and take care.
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Old 07-07-2006, 04:07 AM   #6
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I used to do this when I had a boat and did a lot of fishing. Used to keep the trolling motor charged.

Many pickups have a place for a second battery under the hood. A 5th wheel friend keeps a second battery under his truck hood.

But, this is the first time I've seen it mentioned to chargemotorhome batteries and it is a great idea.
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Old 07-07-2006, 04:30 AM   #7
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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by Tom N:
I used to do this when I had a boat and did a lot of fishing. Used to keep the trolling motor charged.

Many pickups have a place for a second battery under the hood. A 5th wheel friend keeps a second battery under his truck hood.

But, this is the first time I've seen it mentioned to charge motorhome batteries and it is a great idea. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

My intent is not to be charging the motorhome with this setup but instead run the motorhome off the auxiliary Tracker battery thus saving the charge of the RV batteries. I certainly could allow the charged auxiliary Tracker battery to equalize into a discharged RV battery simply by turning the RV battery switch to that battery bank to partially replenish the battery bank.
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Old 08-17-2006, 05:23 PM   #8
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I just wanted to report back after a 4 week trip with this setup. We were boondocking in Silverton CO for over a week. We did not have to run the generator on the RV except to use her hairdryer for less than 5 minutes a day. The Tracker alternator did just fine charging the extra Optima battery daily. We would watch several hours of satelite TV a day, run the furnace a little morning and evening as well. Bottom line the setup worked out like a charm.
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Old 08-17-2006, 05:53 PM   #9
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I thought I'd throw my 2 cents worth in here. We boondock every year on vacation and have the generator, extra batteries and all that stuff. However, I figured since we use our jeep every day for running and offroad use that I'd place a couple of extra batteries in, hook them all up with #4 gage wire and install a 1500 watt inverter. This way we can run all our 120V electrical needs of an evening while recharging the batteries during the day. This has worked great, we just spent 2 weeks out and run Satellite TV, ice maker all evening, and all other 120v needs each evening and never run down the batteries in the Jeep. Like a never ending rechargeable power source. I think for boondocking this deal is good. All I have to do is run an extension cord with a multiple connector inside. I guess if you wanted to carry it a bit further you could just hook up the 30 amp cord with the adapter and try that. Hey, it works for us!
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