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Old 06-01-2020, 04:39 PM   #1
"Formerly Diplomat Don"
 
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Engine Battery Service

Even though the two 12 volt starting batteries on our coaches are Maintenance Free, they can still be serviced (add water). Several months ago, "Stuart W" told me that his starting batteries went bad on his 2018 Dutch Star (this applies to both Spartan and Freightliner). When he removed them, he cut the label on the top of the battery and was able to remove the battery caps, even though it's called a maintenance free battery. He found the water in several cells were below the battery plates.

So....following Stuart's suggestion to check my batteries, I pulled them out today. You can only access maybe 3-4 of the battery caps while they're in place, because the rest are blocked by cables and the battery hold down.

Removing them is pretty simple, as the cables are all bolted together and there is no need to mark them. On mine, both batteries had handles.

Tools you need....

9/16 wrench
9/16 deep well socket and ratchet
flathead screwdriver
distilled water
razor knife
some rags
4" strip of duct tape
plastic gloves as it's a dirty job

***A cordless electric ratchet makes the job effortless***

Before you start the removal process, turn the master battery switch off, above the batteries.

There are two long carriage bolts holding the battery bracket in place. On the forward bolt, hang onto it as you remove the nut (9/16) and washer. If you don't it falls to the ground. Once the nut and washer are removed, lower the bolt out of the bracket and replace the nut (this will keep it from falling out). When you remove the rear nut and washer, the bolt will fall to the ground.

As stated earlier, the battery cables are all connected and nothing will fall off or come apart when you remove them. Remove the plastic caps from the four battery studs. Remove only the four nuts, two positive and two negative from the battery studs.

Once the four nuts are removed, lift the cables and the batteries will slide out. I sat in a patio chair, right in front of the battery bay, so I was comfortable. I put a towel on my leg and lowered the first battery to the top of my knee and then to the ground. To keep from having issues, I placed the batteries on the ground in the SAME orientation as I had removed them.

Once the batteries are out, you'll see the outline, through the label, of the six round battery caps. I cut the labels with a razor knife and then used a flathead screwdriver to unscrew them (slot in the center of the cap).

I found my two batteries took about four cups of distilled water. I wiped the battery bay, clean up the batteries and then reinstalled them. As you slide them back in, they will slide right under the cables and line up perfectly. I replaced the hold down bracket and then took a 4" piece of duct tape and crawled under the corner of the coach with the bolt that fell out. Looking up, you can see where the bolt goes through the bottom of the battery bay and you can even see the hole in the hold down bracket. I inserted the bolt through the hole and the bracket, then used the duct tape to hold the bolt in place.

I reinstalled both nuts on the hold down and then the four nuts on the battery cables.

This is a worthwhile project if you want to extend the life of your starting batteries. Here are some pictures of the project.

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Old 06-01-2020, 04:42 PM   #2
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Thank You
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Old 06-01-2020, 04:49 PM   #3
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Fantastic post. I wondered about that. I might try opening up ours and checking them.
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Old 06-01-2020, 05:04 PM   #4
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Great write up Don
I wanted to add that on my Spartan Chassis there were one piece single caps (basically 1/2 the with of the batterie) that could not even be seen without removing the batteries. Besides batteries lasting longer, empty sells can get hot, gas and explode. I replaced both mine because one battery was almost empty in all but one cell, with AGMs at about twice the cost so they would be truly maintenance free.
This is not one to ignore in my opinion .
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Old 06-01-2020, 06:34 PM   #5
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THANK's Don & Stuart W, another add for Don's collection found in QT's # 3.
YES DON HAS MANY FIX'S AND MODES THE END OF QT #3, END OF SECOND PAGE.
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Old 06-01-2020, 07:22 PM   #6
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I believe Spartan has a procedure to remove the F10 or ? Fuse along with the battery cutoff's prior to removing the cables. This is protect a very expensive power module. This was discussed in an earlier post.
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Old 06-01-2020, 07:22 PM   #7
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Stuart.....when we spoke earlier, you brought up a good point about the amount of heat back there, right over the exhaust.

For those that just want to check the water level, on my batteries, I was able to remove one cap, second one in, and look with a mirror and flashlight. It was low enough to convince me to check all of them.

Lastly, if you've never looked, there is a label against the back wall. To service the DPF filter, you have to remove both batteries and unbolt a 12" x 12" plate to access the filter. It's something I'll probably never do, but learned something new.
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Old 06-01-2020, 07:59 PM   #8
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The Spartan batteries are mounted end to end long ways, then the cables and hold downs cover the top of the batteries. The FL setup seems to offer a little more room. Heat of the engine alone. Then add in regeneration cycles of the exhaust.
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Old 06-01-2020, 09:03 PM   #9
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Thanks for sharing your information with us.
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Old 06-02-2020, 03:30 PM   #10
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The two chassis batteries, are they AGM? If AGM, is this necessary? If so, what of the 8 AGM coach batteries?
Thanks
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Old 06-02-2020, 04:34 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TWINCAMSAM View Post
The two chassis batteries, are they AGM? If AGM, is this necessary? If so, what of the 8 AGM coach batteries?
Thanks
AGM batteries are sealed and maintance free.

Maintance free batteries are not AGM. They are flooded acid batteries with, according to the manufactures, enough electrolyte for a normal life.
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Old 06-02-2020, 05:27 PM   #12
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Great write up and photos Don

You should be a trainer for RV techs
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Old 06-02-2020, 06:14 PM   #13
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Hi Don,

Another great article... Thanks - I will have to check mine out. How many miles are on your RV? Trying to figure out how fast yours dried out. We do not get to travel as much as we would like, so I am trying to see how much mileage (how much use) effects this.

Next weekend I get, I will check this out.

Thanks!
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Old 06-02-2020, 06:46 PM   #14
"Formerly Diplomat Don"
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richpatty View Post
Hi Don,

Another great article... Thanks - I will have to check mine out. How many miles are on your RV? Trying to figure out how fast yours dried out. We do not get to travel as much as we would like, so I am trying to see how much mileage (how much use) effects this.

Next weekend I get, I will check this out.

Thanks!
Rich
I'll be honest, I never did this service on my 2014 DS and those batteries were fine when I sold the coach after five years. My 2005 Diplomat came with maintenance free Interstates. I cut the labels open on those batteries and added water as needed. I don't recall ever replacing those batteries in 10 years.

Thinking about the water level I just discovered in my 2019 DS, I would estimate that they would be low on water (plates showing) at about the 2.5 year mark. I think that is close to what Stuart experienced.

Does cutting the label and adding water extend the life of the batteries, I don't have an proof, but I would rather play it safe, than take a $300 - $400 chance on ruining them.
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