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Rehabilitating Batteries?


crazie_eddie

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Hi All

 

I've been a lurker here for years, and finally have my first motorhome, a 30 foot 2000 Lazy Daze. Unfortunately, it seems the first thing I did was fry the house batteries. I had it plugged in to shore power for about a week, and since then the batteries won't hold a charge and the solar pannels (which were working fine) aren't keeping them charged during the day. The tags indicate the batteries are only 2 or 3 years old.

 

When I noticed the problem I checked the water level - they were pretty dry and took a little less than a gallon of distilled water between them. I ran the engine for about 20 minutes and they charged up, but the charge started dropping almost immediately with nothing major putting a drain on them. And by "charge" I'm looking at the indicator pannel, I haven't put any kind of tester on them.

 

I've seen a post somewhere about "rehabilitating" batteries, but am not sure how to go about it. Do I just need to run the engine longer? Will I need to add more water again? The guy in the auto shop wanted to sell me battery acid - is there a magic additive I can use?

 

I'm pretty good about most technical things, but electrics baffle me, so take them and have them tested may be the best answer... :unsure:

 

And I do want to install the thingy that prevents the batteries from being over-charged, but am hoping that can wait until next year...

 

Thanks in advance for any advice.

 

Pat

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No magic additives and running the charger longer won't help.

 

If I'm off base, feel free to step in.. :-) When folks are talking about "rehabilitating" batteries there are two main approaches. In the case where cells have been fully submerged but are simply not holding charge due to sulfidation, folks will drain the acid and refill with a distilled water and epsom salt solution. That can help to partially rejuvenate a battery for a limited period of time, but they are highly unreliable. You might run them for a year or more like that, our they could suddenly fail a day from now.

 

The other is when the plates themselves are physically removed and cleaned. I don't recommend it and wouldn't feel comfortable passing along any information on how to do it.

 

In your case.. option 1 doesn't apply, and where the plates have been exposed for an indeterminate period of time.. (a gallon of distilled between 2 cells is MAJOR), I think you might just have to chalk it up as a learning experience (I know it stings) and break the piggy bank for some new batteries.

 

~Cheers

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If a battery has a problem of sulfate coatings there is a product by Battery Minder which can help but in this case I really doubt that it will succeed. Charging a battery with low or little electrolyte is usually fatal. Adding acid will not help as the acid is still there from the first time and most cases does nothing for the battery. It is my opinion that you can spend as much time and money as you feel the need, but eventually you will have to buy new ones and replace them.

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I too fear that your batteries may be toast but to give them a fair chance you must properly charge them. 20 minutes of charging by the alternator is not a proper charge. It will take several hours with a quality battery charger to get them fully charged if that is possible. A quality 3 stage charger with equalizer would be best. After they are fully charged using the normal process I would then hit them with an equalize charge of 15.5 volts for upwards of 8 hours. That might bring them back to life, but no guarantees.

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Eddie - Congrats on the MH. I'm thinking the same as the rest

 

I just bought a Motorhome (was a Volvo truck, now a MH) and I added about 1 1/2 gallons to the batteries. Mine were the sealed (sort of, plastic label over the caps) and mine will not hold a charge also. I've put a large desulfater / charger on them and had it going about a month now. (It charges them then goes into desulfate). I know they are toast, but they got us from MI to Texas and they will be replaced this winter.

 

But then, I have backups. 660 ampshours in the trailer, the Honda generator, etc so I rolled a set of really stacked dice with 4 fall back plans.

 

The other thing, I really doubt that it was your week on the converter. But, I would replace it with a PD92xx or other good charger. I've had a set of batteries on mine for 8 years and I don't know how old they were when we got the trailer. They will still hold enough charge for 2 - 3 nights of Wallydocking so they seem to be good.

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I'd also bet money they are toast. Even if you could slightly rehabilitate them you would always be on the "edge" of their ability. Time to replace them, IMO. Start fresh and make SURE you have appropriate charging equipment. If you post your converter model you will get good advice on what to do relative to charging. Also, your solar controller model.

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I guess I agree with the fine gents above that your battery(s) are likely "shot". Sure, if you like you can add electrolyte and charge them and then perhaps de sulfate them by really cooking them at over 15 volts for a long time while keeping an eye on the electrolyte level they may recover to some extent.

 

That being said, if you're going to start all over, for house battery(s) I recommend the use of true deep cycle golf cart batteries instead of so called RV/Marine Batteries which I personally consider to be "Semi Deep Cycle". Then to extend battery life, I strongly recommend use of a quality so called Smart Charger with a minimum of at least three cycles, Bulk, Absorption and Float, and even better if it also has an automatic desulfation cycle. My Progressive Dynamics Intelli Charger has such four stages and Best and Xantrex and many others also manufacture Smart Chargers. These devices are Chargers only mind you. They also make combination DC Distribution Panel and Converter/Charger units (what typically comes from factory) or Upgrades to older units which have the 3 or 4 stage Smart Charger features. My current RV had an older noisy buzzing heat producing combination old technology "non smart" converter charger and DC Distribution Panel and I wanted to upgrade to a modern Smart Charger. Therefore, to save a lot of work and money, I installed my Smart Charger to charge my battery bank, let them feed the existing DC Distribution Panel same as before, and flipping a breaker in the AC breaker box turned my old charger (and its heat and buzzing) off. NOTE my progressive Dynamics 60 amp Smart Intelli Charger was only like $150, they (depends on size) aren't all that expensive and considering the cost of my four batteries ($500) assuming my charger will extend their life, I considered that $150 a good investment.

 

Your money your choice.

 

PS I think Lazy Daze are quality and the absolute best classy looking Class C's out there. I think Born Free are top of the line and while Id love a Born Free or Lazy Daze, I'm just NOT a Ford fan and most all of either of those are on a Ford chassis.

 

John "T" Nordhoff

BSEE, JD Retired

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Thank you all for your replies - and for keeping them simple!

 

I checked today and the batteries held what charge they had yesterday, although the furnace and fridge are off and all that's left are the various alarms and when I used the water pump in winterizing. And it was a heavily overcast day, so the solar wasn't charging much either. Maybe I got lucky! I need to take her out for run in the next week or so, so I think I'll make it a long one and give the batteries a chance to charge up good and proper.

 

Given what I've seen as the cost of a good charger AND the risk that the batteries may be toast anyway, I think putting the cost of the charger into "the thingy that keeps the batteries from over-charging" and possibly new batteries, next year, will be the better way to go. The generator works great, I have shore power if I need it and thanks to the latest polar vortex predictions, I don't think I'll be needing top-notch batteries any time soon :(

 

And John "T" - it was thanks to this forum that I held out for a Lazy Dazy - when I saw her it was love at first sight and despite the few problems I've had, it's been one of the best decisions I've ever made. One of my first camping trips the temp got down to 19 and even though I didn't do any of the things recommended for cold weather camping, I was still comfortable. A pleasure to drive, relatively easy on the gas and hey - she's red, not teal, blue or green!

 

Thanks again!

 

Pat

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You know.... a week on a charger shouldn't have ruined those batteries. I wonder if you might not have something ON that wasn't ON when you had the system running earlier and it all worked. If the solar panels are not even charging the battery bank when they were before that seems to me to be a clue. Often crapped out (that's a technical term, there) batteries will charge but not hold a charge (discharge quickly).

 

If you have two batteries perhaps one of them is faulty. You should check that.

 

A good way to monitor actual power usage (like the Bogart Engineering TriMetric unit) is pretty handy; especially if you ever plan to boondock.

 

But if something is actually drawing power from the battery bank that wasn't before that would certainly fit your symptoms.

 

Good luck. Great motor homes!

 

WDR

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Couple of things:

 

1) If you put that much water into two batteries, I would very highly recommend that you have the charging system checked to make sure that it isn't just simply boiling the batteries continuously. That's an awful lot of water to put into two batteries.

 

2) Adding new acid to an already depleted battery isn't going to help at all. The lead plates are already fully saturated (from the lack of water), and trying to charge them with fresh acid will leave no place for the sulfates in the plates to go.

 

3) Consider investing in a decent charging system with a desulfating system built in. It works by sending a very short pulse of significantly higher voltage to 'jolt' the battery plates a little and keep the battery plates from hardening.

 

Russ

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  • 3 months later...

Well, now that spring is on it's way - or so I have been informed - I'm looking to get things ready for full-timing. So I started calling about having a smart charger installed, and was informed by the first placethat all motorhome chargers were "smart chargers" and stopped charging when the batteries were topped up. Then I got a quote for about $500 a second place to install a "smart" charger, no mention of not needing one.

 

So could it be the batteries were low on water to start with and the system is working just fine now that they've been properly serviced?

 

And if I'm actually in the motorhome and using power - lights, TV, charging the phone and using the computer - will that be enough to keep the electrical stuff working properly without investing nearly $500 on a different charger?

 

Could there be a fault with the existing charger that would cause it to continuously charge, so I need a new one anyway?

 

Incidentally, after several little road trips this winter to keep things moving (as recommended by my brake/tire guy) and several bright and sunny days, the batteries are back to holding a full charge - YAY!

 

Many thanks!

 

Pat

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I didn't read back up the topic but... You really need to know what converter you have, get the name and model of your charger and Google up the owner's manual, post the info here and see what others think of it too.

 

You need to get a clear idea of what your system is doing now, a decent $25 multimeter with readings to 1/100th of a volt 0.00 is going to be your best bet and will find many other uses over the years as long as you don't let the battery rot in it and eat the electronics.

 

Depending on what converter you have it may just be junk, it may be broken or it may be fine, the brand and voltage readings will give you the answer. Better to find out now than after you have to buy another set of batteries, learned that one the hard way.

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A Progressive Dynamics smart charger should cost you about $200 (depending upon the amperage it can deliver) with the pendant. It's a cinch to replace... wires from the batteries plug in and a ground wire then plug the AC in. Everything from the old charger/converter should work on the new one. My old unit was from 1993 and I replaced it in 2012 with a PD unit that just went right into place. (Actually, the DW did the install because I would not fit on the Joey-Bed she had to lay on; but I could push it in and pull it out with her on it. And she can follow instructions. :)

 

So $500 is a bit much.

 

What Stanley said about the charger you have now. Or look it up on line in the specs for the coach. Even though you have a Lazy Daze coach, which in my opinion is pretty much a top-of-the-line Class C, a 2000 model might have a multi-stage charger/converter but it would not shock me if it's just a 50-Amp regular charger.

 

WDR

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Over the years I've read many home-brew stuff for reviving dead batteries, some sound downright dangerous, some silly, some do work in the short-term.

 

I think the most "out-there" method I've read about is boiling the battery_actually boiling it in a metal tub full of water. The guy said he pours out all the acid mixture into a plastic container, puts the battery in the metal tub, fills it with water until the battery is completely submerged, then brings the water to a boil for several hours. This is supposed to boil all sediment, flakes that fell off the plates, etc out of the cells. He pours out the water then pours the acid mixture back into the cells and charges the battey. I put that in my dangerous-silly file.

 

My opinion is, once the owner has allowed a battery to charge when the liquid level is below the plates they warp from the heat, usually resulting in a short. Resultig in, it makes better sense to just replace the battery.

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Thank you for the additional info. I did look through the pile of paper that came with the unit, but couldn't find anything specific on the charger - I will have another look. It's been in the single digits here, so I haven't been inclined to be poking around in the motorhome - the manual isn't great on telling me where to look for this stuff.

 

I have been toying with the thought of installing it myself, but electrics are a mystery to me, so I thought I might go to an expert....

 

And I don't want to spend any more money than I have to - and that includes a new set of batteries!

 

Thanks again

 

Pat

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I was looking for "charger" I guess it should be "converter"? Anyway, according to the manual, it's a Magnetek 6345Q. I found a manual online for 6300 series, but the info on how it charges refers to a "C" and not to a "Q", if I'm reading it right. There was some useful info on battery maintenance which explains a lot, and explains why my exSO replaces batteries on a regular basis...

 

I also found a reference to an upgrade kit and a website called Best Converter - any thoughts on this as a possible solution?

 

Pat

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I replaced the converter on my TT with a Progressive Dynamics kit that included a charge wizard. The charge wizard is a 4 stage smart charger and very effective. I found the instructions and the actual install to be so simple a child could probably do it. No need to pay someone else.

The kit is designed to fit in your existing cabinet where you find your breakers.

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Magnetek has a very poor reputation, we had one many years ago and it ruined several batteries. We did an upgrade similar to what you found and while it quit destroying the batteries it was pretty pitiful and a bit noisy.

 

This upgrade has a charge wizard and good reviews, a very nice step up from what we got.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Progressive-Dynamics-PD4655V-Converter-Built-In/dp/B002OR4242/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

 

Looks easy enough to install, if you can't see doing it they should charge you about an hour (around $100) at shop rates to put it in.

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We had a Magnetek 6300 series and while it did the job (more or less) in our first motorhome I paid extra to get a better one when we bought to go on the road. Not only are those getting older, they were not great back in 2000 and are way behind the state of the art today. If you keep this RV for long I believe it will be well worth your time & money to upgrade.

 

Another possible replacement that I like is the PD9260CV

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Last week at the Florida Flywheelers an exhibitor had some Edison batteries plus he had one of the very first batteries made which consisted of a couple lead plates inside a glass jar. When the battery was purchased it was charged/activated simply by adding acid. They didn't have "battery chargers" at the time so when the charge was depleted and the acid reduced mainly to water, you drained the water and added fresh acid all over again. He also had an AO Smith (making hot water heaters now) Wheel Motor the design of which was sold to BOSCO (if I recall) which is now the Briggs and Stratton Company. Flooded Lead Acid battery technology is in many ways the same as the batteries he had on display but fortunately we have chargers today so we don't have to add acid each time.

 

John T

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