30 Nov-1Dec 2014; A restful Sunday with A Packer win and all things Batteries!

Well, Sunday was a great day.  We went to church with Jason and Meghan’s family, and got a call from the lady that turned us onto the Helps Ministry asking for photo’s of the ramp project.  We are thinking of ways that we can help that family more as we head into the Christmas Season.  The day was capped off by an awesome GREEN BAY PACKER win against the Pat’s and the Brady Bunch…Welcome to Mr. Rodger’s Neighborhood Mr. Brady!  I know my Miami Fish friends are happy with the win.

Peyton showed up early on Monday morning, and Terri got her fed and ready for school, and off to school too for that matter.  I had battery maintenance issues on the mind!

Tech Tip:  In fact, this whole blog post for the most part will be a tech tip, right or wrong.  I always set an alarm on my calendar for the first of each month for the various maintenance issues that need to be done.  If you are parked for a while, as we currently are, there are several systems that need to be checked and/or exercised on a monthly basis.  First off, the generator should be run for at least two hours under load to make sure that it is not only operating correctly, but to keep moisture from building up inside and allowing the system to operate as  it should.  I actually ran the Gen Set last week as most people were out of the Fam Camp…be a good neighbor (is that Mr. Rodger’s too??)

The next thing you should do  is run the engine to operating temperature so everything gets lubricated and this will also allow you to check your fluid levels at temperature.  I did this after I’d conducted the battery maintenance, as I had to remove all power from the coach and chassis to do the battery maintenance.  When you do this, it resets everything…the auto leveling system, convection oven, back-up camera…namely everything that has some electric response will need to be re-booted after you remove all power, and some of it only comes back after you’ve restored the power to the coach, chassis, inverter, and AC/DC circuits.  I’ll talk a bit about this more later, but after running the engine to temp, everything checked out correctly fluid wise as far as engine components go.

On to the batteries!  On the first of each month, I usually only check the fluid levels in each cell and top them off if needed.  This day however, I needed to do some serious cleaning and replace some parts as was indicated in my previous post.  This was quite an undertaking considering there are 9 batteries in this coach…6 for the coach and 3 for the chassis.  I will recap most of what I did in the photos below:

You will recall that the battery terminals were several corroded and rusted as indicated in my last post.  I removed the first two banks of batteries (the coach batteries first).  Before I did this, I turned off the inverters, disconnected from AC power, and turned off the coach and chassis switches in the engine bay.  At this ponint there was no draw or charging going to the batteries, so the only thing you have to worry about is correctly disconnecting and not arcing the leads or terminals.

You will recall that the battery terminals were severely corroded and rusted as indicated in my last post. I removed the first two banks of batteries (the coach batteries first). Before I did this, I turned off the inverters, disconnected from AC power, and turned off the coach and chassis switches in the engine bay. At this point there was no draw or charging going to the batteries, so the only thing you have to worry about is correctly disconnecting and not allowing the leads or terminals to “arc.”

You can see all the corrosion residue in the battery tray.  Even though I had used a baking soda mix last month to remove corrosion from the terminals, much more had reappeared, and the photo I showed in the last post clearly indicated the corrosion had gotten ahead of me and eaten though most of the bolts that keep the connection secure to the posts.  Make sure you have plenty of clean air, wear safety glasses and wear gloves to keep the battery acid off of your skin…unless you want to star in your own safety video.  Hey, you guys out there know who you are…stop laughing.

These babies are heavy!  These are the coach batteries removed.

These babies are heavy! These are the coach batteries removed.

Make sure you keep track of your positive and negative wiring.  One good post I read said to use old bicycle inner tubes to cover the leads to prevent them from touching each other, and to label them.  This is a good idea, but I don’t think the family next to me would have appreciated me tearing their bike tires apart to use the inner tubes!  The best way, as far as I know to disconnect is to remove the negative terminals first, starting away from the main power source forward, then remove the positive terminals away from the source back.  The hook up is reversed.  Positive from the source back, and then negative forward.

Here is a good shot of one of the old terminals.  Note the corrosion in the gap.  Most of the one's that I removes had corroded so much that there was only a pin width part of the tightening bolt left!

Here is a good shot of one of the old terminals. Note the corrosion in the gap. Most of the one’s that I removed had corroded so much that there was only a pin width part of the tightening bolt left!  This situation could very well lead to the terminal separating while traveling, which is a bad thing!

Having removed both a positive and a negative terminal, it was time to go to the parts store to get new terminals…no problem, right??

Side Bar:  Why not just replace the corroded bolts?  Well, I tried this.  I tried to punch them out, drill them out, you name it!  None of that worked.  It would have been a much cheaper solution however.  Now I have 6 very fine “sinkers” for fishing should I ever need them!  Seriously though, any of these will still work in a pinch, and I have them in my spare parts bin.  

This part, believe it or not, is what took up most of the day.  It took me over 2 hours to find the right parts.  The people here in Sumter, SC are extremely nice and helpful.  But I was not a real happy camper after going to three auto parts stores and two hardware stores and not finding what I needed.  Every one of the places had suggestions, and I kept leap-frogging to the next location that was recommended.  I finally ended up at NAPA…would have gone there sooner, but it is the one location that is about the furthest away from where we are at.  I showed the guy behind the counter what I had, and he said, “Oh, those are Military Terminals!”  Well heck, I spent 25 years in the military and didn’t know there was a military terminal other than the ones that you fly out of!  An Air Force issue I guess:)  He was awesome, and said that he thought they would not have them in stock because no one had asked for them in about 4 years…oh, great!  He looked them up in his little  (really big) book and showed me the specs and a picture, and sure enough…an exact match!  He then checked the computer and said, “I really don’t believe this, but the system says we have them in stock.”  He came back from what must have been a bunker somewhere, as it took a while (had to be a bunker, as they were military terminals, right?)  After he blew the dust off of the box, and I coughed a bit, he said “how many do you need?”  I said 6!  He stopped smiling.  He said “sit down!”  I said, “why?”  He said, “trust me.”  He said “they list at $16.85 each!”  Crap!  While sitting down, I then pull out my trusty retired military ID card and asked if they have a military discount…they are after all military terminals, right??  He said, “yea, we have that discount, but let me see what I can do…we have had these here for a long time.”  Well, I’ll tell you folks, this guy was A-One in my book.  He charged me $7.40 for the positive terminals and $7.10 for the negative terminals.  Less than half price!  I also picked up a can of anti-corrosion spray (explained later) and a terminal brush.  He also discounted these to half price!

OK…let’s get something straight, I was not flashing a smile or lifting my pant leg to show him my gorgeous knees or anything like that…he was just that kewl!  IF you are ever in Sumter, SC and need parts, check out the folks at NAPA on Broad Street!  I love Southern Country Folk!!  I won’t go into the great conversation he and the other guys at the store had about Black Friday, Cyber Monday and all that other stuff…it was priceless!  If you ever spend any time in the deep South, expect to spend some time conversing with the folk…it is the right thing to do, and is greatly satisfying…there is more to life than GO GO GO!

Enough of that rant…where was I?  Oh, yea…I finally got back to the coach and had to display the old versus new terminals:

See any difference??

See any difference??

OK…now that we have the correct parts, what is next?  Time to get dirty!  Clean up time.  Here is the nasty battery bay:

All of the batteries are out, and I removed the battery tray.  I needed to clean all of the cable ends again, and all of the support rails.  I will definitely need to do some work here soon, and one of the support braces corroded so bad that it is rusted part way through.

All of the batteries are out, and I removed the battery tray. I needed to clean all of the cable ends again, and all of the support rails. I will definitely need to do some work here soon, as one of the support braces corroded so bad that it is rusted part way through.

So…how do you clean this stuff?  The best thing I have found is to make a paste out of water and baking soda.  Use a good stiff small brush if you have one.  An old tooth-brush works real well…take it from me, DO NOT use your wife’s tooth-brush if you are in a pinch.  It would be much better to use your own.  There are some things on this blog that will pay dividends in the end if you pay attention!!

We buy baking soda in bulk as it is much cheaper, and it has many, many uses.  Just dump a bunch in a dish (that you don't want to use later) and add water until you have a nice paste.  The consistency of , well, somewhere between calf supplement and bag balm would be my best analogy.  You don't know what that is?  OK, just make it so it is not dripping...maybe like molasses.

We buy baking soda in bulk as it is much cheaper, and it has many, many uses. Just dump a bunch in a dish (that you don’t want to use later unless you have ugly teeth) and add water until you have a nice paste. The consistency of , well, somewhere between calf milk supplement and bag balm would be my best analogy. You don’t know what that is? OK, just make it so it is not dripping…maybe like molasses.

After you have this “goop” ready to go, be very “liberal” (sorry, hard for me to use that word:)  More is better in this case.  I brushed and scrubbed and brushed and scrubbed all of the leads, terminals, rails, side walls…you name it.  I then rinsed everything off, and let the sun do its work for a bit, and then dried everything.  It is not real pretty, but looks much better than it did before.  Good thing I brought a lot of old garage towels with me, as many have hit the dumpster of late.  On to the next step.

New terminal brush and anti-corrosion spray.

New terminal brush and anti-corrosion spray.

I used the terminal brush to, obviously clean each terminal, and used the internal brush that is included to clean off each of the cables that attach to the military terminals.  This took a long time as they were quite the mess.  I mentioned in the last post that I would likely use Petroleum Jelly as the anti-corrosive, as we have some , and it is cheaper to use.  After a lot of research last night, I found that using the battery terminal protection spray as shown in the photo above does a much better job.  In fact, most reports indicate that you will only need to re-apply once every 6 months.  I will let you know if this $6.00 purchase was worth it ($6.00 after the 50% discount at the Sumter, SC NAPA store that is.)  But not so fast on the terminal protection!!

Here is my trusty battery "filler" and a jug of distilled water.

Here is my trusty battery “filler” and a jug of distilled water.

I paid about $12 for this thing on-line through Camping World a while back.  It is awesome.  You put the distilled water in it (never use spring or tap water in your batteries!) and the nozzle will stop letting water in when the correct level is achieved for each cell.  You want to make sure you have “electrolyte” at the correct level in each cell, and this thing works like a hot knife going through butter!  I had the luxury this time of seeing the level in each cell, as I had the batteries removed, but in the past, when you have to contort your body just to get the jug in, it is nice to have a “tool” that helps you out.  By the way, Terri marks the distilled water jug as “battery only” to make sure she does not use it for drinking water.  Normally I would keep the water in the bay, but is has been quite cold here, and I don’t want it to freeze and have an issue with a gallon of water all over one of my storage bays.

Fill the jug, and remove the cap from a cell, then push down on the jug...when it stops "gurgling" the cell is appropriately filled.

Fill the jug, and remove the cap from a cell, then push down on the jug…when it stops “gurgling” the cell is appropriately filled.

 

Presto!  Don't look at the around around the terminal post...I have not cleaned it yet.

Presto! Don’t look at the area around the terminal post…I have not cleaned it yet.

OK…not too many more photo’s.  Before I filled the batteries, I actually sprayed down the whole battery bay and cleaned the battery tray and allowed the sun to do its magic to help dry things.  I used one of my old towels to make sure everything was dry before I hefted the 75 pound plus battery banks back into the coach.

Everything back in place and new terminals attached!

Everything back in place and new terminals attached!

Here is a shot after I placed a second coat of the anti-corrosion protections spray on the terminals:

I hope this works well!!

I hope this works well!!

OK…the batteries are all as snug as a bug in a rug…the re-attachment process is the reverse of the “un-attachment” process described above.  You start from the power source and attach all the positive terminals, then work from that point and attach the negative terminals.  There was a bit of “re-adjustment” required to make sure that the terminals were securely on the posts.  After this was complete, I flipped the switches to allow DC power to flow into the coach and turned on the inverter.  I should have made sure Terri was not taking a nap before I did this, as when you reapply power, all of the CO and other alarms go off.  After apologizing and resetting the alarms, I ran the menu on my inverter panel to make sure all of the DC amperage draws were correct, and they were.  I then tested all of the DC systems in the coach, and all was good!

After total power removal, several things need to happen to get back to where you were prior to all of this mess…for example, the air leveling system was disabled, and several other systems were “re-set”.  This meant I had to #1 start the coach and #2 pressurize all systems (air, etc) and #3 re-attach AC power and make sure that all worked fine.

All went well.  After I started the coach, I let her (why do I do that?  Are all engines “her?”) run for a while to get to temp so I could check systems as mentioned previously.  I then ran the auto-leveling system, and all was good.  After a bit, I noted the air system was where it should be, so I re-attached the 50 AMP power.  After the 2.5 minute evaluation period, the systems determined that AC power was good, and I noted that the fridge and the hot water heater transferred from gas to electric once again.

All in all, not a bad experience, although it took all day.  I had really planned to also get my November budget and expenses done today, but that will have to wait for the “morrow.”  I hope that this was informative, or at least partially entertaining for you.  We are having a blast, and guess what?  We get to watch what a chimney sweep actually does tomorrow at Jason’s house.  They had one fire in the fire-place after the weather turned here, and the smell of smoke in the house has been atrocious.  Hopefully this guy know’s what he is doing.

As always, we hope this finds you happy, healthy and enjoying life…we are!!

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