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Old 10-23-2009, 07:09 PM   #1
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thesteigers
Battery Maintenance Questions...

Well having been on the road now for 8 months I finally decided that I
should dig into what I needed to do to keep the battery on the Sunline
in good shape.

As with quite a few things I may be doing some of this research too
late and may cost myself some additional money in the process. I
don't remember the exact model of battery in the trailer and am away
from it right now so I can't take a look. From the reading I have
done it seems that for a liquid bath lead acid batter like mine the
two major things to keep track of are water level in the cells and
electrolyte concentration, so I took a shot at that yesterday and am
looking for some help on what I found.

I pulled the battery off the rig when it was showing fully charged and
pulled the covers off of the cells to check the water level and the specific gravity of the cells.

I could not see fill lines in the cells for the water level, but it seems like half of the cells need water compared to the others. What is the right method to determine how much water to put into the cells. I know this need to be distilled water, but are there any other considerations?

I checked the specific graivty of the cells with a hydrometer. Unfortunately I was not able to find a temperature compensating one, but I figured better something than nothing. Half of the cells came up at full charge and half of them came up at 3/4 charge. This is the one that I am most interested in how to fix. Will topping up the cells and then putting a good charge on the battery equalize the electrolyte level or does this just mean that these cells are never doing to get back to full charge?

Another question I have is about the charging on the DC converter in a trailer. We have the stock converter for a 2005 2199 Sunline. I am pretty sure this is a standard float charge system that always puts 13.6 volts on the battery when it is plugged into shore power or alternater. I have read that this can boil off the water in the battery when it is fully charged and that a 3 stage charger that keeps charge topped off with a trickle charge after bulk charging when the battery is low. My question is how big a deal is this, and how much will it affect battery life. I understand if there isn't any hard information on this, but figured I would ask if there was.

The final question that I have which seems kind of lame has to do with the display on the panel read out in the trailer for the battery level. The tank levels are E, 1/3, 2/3 and Full. The battery however has L, F, G, C and I am wondering
what that means.

As always help is appreciated.

--Tom
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Old 10-23-2009, 08:51 PM   #2
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We are aalso extended trip RVers, traveling 7 minths a year.

I check my batteries water level at least every two months and probably monthly. I have never seen them below the tops of the plates and generally the water loss is relatively even from cell to cell.

I refill them to the bottom of the holes in the top. I use a turkey baster to add distilled water, available at Walmarts in gallon bottles.

I have a three stagel converter that raises the charge voltage to 14.1 volts on occasion. This extends the life of the battery. My motorhome batteries are going into year 13.

I have never used a hydrometer because the electrolite level should be relatively constant when kept topped with water. The only place the electolite can go is onto the battery plates. A purpose of the converter and it's 14.1 volt output is to prevent sulphur build up on the plates. (Sulphur build up is the only way for the concentration to change if you keep the water topped.)

For some older 3 stage converters you can be a charge wizard that plus into a front connector that automatically provides 3 stage charging.

Hope this helps, though I;m not a battery wizards, simply keeping them charged, and using a multi level charger seems to make them last a long time.
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Old 10-28-2009, 09:56 PM   #3
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Hi Tom

Sorry for the late response. See if this helps any.


Quote:
Originally Posted by thesteigers
Well having been on the road now for 8 months I finally decided that I
should dig into what I needed to do to keep the battery on the Sunline
in good shape.
Good for you. It does take some reading and learning how to get the most out of your deep cycle batteries. The battery can easily get forgotten.

Quote:
Originally Posted by thesteigers

From the reading I have done it seems that for a liquid bath lead acid batter like mine the two major things to keep track of are water level in the cells and electrolyte concentration, so I took a shot at that yesterday and am looking for some help on what I found.

I pulled the battery off the rig when it was showing fully charged and
pulled the covers off of the cells to check the water level and the specific gravity of the cells.

I could not see fill lines in the cells for the water level, but it seems like half of the cells need water compared to the others. What is the right method to determine how much water to put into the cells. I know this need to be distilled water, but are there any other considerations?
I do not have a pic of the fill level indicator but I will explain it. It is not unusual to have cell low in relation to the others if you have not checked in a long time.

Look down the open watering hole in the top of the battery. On many brands you see sort of a split circle opening with a slot coming up towards the top in the split area. You fill to the split circle level and that leaves about 1” or so air space above the electrolyte line. Some may not have the split or slot but have a lower circle lip about that 1” or so down. That is the full line still. It is easier to see in there to the split circle. It helps break up the still water pattern.

Quote:
Originally Posted by thesteigers

I checked the specific graivty of the cells with a hydrometer. Unfortunately I was not able to find a temperature compensating one, but I figured better something than nothing. Half of the cells came up at full charge and half of them came up at 3/4 charge. This is the one that I am most interested in how to fix. Will topping up the cells and then putting a good charge on the battery equalize the electrolyte level or does this just mean that these cells are never doing to get back to full charge?
Top the battery off to the full level with the distilled water and give the battery a good full charge. It should then equalize out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by thesteigers

Another question I have is about the charging on the DC converter in a trailer. We have the stock converter for a 2005 2199 Sunline. I am pretty sure this is a standard float charge system that always puts 13.6 volts on the battery when it is plugged into shore power or alternater. I have read that this can boil off the water in the battery when it is fully charged and that a 3 stage charger that keeps charge topped off with a trickle charge after bulk charging when the battery is low. My question is how big a deal is this, and how much will it affect battery life. I understand if there isn't any hard information on this, but figured I would ask if there was.
Well a few things. In 2005, Sunline used American Enterprizes converters. Is yours a CS6000XL?

Next thing, you said “I am pretty sure this is a standard float charge system that always puts 13.6 volts on the battery when it is plugged into shore power” Well not so if it is the CS6000XL. It has both a float 13.2 volt mode and a 13.6 normal charge mode. 13.2 volts is float.

YES 13.6 volts will boil off your battery if that is what it is doing ALL the time. The float needs to drop to 13.2 and the current needs to drop way down to almost nothing once you reach 100% state of charge. A digital volt meter will confirm what is going on. Even a cheapy one from Harbor Freight

The CS6000XL in 2005 did not have 3 stage charging, to my knowledge. It went to 3 stage in 2008.

You are missing 1 piece of battery maintenance. Desulfation. This is big part of battery maintenance that is many times get's overlooked as most do not know about until you start reading up on good battery maintenance. There are a few ways to desulfate but the newest technology is to use pulsed waves in the 14.4 volts range. It breaks up the sulfate crystals that form from normal battery use that over time break down the plates. The pulse technologies claim to fame is it converts the sulfate back into electrolyte. The older tech desulfaters worked good but they only boosted the voltage to 14.4 and broke off the crystals where they settle to the bottom of the battery.

I use this brand. There are 2 others on the market, who created the pulse wave technology, do not know.

http://www.batteryminders.com/batter...o-p-16134.html The model 112117 1.33 amp output.

I plug mine in every time I come home from camping. It keeps the battery under constant true float voltage and current and once at 100% SOC goes into desulfate mode. If you search the web you can find them in the $42 range. I have 4 of them… In the winter they go on the tractors, TT’s and the truck if it site in the garage for weeks on end.

That site also has more info on desulfation under the FAQ's section

Quote:
Originally Posted by thesteigers


The final question that I have which seems kind of lame has to do with the display on the panel read out in the trailer for the battery level. The tank levels are E, 1/3, 2/3 and Full. The battery however has L, F, G, C and I am wondering
what that means.

As always help is appreciated.

--Tom
I actually found out last week what the battery L,F,G and C are for. And now I know I will never trust them for me in determining battery state of charge when I boondock.

http://www.kibenterprises.com/faq.html It says

What do C, G, F, and L stand for?
C is for Charge, G is for Good, F is for Fair and L is for Low battery condition

Now what volts does C,G, F and L stand for?

See here: page 7 http://www.kibenterprises.com/troubleshoot/m_panel.pdf

MPANEL BATTERY READ OUT
CHARGE 12.70 TO 12.85
GOOD 12.10 TO 12.15
FAIR 11.60 TO 11.65
LOW 6.00 TO ALL

VALUES IN D.C. VOLTS ± 5%

When I boondock I’m already recharging when I hit 50% SOC. To this panel that is still in the Good range.

Hope this helps

John


PS How is the WD hitch working? I see you got the truck engine back in. What an ordeal....
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Old 11-04-2009, 03:44 PM   #4
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SUN #637
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Well I topped up the water levels in all of the cells and since we were actually in an RV park for a bit I let it get good and charged for a couple of days.

How after two days of boondocking (driving between nights so the battery was topped of by the alternator) the battery is still not holding charge. I would guess that either it needs to be equalized or that there is enough sulfate build up that it is not going to be up to snuff. Its still functional, but with minimal water pump use, and no lights and just the fridge controls and LP detector on over night the voltage dropped down to 12.3 volts and reads Good on the oh so accurate battery panel .

We have a longer stop over in December at a place where I can dig into the TT and will probably look at putting a Battery Minder, new battery and at least one solar panel on the trailer at that point. Need to get some weights first to make sure I have the space or if I am going to have to jettison something to fit that stuff.

John asked about the converter in our sunny. Its a WF-8955AN from World Friendship Company. From what I can tell it does not have a 3 stage charger, but does drop down to a lower charging voltage once the battery is full. I'm pretty sure it goes from 13.6 to 13.3 when charging vs. maintaining the battery. Seems like with one of the BatteryMinder setups in series with this it would handle the three stage piece just fine although I need to do some more research to make sure how the converter, solar charge regulator and the battery minder would all interact both on and off shore power.

I did have one question out of the follow up. What does SOC stand for? Also it seems like there are specific voltages that indicate a level of battery depletion, for instance 10 V is fully discharge and that counts as a "deep discharge" cycle. Can anybody add some clarity to those?

Thanks again for all the help and advice.

--Tom

PS - John B - you asked about the hitch. Its working great, I think I may need to move one more tooth back to put just a bit more weight into the front axle, but I haven't been someplace that I could tear the hitch down and re-torque it easily and the ride if fine so far. I will likely do some tuning on that in December also. I will follow up with a post of the wear I am seeing on the DCs to make sure it is not abnormal.
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Old 11-04-2009, 04:12 PM   #5
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Hi Tom & Jesse - I can only answer one of your questions and that is "what is SOC" - it means Sunline Owners Club......and if you see SOB - it really means some other brand!!!
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Old 11-04-2009, 05:09 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Poppy & Nana
Hi Tom & Jesse - I can only answer one of your questions and that is "what is SOC" - it means Sunline Owners Club......and if you see SOB - it really means some other brand!!!
H'mm... or in the case of batteries, SOC = State Of Charge One to many internet short cuts....

It never dawned on me about SOC (Sunline Owners Club) and SOC (State of Charge ) conflicting.

Tom, I'll be back on the "battery" SOC. I'll hunt you up a few web links and post back.

John
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Old 11-04-2009, 09:37 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thesteigers
Well I topped up the water levels in all of the cells and since we were actually in an RV park for a bit I let it get good and charged for a couple of days.

How after two days of boondocking (driving between nights so the battery was topped of by the alternator) the battery is still not holding charge. I would guess that either it needs to be equalized or that there is enough sulfate build up that it is not going to be up to snuff. Its still functional, but with minimal water pump use, and no lights and just the fridge controls and LP detector on over night the voltage dropped down to 12.3 volts and reads Good on the oh so accurate battery panel .
H’mm, well…. Let me ask. You said, the battery was charging for a couple of days in the RV park. Well if it was days, like 48 hour one would think it would at least me up in the 90% + area SOC.

Then you said you boondocked for 2 days and drove between each night. You said it was topped off by the truck charging system. Did you actually check the voltage (and how long did you wait when checking it) or did you assume that driving for hours would top it off? If the battery was drained, the truck will not bring it back up much. The TT battery is a long ways away, small no 12 wire, and the truck will sense it’s battery more so then the TT. And as such the truck will not kick into a high rate of charge.

So using the truck to bring up a fairly depleted battery does not always work. OK confirm I guessed right and how long was the drive? Even a 6 hour drive will not put a lot of charge back in a battery off the truck.

Quote:
Originally Posted by thesteigers
John asked about the converter in our sunny. Its a WF-8955AN from World Friendship Company. From what I can tell it does not have a 3 stage charger, but does drop down to a lower charging voltage once the battery is full. I'm pretty sure it goes from 13.6 to 13.3 when charging vs. maintaining the battery. Seems like with one of the BatteryMinder setups in series with this it would handle the three stage piece just fine although I need to do some more research to make sure how the converter, solar charge regulator and the battery minder would all interact both on and off shore power.
On my Battery Minder Plus, I turn off the disconnect switch on the header to unhook the TT when I use it. I do not power up the converter and the battery minder at the same time. I’m not sure there is an issue but I do not want to chance a back feed and mess up one of them. The VDC Battery Minder Plus comes with a bolt on pig tail to the battery with a fuse in it. That pigtail has a plug on it that I just unplug it and do not have to fiddle with the battery case.

Quote:
Originally Posted by thesteigers
I did have one question out of the follow up. What does SOC stand for? Also it seems like there are specific voltages that indicate a level of battery depletion, for instance 10 V is fully discharge and that counts as a "deep discharge" cycle. Can anybody add some clarity to those?.
SOC voltage readings need to be understood when you are taking them. If you just charged the battery, there is a so called high level float charge left in it that may read 13 some volts which is not a good indication of SOC of a unhooked battery.

See these sites, they may help
http://www.batteryuniversity.com/partone-13.htm There is an “open” battery charge there.

http://www.ccis.com/home/mnemeth/12volt/12volt.htm This one has 2 charts. An “open” battery chart voltage and a volt reading when the battery is "under load". The only down side to that chart is the battery under load part, is it does not declare what the load is?? 0.3 amps of the overhead of the system or many amps of a furnace running?

And this one http://www.batteryfaq.org/ There is a FAQ section on there too which is pretty good.

When I boondock, I’m using the TT. I do not really have the luxury of an “open” battery not hooked to anything that has been sitting for 8 hours. So I can’t exactly use the open chart. Even if I use nothing in the camper, there is still the LP detector and the fridge PC board up. Frank and I did some measuring at the ADK M & G this year. Both our TT’s have a 0.3 amps overhead coming out of the battery. Again in my case the fridge was on and the LP detector.

However I can read 12.55 to 12.65 volts after hours of settling. Over night and into the day, when I get to less then 12.2 volts (in the 50% SOC range) area I hook up the Genny and my converter kicks into Boost mode, 14.4 volts and after enough time, it will drop to 13.65 volts. I’m at about ~ 90 to 92% ish SOC charge then. Boondocking on a genny will not take me back to 100% SOC in the allowed time I have to run the genny. That last 8 to 10% takes one really long time.

For longevity of the battery, I try to only drain down into the ~ 50% SOC area, 12.24 volts “open” or ~ 12.1to 12. 2ish with a very light load, like the fridge and LP detector. This technically might be 55ish % but it is a target to shoot to. Trying to nail it right on 50% is not easy so I try and stay on the higher side.

Hope this helps.

John

PS. I myself am still in the SOC/recharge learning mode as well. I do not have years of deep cycle battery charging under my belt, but have researched this and what I found out about has come true on a low level of boondocking that I do. As time goes on, I'll get more data to report back. And once I get an amp meter in my battery line. If anyone else is a battery charge wizard, please jump in here.
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Old 11-05-2009, 09:52 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thesteigers
John asked about the converter in our sunny. Its a WF-8955AN from World Friendship Company. From what I can tell it does not have a 3 stage charger, but does drop down to a lower charging voltage once the battery is full. I'm pretty sure it goes from 13.6 to 13.3 when charging vs. maintaining the battery.
Your 8955 is indeed a 3 stage charger, however, it does not include a desulfate mode. Here's a little snip from the 8955 manual:

Quote:
Originally Posted by The WFCO Manual
Converter Operation Modes

All WFCO power converters are automatic three-stage switching
power supplies. The converter senses which mode it needs to be in by
checking the RV system voltage.

The three modes/stages of operation include:
Absorption mode/Normal operation - Nominal battery charge and supplies power to appliances
Bulk mode/Charge mode - Fast battery charge and supplies power to appliances
Float mode/Trickle charge - Trickle battery charge during storage

Absorption Mode: During this mode, the converter output is in the
13.6 Vdc range. This is the normal operation mode. This mode
provides the 12 Vdc and current required by the 12 Vdc RV appliances,
as well as slow charging the battery.

Bulk Mode: When the converter senses that the RV system voltage is
less than 13.2 Vdc (equivalent to less than 50% of battery charge) the
converter will automatically go into the “Bulk mode.” In this mode, the
output voltage of the converter will switch to 14.4 Vdc for a maximum
of four hours. If the converter cycles between “Absorption and Bulk
mode,” there could be a shorted battery cell or other issues.
If the output voltage drops below 13.2 Vdc, the converter automatically
changes to a “Bulk mode” 14.4 Vdc (unless the converter is in overload
condition). There are two signs of an overloaded converter:
Low output voltage, and full converter fold back or shutdown. In both
cases, the converter will automatically turn ON, once the complete load
is removed. For low output condition, removing the extra (over the
current rating) load will be sufficient. If it is impractical to remove all
the load, resetting the main breaker will have the same effect.

Float Mode: If the RV is not being used for approximately 48 hours,
with a “no load” condition and the shore power is plugged in, the
converter will automatically go in to the “Float mode.” In this mode,
the converter is charging the battery with a trickle voltage of 13.2 Vdc.
When the converter senses a demand (by turning on lights), the
converter automatically returns to the “Absorption mode” 13.6 Vdc.
The entire manual is available here: http://www.wfcoelectronics.com/docum...%20English.pdf

I agree with John, if you are going to use a battery minder type device, it should be done with the battery isolated from the coach. Either by physically disconnecting a cable, or through a disconnect switch like John uses.

Another option (which I am very seriously considering myself) is to swap the converter to a unit which has a desulfate mode built in. Some of the units from Progressive Dynamics are 4 stage units where one of the stages (or "modes") is desulfate. I believe the 4 stage units are the ones that state they incorporate the "Charge Wizard." Another benefit to the Progressive Dynamics units is the ability to command the mode you want via the add-on Pendant. This can be valuable when boondocking and needing to recharge off the genset.

If you are seriously considering a Solar setup, then you may want to do some more research before purchasing anything new. There are some other converter/charger options out there, some of which may be better suited for integration into a solar setup.

I would really love to go solar, however, I'm not sure that our camping style would work with solar. We like heavily wooded sites, and is shade is exactly what you dont want for solar.

- Frank
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Old 11-05-2009, 12:45 PM   #9
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Cool Site

The following site is rather interesting, a different approach to steam engines that could be used to drive a generator. I've considered building one from his kit. At the very minimum it will delight the kid still within each of us.

http://www.greensteamengine.com/
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