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Battery Maintenance

Before starting be sure to shut off 1) the coach?s 12-volt master switch, 2) the on/off switch located on the Heart Inverter (if you have a Heart) control panel, and 3) the 30 amp circuit breaker switch in the AC control panel that is labeled inverter/converter before removing any battery cables.
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Batteries that are either being used or charged will produce hydrogen and oxygen gasses both are highly explosive, any arching of an electrical wire or battery cable could cause an explosion.  So, make sure all power is off. Also no smoking around batteries or you could go boom too.
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THIS NEXT STEP IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY! If you have a Polaroid camera, a digital camera, a camcorder, a film camera (take photos in advance and have them developed) take several images including close-ups or make a detailed, hand drawn diagram you can understand of where each battery cable or wire is attached and include colors of each wire or cable. Indicate notations of small, medium or large wires to each battery terminal and if necessary attach masking tape several inches from the end of each cable for identification purposes using a similar marking system such as 1-B for the positive post of the first battery, 2-A for the negative post of the second battery and so on for the rest of the batteries. This is a must!!! If incorrect reconnections are made, damage to electronic components will occur. Also there is a real possibility of a fire starting which could destroy your MotorHome. It is not my desire to scare you off but to emphasize you must take care to reconnect each wire as it was originally connected. With a little attention you can do it yourself and save about $150.
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On all wet and gel cell batteries the positive (+) post is always the largest in diameter and the negative (-) is the smallest, which is easy to tell when the two are compared visually. This is true for 6,12, and 24 volt batteries and is a battery industry standard. Most battery manufactures will additionally emboss the top of the battery case with ?POS.? and ?NEG.? or ?+? and ?-? signs next to the posts.
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You will encounter two different types of connectors on battery cable ends: 1) eyelets that are secured to a stud bolt with a standard nut or shoulder nut; or 2)a clamp type terminal with a cinch bolt. It is almost impossible to connect a negative battery cable that uses the cinch bolt to a positive terminal unless you expand the battery cable terminal a great deal. If you try to install a positive battery cable on a negative terminal you should not be able to tighten the battery terminal cinch bolt enough to make a tight connection to the battery post.
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If corrosion currently exists on your batteries it must be removed. The first step in this procedure is to make a solution of baking soda and water (no formula for this but don?t skimp on the baking soda) anything from a paste to a thick liquid will work nicely. Plan on using the whole box of baking soda. As soon as the emulsified baking soda solution makes contact with the corrosion you will witness a vigorous bubbling action.  Don?t worry, you don?t have to head for the hills or call 911, this is what is supposed to happen. Apply the solution liberally to the batteries and scrub well using a firm plastic bristle washing brush (available at automotive stores for less than $2). You may also apply the baking soda directly from the box onto the batteries and terminals, add water and using the brush, scrub the battery top vigorously.  Allow the baking soda solution to remain on the battery and work on the corrosion for about five minutes with additional brushing. Spray the batteries with water to rinse off the soda solution.  Also spray the entire battery compartment (do not forget the side panels) to remove any splashes. Once a brush is used on batteries it should never be used for anything else. The use of rubber gloves is recommended. You may repeat these procedures if necessary two or even three times if there is a large build up of corrosion. The soda cleans, removes and neutralizes the accumulated corrosion that has formed.
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The next step is to remove the battery cables. Clean them and the battery posts and remove all the red and black plastic coatings that where applied at the factory.  This is a slow, tedious process. This can be done best with a battery terminal cleaner if the cinch type terminal was used. They are available at automotive stores for a cost of around $3.50 or you can use a wire brush  (about the size of a toothbrush) available at automotive stores or welding supply shops. Also buy new nuts to reattach the cables back to the studs, the old ones are not worth the time to clean. Spray all tools that you use with WD 40 before and after use, this will inhibit corrosion from forming on them and I would not use your best tools for this project; the cheaper the wrench the better. You should also consider throwing away the wire brush or spraying it with WD 40 and the same goes for the battery terminal cleaner. If you are storing them for future use, place them in a sealed plastic bag to keep them from contacting anything else, the same for the bristle brush. Have I made my point? Battery acid is mean stuff.
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Being a mechanic, I rely on an old fashioned method that I learned in high school auto shop to control and prevent corrosion from forming on battery terminals . Once you have the cables and posts clean and dry, you will want to apply a thin film of either wheel bearing grease or a multi-purpose chassis grease, preferably the non-lithium variety, to the battery cables and posts. Make sure everything gets a good coating of the grease. Why chassis grease? First of all grease is impervious to acid, it forms a good airtight seal and is easily applied preventing new corrosion from forming again and grease is an excellent conductor of electricity. I prefer wheel-bearing grease; it is water resistant and good for future monthly cleaning of batteries sprayed with water. Corrosion forms when acid and air are present. If you can eliminate air, future corrosion will be prevented. Hang on to the grease for additional applications to the battery cables and posts; you shouldn?t have to remove the cables again for a long time.
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The next step is really simple, but is equally important and will insure long battery life. For full-timers this should be completed on a 30-day cycle, for others a maximum of 90 days between would be sufficient. However if you use your RV for 30 days in a row the 30-day rule would apply. FOR HEART INTERFACE INVERTER COACHES: You must remove the four screws that mount inverter control panel.  On the back of the panel you will find a row of 8 dipswitches that are numbered. Flip dipswitch #1 to the open position momentarily (for 1 second) and return it to the off position. This starts the battery equalization process. This dipswitch must always be returned to the off position. If left on it will damage the batteries. It normally takes eight hours to complete the equalization process and should be performed only when attached to 50-amp service. The reason for this is the Heart Inverter has a built-in 100 amp battery charger that requires in the range of 26 amps when charging (equalizing) the batteries. On a 30-amp service that only leaves 4 amps for the rest of your electrical needs and that is just not enough power so it pops the circuit breaker. If for some reason you would want to stop the equalization process simply turn off the 30-amp breaker labeled Inverter/Converter in the AC control panel in the MotorHome, then flip it back on after a few seconds. Refer to your Heart Inverter owner?s manual for the battery equalization process as it presents a very clear explanation of the complete procedure and a more detailed explanation of why this should be attended to regularly.
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If you procrastinate and do not take your RV to a repair facility once a year to have the battery acid corrosion removed or do not follow the preceding recommendations yourself I can guarantee you one of two things will happen. In around two years you are in all likelihood going to be replacing the house and perhaps the chassis batteries as well. Or you are going to try and start the engine and it will not start because the corrosion has prevented a good electrical connection. This could happen at home or while on a trip. A good repair facility will probably complete the job between 1 and 2 hours and I am sure they will not use grease but some other chemical out of an aerosol can that just doesn?t do the job as well as grease does. If you are extremely lucky, get a conscientious and knowledgeable service technician who has been thoroughly trained in battery care, your service will probably be on par. If they have the ?RV wash lad? or the ?lot jock? do the service it will be less than adequate. Of course the end cost to you will be the same. In any event you are wise to do the battery equalization yourself.
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I am amazed that we can send men to the moon and into space but we cannot stop simple battery terminal corrosion, only retard it!

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