Friday, February 16, 2007

Quartzsite - Batteries

I am going to ignore the fact that I just had my 60th birthday. I guess having one is better than not having one, but this one is not sitting well.

Dianna and I are about over the worst of our colds but still have some symptoms. Seems these things take a long time to go away completely. We have not been anywhere other than Quartzsite since our last post.

About a week ago we began noticing that the batteries were not holding a charge as well as they did earlier. Since we have eight fairly large deep cycle batteries, we should be able to go for at least two days without any charging and have all we need for daily living. By Tuesday the batteries were down to the recharge point after only one day. I exchanged some ideas with other boondocking full timers on an online forum I regularly read and participate in. Several people thought we might have one or more bad battery and others had other suggestions.

To really determine the condition of the battery I use a hydrometer. It is a device like a glass turkey baster that has a sealed glass tube floating inside it. You suck battery acid into the hydrometer and watch what level the tube inside floats to. That tells you the specific gravity of the battery acid. Even though the battery is charged to the proper voltage, it will not hold a good charge if sulphation exists on the battery plates. The specific gravity of the battery acid is an indication of how much sulphation exists.

Yesterday I finally decided on a course of action to get to the bottom of the issue. I decided to remove four of the batteries and run an equalization cycle on the remaining four. Normal battery charging applies current until the voltage reaches about 14.4 volts and holds it there for three or so hours. Equalization is a process of raising the charging voltage to about 16 volts and holding it there for about eight hours. That creates a lot of hydrogen gas bubbles and causes the battery plates to shed the sulphates that have attached to them. It also tends to stir the battery acid and make the batteries quite warm. I started by charging the batteries as much as they would accept normally, then began an equalization cycle using the solar charger. When the sun got low in the sky I fired up the generator and continued equalizing with the built in battery charger. By the time I turned off the generator at 9 PM last night the batteries were showing a very significant improvement. Those four batteries worked very well and held a good charge for the rest of the night. Today I repeated the same process on the other four batteries.

Before I began the equalization process, the battery chargers stopped charging when the voltage got to the proper level, but the hydrometer said they were not charged. After the equalization, the hydrometer reads correctly, the batteries hold a charge, and we are happy campers!

See the things you learn when you read our blog?

Lest anyone think we just lay around all day, I though I would share my list of chores today. In addition to installing, removing, reinstalling and hauling around eight heavy batteries all day, I had to pump our grey water into the portable tank on the truck, take it to the dump station to dump, get out the fresh water tank, fill it with water and pump it into the RV. Then I had to remove the empty propane tank from the RV, take it to town to be filled, stop at the gas station and get five gallons of gas in a portable jerry can for the generator, remount the 75 pound propane tank in the RV, and then pour the gasoline into the tank on the RV. Do you know how many times I climbed into and out of the truck, and up and down the steps to the the deck? Then, using the scooter this time so it wasn't really work, I had to make a trip into town to get drinking water (the water from the tap here is horrible) and pick up our mail. I read somewhere that RV'ers are more healthy and typically live longer than the general population. I think all the exercise one gets living this lifestyle is the most likely reason! Now, if I would just lose some weight.....


  1. I'm pretty sure everyone in the Donner party would have felt sorry for you. ;)

  2. Will there be a quiz following this science lesson?
    Very informative! (I'm not sure how useful it is to me, but it was informative... I'll say that much!)

    At least you're posting, which is more than I can say for some of us!

  3. Sounds like brain surgery to me, or at least back surgery.

  4. Happy Belated Birthday! You are young! At least as young as you feel. Be careful with all of the lifting you do or you might have to retire from retirement!

  5. So is this something you are going to have to do with the batteries every couple of weeks?

    And BTW, happy 60th. Mom reminded me of it after the fact, or I would have ribbed you on the day itself. I'm not looking forward to that one either. 50 was pretty weird, but 60 sounds like you're actually getting close to middle-aged...

  6. Yes, the batteries will need an equalization every month or so when they are being used heavily. Probably not often when we are plugged in.