By Dustin Simpson, California RV Specialists
Properly maintained deep-cycle batteries should last for six years or more. Unfortunately, some RV owners replace RV batteries every year or two. Extending battery life is not difficult—it just requires some basic care and maintenance.
This RV battery caught on fire. To prevent this from happening to you, follow these steps.
Cleaning your batteries and connectors
- Inspecting batteries for cleanliness at regular intervals will keep terminals and connectors free of corrosion.
- Prior to cleaning, check that all vent caps are secured properly on the battery.
- Clean the top of the battery, terminals and connections with a cloth or brush and a sodium bicarbonate solution (1 cup of baking soda to 1 gallon of water (150g/1L)).
- Do not allow the cleaning solution to get inside the battery.
- Rinse with water and dry with a clean cloth.
- Keep the area around batteries clean and dry.
- After connections are clean and dry, reconnect the cables and/or hardware.
- Apply a spray protector or equivalent to the terminals for added protection from the elements.
- Batteries should be kept clean and free of dirt and corrosion at all times.
- Batteries should always be watered after charging unless plates are exposed before charging.
- If exposed, plates should be covered by approximately 1/8″ of electrolyte (add distilled water only). Check electrolyte level after charge.
- Make sure to cycle your batteries. I’ve even had owners rotate the batteries every 4-6 months for charging reasons.
Hope this info helps to serve as a reminder. We want to draw attention to checking them more often. Be safe out there and make sure to check your owner’s manual and your battery’s manufacturer for additional information and help.
This article shows just a few of the reasons why lead acid batteries should be replaced by LiFePO4 Lithium batteries. Lead acid is an outdated, dangerous technology.
How the HECK does terminal shorting to Ground become safer w/ LifePO4?
Two years ago I bought a battery maintainer for my golf cart. 6-8 volt in series. 48 volts. Put cart away for summer( we are at an rv resort in Az.) Came back late fall to 6 boiled out batteries. I called company that made charger. They said, if any, even one cell is bad the maintainer will attempt to bring battery to full charge. It couldn’t so it just kept cranking away and ruined $1000 of batterys. Never again will I use a maintainer. Now I separate some battery leads and let the batteries self discharge
Interesting, but it makes sense. I only have 2 – and if one cell in one battery goes out I need to replace them both anyway so the camper stays plugged in when at home with a quality converter keeping them happy and de-sulficated.
I recommend NOT using baking soda as it is possible for some of it to leak into the cells and partially neutralizing the acid. The area where the terminals protrude through the battery case is not always liquid tight and can allow the baking soda solution to leak in. The reason that the terminals get a buildup on them is mainly due to out gassing due to a poor case-to-terminal seal.
Fresh water and a brush can easily remove the deposits on the terminals and wash away any acid on the battery case.
The pictures raises way more questions than the verbiage answers. Obvious there was some neglect, but perhaps the damage is more a result of carelessness? For instance, what are the two temporary clips on the far right terminals for? … the red line (should connect to a positive terminal) appears to be fused …and the fuse holder appears to be heat damaged …
but BOTH clips appear to be attached to negative terminals? What are/were the other ends of these small wires attached to? More questions than answers, mostly outside the regular maintenance arena to me. Yep, not convinced the hold down strap was the culprit here.
Using TPPL (thin plate pure lead) AGM like Odyssey Extreme and BatterMinder desulfators on all my deep cycle batteries: marine, ups, motorcycle and RV gives me totally maintenance free 10 yr. life. I have 3 over 10yrs old putting out 1000+CCA. I expect 10 years out of all of them. While golf cart batteries have thicker long lasting plates, maintenance is an continual messy chore.
I’m not convinced that the battery hold down was the culprit. If that steel strap did in fact contact the connector of the batteries (negative-positive). There would be a lot of damage and molten metal to the hold down strap at both sides, also more than likely there would have been damage to the other battery. I am hanging my hat on bad battery maintenance and the battery became low on electrolytes and shorted out internal. Also if I’m looking at the charger setup correctly they more than likely blew the fuse by putting the negative and positive on the same cable. It would be nice to know who wired the batteries as the incoming heavy wire on the left side coming through the wall appears to be the positive cable due to the red heat shrink on the terminal lug and the one on the right appears to be the negative due to the black heat sharing on the lug, however the jumper cable on the right side is red?
“Make sure to cycle your batteries.”
What does this mean?
Maybe “exercising” would have made it easier to understand. He means you should let the batteries get drawn down by placing a load on them so that they get to between 50 and 60% of full charge. Then let the charger bring them all the way back up again. This will help prevent sulfation of the plates- shortening battery life. BTW, I never do this, so mine usually die from that but I always get 5 to 6 years anyway. If I were a boondocker, I’d make sure to do what he suggests but we’re always on hookups.
If boondocking, I would think batteries will be well exercised each day or so.
My best guess is to change the positions of your batteries so the “lead/primary battery” of the charging cable gets changed frequently. Optimal charging that way. A clamp-on amp meter will confirm this. I have a battery bank of four on my Class A (two port side/2 starboard side) and get around this problem by hooking up the far starboard battery to its own 120vac charger. When the genny runs, which is often due to boondocking, I am providing full charging power to the lead/primary batteries on both sides of the coach. WORKS GREAT!!!!
Interesting. I used to have two 6-volt batteries on the front of our travel trailer – and I NEVER moved them except to replace them. They were UBER HEAVY and my back just couldn’t take the bending over it took to install them in the first place. My last set was Trojan T-145’s and I can’t even guess what they weighed. We boondock a lot, and our solar array and MPPT controller kept them fully charged. Last year we changed over to Lithium-Ion batteries and the weight difference is phenomenal! I probably won’t be “cycling” these either.
So what caused the fire?
Spark from battery hold down and case contact, cutting the case open. Vented gas from battery. Equals fire.