By Mike Sokol
REMINDER: I’m presenting a YouTube Livestream event with Dennis Wieske from Progressive Dynamics this Tuesday evening, February 2, at 8 p.m. EST covering charging systems for Lithium batteries. If you’re interested, please go to my YouTube page and set a reminder. And yes, I’ll do a future Livestream interview on other battery technologies as well. To sign up on YouTube just click HERE.
Welcome to my J.A.M. (Just Ask Mike) Session, a weekly column where I answer your basic electrical questions. If you’re a newbie who’s never plugged in a shore power cord (or ask – what’s a shore power cord?), or wonder why your daughter’s hair dryer keeps tripping the circuit breaker, this column is for you. Send your questions to Mike Sokol at mike (at) noshockzone.org with the subject line – JAM.
I’ve been wresting my RV batteries around and wonder if there’s a better way to lift batteries. They certainly are heavy! —Eugene
Careful with that back, Eugene…
(Sorry, Pink Floyd)
Great timing. I just took delivery of a pair of U.S. Battery 6-volt, deep cycle batteries last week and had to move them around my garage without benefit of a lifting strap. What, you might ask… you can get a lifting strap to lift those batteries? Yes, indeed.
These batteries are HEAVY!!!
I’m not a wimp, since I’m used to wresting huge speakers and amplifiers around as a pro-sound engineer. But FLA (Flooded Lead Acid) batteries are a special kind of heavy. There’s a lot of lead density in those things, and no convenient lift point. So you end up tipping them up and grabbing them underneath – something not safe for your back.
So when the delivery guy dropped these deep cycle batteries off in my driveway, he used a cool lifting strap to lift the batteries out of his van. But since he only had one strap with him, I couldn’t talk him out of it. So I had to buy my own.
When you remove and/or lift batteries:
Here’s a quick note about removing batteries. Always wear eye protection when removing any battery cables or adding water. That water forms an electrolyte that’s mostly sulfuric acid, and it’s possible to make a mistake that will cause acid to squirt out of the vents and into your eyes (ask me how I know this).
Make sure you disconnect the battery ground (negative) cables first (and reconnect them last) so your wrench isn’t energized while on a battery terminal. That can cause it to weld to anything metal, including jewelry (like your wedding ring) you might be wearing that will heat up and can burn you badly. Oh, the stories I could tell about this….
Third tip on switching batteries
Take pictures of any battery cable connections before you take them apart. I get emails every spring from readers who accidentally reinstall their batteries backwards and then burn up some of the 12-volt electrical system (like the inverter/converter). Yes, it’s nearly always the expensive things that are damaged, so don’t do random connections. You’ll end up paying for it in the end.
Fourth and final tip when you lift batteries
Take care of your back with a proper battery lifting strap whenever you lift batteries. You may not need it often, but when you need one, you REALLY need one. Yes, we may have too many tools (I certainly do), but this is one you shouldn’t do without.
Here’s a battery strap I got for less than $10 on Amazon, and I’m sure you can find them in any battery or auto parts store.
Just remember that if you have to disconnect or move around FLA batteries, to do it safely. In many ways connecting 12-volt batteries is just as dangerous as working on a 120-volt AC system, and possibly even more so since you can’t turn them off.
OK, everyone. Remember that electricity is a useful and powerful force, so we all need to pay attention to safety precautions while using it – including when you’re switching or lifting batteries.
Let’s play safe out there….
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.
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