RVelectricity – Just Ask Mike (J.A.M.): Switching/lifting batteries, saving your back

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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.


Dear Mike,
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.

Special delivery

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:

First

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).

Second

(Not Mike’s hand.)

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….

Related:
RVelectricity – Watering flooded cell batteries; comparing RV batteries

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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And you don’t want to miss Mike’s webcasts on his YouTube channel.

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TomS
3 months ago

Before I take a picture I wrap different colored electrical tape around each wire, red for one terminal, yellow another, green another etc. Then I’ll take the tape and wrap that same color around all the wires I can at once.

Pete Morris
3 months ago

Mike, have you or are you done a study of Gel Cell batteries for RV use? I’ve had good long lasting service with Gel Cell.
Thanks Pete

Bob
3 months ago

We mostly travel in the west, but we live in the midwest. So, we decided a few years ago to store our RV out west and fly home, instead of driving back and forth. Our storage spot had no electric, so I pulled the batteries and put them on a trickle charger at a friends house. That was such a chore to remove and reinstall those batteries! It inspired me to install a 200 watt solar panel that would keep the house and chassis batteries charged no matter where the RV was. That was five years ago, I’ve never removed the batteries since.

Robert Henry
3 months ago

Careful With That Axe, Eugene – great (a bit foggy) late ’60s memory!

Bill Jeffrey
3 months ago

I never saw a battery strap with hooks on the ends before today. Turns out these are for very specific batteries, and won’t work on “normal” batteries, Instead, you want a strap that has metal loops in each end. The loops drop over the battery posts, and make lifting a breeze. They are cheap, and available at any autoparts store, and (of course) WalMart or Amazon.

WEB
3 months ago
Reply to  Bill Jeffrey

Never, I mean NEVER lift batteries by their posts. It will break the seal around the post and you will have a dirty, messy corroded (terminal) battery for the rest of its life.

Thomas D
3 months ago

I bought golf car batteries from sams club and they gave me a strap just like you show. Free they had a mess of them, maybe came with the batteries. Guy said they sometimes forget to give them to customers.

Tommy Molnar
3 months ago

When I put a new pair of Trojan T-145’s into the battery area of our travel trailer two years ago, I almost broke my back! Well, almost . . . I have the strap for lifting them up, but the battery area is not straight up and down. The trailer ‘leans’ forward so setting these batteries in was pure h***! I ended up sliding them along bit by bit. Kaplunk! Finally – in place.

As an aside, I just replaced them with LiPo’s yesterday here in Quartzsite. Hopefully, these are the last batteries I will to buy in MY lifetime!

Drew
3 months ago

A couple of other points: I have a dolly that I keep in the garage and I put the battery(s) on that when I have to move them- like from the car to the rv or the boat. You could also use one of those folding wagons. If you can, bend at the knees when you have to lift anything. AND, don’t ever carry lead acid batteries up close to your clothing…you might not have any by the end of the day.

Don
3 months ago

This is a good tip for SMALL RV batteries. But unless you’re King Kong, you’re not going to lift a large RV battery with a strap. The 8-D AGMs that I recently replaced in my Coach weigh 165 lb each, and I replaced the set of 2 of those with 4 L-16 6v AGMs which weigh 120 lb each. Happily, I have a small tractor with a bucket on it, so handling those bears was a piece of cake. If you’re not similarly equipped, then you need a large friend to help move these things around. Happily – they come with handles on them which make that job a lot easier!

Abe Loughin
3 months ago

Every time I read or hear the tip to “take a picture before you take it apart ” I have a good chuckle. I started in the mechanical field in the late 1070s, we had no convenient way for taking pictures. We had to mark the wires, draw a diagram or just memorize how it needed to go back together. Even though I carry a phone with a camera, I’m still so “old school ” I draw a diagram, forgetting that I can take a picture.

Mike Sokol
3 months ago
Reply to  Abe Loughin

I take pictures of everything now before I take it apart, even things that appears to be obvious. There’s just too much clutter in my brain since I remember nearly everything I’ve ever taken apart. 🤯

Tom
3 months ago
Reply to  Abe Loughin

I didn’t know that they had batteries, or even wire, way back then…

WEB
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom

1070, Canterbury Cathedral in England is rebuilt, following a fire. Might have been an electrical fire. 😉