Occam’s Razor and Battery Maintenance

Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitate.

“More things should not be used than are necessary.”

First, a disclaimer. I am not a mechanic. I have never been passionate about working on engines of any sort, nor vehicles of any kind at all. When I was young, my buddies gave me my baby-poop yellow Pinto wagon’s radiator hose mounted on a wooden pedestal as recognition of my mechanical ineptitude.  My RV maintenance blogs are an illustration that everyone can and should learn about their RV’s systems. So, when we started having issues over the last few days with the 12v system, I decided to diagnose it.

The Symptoms

The batteries didn’t appear to be holding a charge despite hours of either driving the coach or the generator running. We would have a sudden “dim-out” of the lighting. The control panel of the Dometic refrigerator would flash “low dc”. Since the Genset had been overhauled 8 months ago, I ruled that out after looking at it and making sure the breakers on it were set. That left the batteries.

Triage and Resolution

Opening the bay and pulling out the tray didn’t tell me much at first glance. I have two Duracell 6v golf car type house batteries, and I decided to get help from my friends.

I belong to a Facebook group called Class A RV Diesel Owners. These guys are the bomb! I’ve asked other questions before and within minutes of posting I started getting suggestions. Quickly, the batteries were identified as lead-acid and since I had never checked their water levels, I started with this. They were indeed low and so I purchased a bulb-type filler from an auto parts store and a gallon of distilled water from the grocery store. It’s critical that you use ONLY distilled water. When you add the water, do so slowly until the plates inside are just covered. Do not overfill!

My batteries have toggle-slide bars that connect all three of the cells’ caps together and operate as a unit. To open them, I had to remove the positive cable and the jumper cable between the two batteries. When I replaced the nuts and tightened them, I decided to check the negative cable nut on the rear battery. Eureka! It was loose, which would account for all the symptoms we had experienced!

We’ve had no more problems. Through the process I learned how to maintain my batteries and how often to check them (do so every month!). I learned (again) that the simplest solution is usually the best but that the process of learning is vital. I also reinforced that getting help early from people with experience is invaluable. Thanks to the gang at Class A RV Diesel Owners again!