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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

MOTORHOME MODIFICATIONS *B* Batteries, Backup Camera Monitor and Basket

I am going to start off the new year with posting three of our motorhome modifications at a time. I will post repairs, modifications, or neato things we have found for RVing.  I have lots of pics in my files so I will do them in alphabetical order.

Underneath that stuff, I will post my regular daily stuff..... kinda sorta fun, eh?

So here it goes:

We are up to the letter B in my files of Motorhome Modifications. 

Before I even start talking about our battery set-up, please take the time to understand most battery systems on RVs by reading these two posts. They really helped us understand when we first started going to multiple battery banks and solar power setup.

Each motorhome can have a different set up.  Our Safari Serengeti motorhome has four deep cycle 6 volt batteries hooked in series and in parallel to make a 12 volt system with 220 amp hours each.  This powers the camping house portion ''coach'' part of the system.  We also have two larger 12 volt batteries for the driving portion powering the engine and headlights etc. known as the ''chassis'' part of the system. 

We check them monthly for electrolyte level, and only add distilled water.  Once or twice a year we do a massive overcharge process called ''equalization'' to knock off the sulfate buildup on the plates. Our inverter has that feature to set it for an equalization process.  

Over the years, our batteries usually last about 5-6 years with careful maintenance. But our current set of four 6 volt deep cycle batteries are going on NINE years in February.  They are holding up well, so we will see how they go for another year or so? 

If you are curious as to how old your batteries are, here is a hint on reading the date code of a battery: 
1. How do you read the date codes on the batteries?
Negative Terminal- Shipping Date. This code indicates the month and year when the battery was shipped out of our factory. LETTER stands for the month, A to L (A=January, B=February, C=March, and so on); NUMBER is the last digit of the year.
  • A battery with “G4” on the negative.
  • G4” means that it was shipped from our factory around July of 2014.

Maintaining the batteries is important, as well as being careful to NOT drain them down too far in between charge-up times. Called DOD, Depth of Discharge.  We try to never draw them down any lower than 30% from the top, meaning if we see 70% on our trimetric gauge,we need to get them charged or stop using too much power.  Fortunately we have solar that can charge them up, or fire up the generator to charge them up, or while driving the alternator charges them up... or, of course, plug into shore power and let the inverter charge them up. 

The deeper you draw down the battery bank, it also significantly shortens the overall life of your batteries.  This chart shows you an example: 

So if you drain them down to 50% or less, or almost dead, you might only get 200-300 recharge cycles in the life of the batteries before needing replacement.  That is less than a year if you draw them down every day.   

In contrast, if you only draw down 30% or less, you can expect to get 1200 to 1400 recharge cycles.... that can be 4 years or more.  (remember, I said ours are now 9 years old and still working fine!) 

Steve cleans the posts and checks our distilled water levels every month: 

Here is how they look and Steve keeps them cleaned up and makes sure there isn't any corrosion buildup on the posts. The whole drawer pulls out (with a bit of ooomph) and he can access most of the area for checking levels.  Some people put on devices to water the cells when they cannot reach the back caps. 

 A while back Steve decided that we might someday want to get six batteries for the coach area, when we added more solar to the roof (5 panels at 100 watts each)  So he made this handy dandy rack for back in the engine compartment to move the two driving (chassis) batteries back there.  But...  we never did buy any more coach batteries.  You should never mix old and new batteries together anyhow.  We found that we have more than enough power with the four batteries we presently have installed for the coach, so we never used the additional rack. Yet.

 Here is how our four 6 volt batteries are hooked up....

and how they could be IF we went to six of them. 

If an ANY time you need to replace your batteries, I strongly suggest you take multiple closeup photos of your original setup with a cell phone. Close up shots of each connection and what wires are on what post.  Then take time to label each wire with either a permanent marker or tape before removing each one. This insures proper reconnections without damaging any of your expensive components.

 If you have someone else do it, please be aware that their unfamiliarity with the intricate network of RV battery cables can be an expensive mistake!   Supervise them and don't take them at their word they will be just fine.  BEFORE you begin, be extra careful to be sure you label each wire and put each wire back correctly.  One crossed wire can goof up your whole electrical system!  There are sometimes extra small wires that also go on the posts along with the main cables. Those can control electronic shifting, computerized transmission operation, generator starting power, and the various charging methods of your batteries, (from inverter, alternator or generator). Our rig also has separate little fuse or shunt wires for the solar controller and trimetric monitor gauge that can be damaged if not put back into place correctly. 

Be sure you put each wire back exactly as it was or you will be pulling your hair out with problems. We haven't had it ourselves, because we are careful, but we have helped others sort out the mess when it was done incorrectly. 

The power we have on board allows us to easily operate either of our 2 tv's, lights, electrical outlets for various things like coffee maker, hair curling iron, recharging phones and laptops and short bursts on the microwave as needed. The biggest drain on batteries is the furnace fan motor.  We don't use ours often, instead we use a catalytic Olympian Wave 8 heater.  With our 5 solar panels on the roof, we are usually recharged back to 100% by mid morning the next day. 

Even if you don't boondock often like we do, you still need 12 volt DC power to run things even if you are plugged into a campground post for AC power.  The water pump, water heater, fridge, furnace and other items still need the DC portion to run the control boards and switches when plugged into AC shore power. So keep those batteries in tip top shape! 

Backup Camera Monitor Replacement:
This one is about our backup camera monitor.  The camera is working fine, even at 22 years old, and is located behind a little glass lens in the rear cap. Access is through a rear cabinet over our bed. We did replace the glass once, as the previous stuff was a plexi plastic that was scratched up. We use it to check on the Tracker as we tow it down the road, or to check while backing up into campsites.  Even while parked, we use it as a security set of eyes when boondocking and we want to see if someone is back there.

Our camera feed comes through to the tv up front over the drivers seat.  It worked out really well to see what is going on out back with a glance at the big screen overhead. But the problem is that the cabinet the tv is housed in hangs down so low over the driver's dash. It is commonly known as the ''Head Banger'' and Steve's head has enough lumps to prove it.  Soooooooooo 

You just KNOW that Steve has to make a change to it, don't you?  He removed the tv and the cabinet. He cut it down from the top edges to make it the same size as the other cabinets across the front of the rig.  A fellow Safari-owner had an extra smoked plexiglass door for us to cover up the existing hole. 
 No More ''Head Banger'' !!

We bought a lighter weight flat screen tv we hung from a bracket over on the side of the living area instead for better viewing than in the original position.

That leaves us with the dilemma of how to view the backup camera, since we removed the monitor source from overhead.  Steve rerouted the cable down from the top cavity along the padded covered windshield side post.  He found this great little LED monitor that runs off DC power from Amazon for $50.  Easy peasy!

 We positioned it between the two dash consoles.
We can swivel it for either the driver or passenger to view it.  
I seem to use it more from the passenger seat
to check on the Tracker being towed behind

Basket by the Door:
This may seem kinda lame, but how many of us have shoes piled up the door?  And dog leashes. And tie out ropes. And moccasins for Steve to wear inside when he drives.  Well, there have been a few times we have accidently tripped over them and almost fell down the stair well!  Also if you want to sit at the table and shove back the chair a bit, the legs end up knocking over the shoes or sticking inside of them and crooked seating etc.  So we keep a little basket by the door as a catch-all.  It is much safer and easy to pick up all at once for vacuuming underneath. And saves us from a broken neck. 

That is it for the three B's on today's blog. 


We woke up to frozen ground, glazed roads, slight snow flurries and very very dangerous driving conditions.  Steve left extra early for his part time county transport job for the handicapped wheelchair folks.  He had to make a run to a near by town. He said between the icy roads and the high winds, it was difficult to keep the tall profile bus on the road. ACK!  He drove slow, arrived safe and delivered his elderly patron to the right place in time for their medical procedure.  He has a few more transports on and off during the day, but the roads now have cleared up enough with salt and brine to take care of the ice.

It's kinda dreary out, so I am holed up inside with some housework, some sewing and some computer stuff.  Tax time is coming and our information is trickling in to prepare our returns.  Not too exciting of a day, eh?   We will see what tomorrow will bring.


  1. I think your diagram of the 4 six volt batteries hooked up is incorrect. That hookup would give you 6 volts not 12 volts.

    1. Yup... you are right, I had the wrong diagram in there with an extra ground between the two banks. I edited and put in the other diagram I had in my files instead. Thanks!

  2. I love what you guys are up too. This kind of clever work and exposure!
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