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Monday, August 19, 2019

Motorhome Maintenance - Replacing 4 Deep Cycle Batteries and more "She Shed" Stuff

Ten and a half years is an awfully long time. Especially when you are a deep cycle marine battery in a motorhome!

Most RVers get 5 years or so out of their deep cycle lead acid batteries. But with careful maintenance and not discharging them too far down, we were able to extend the life of ours to 10 and 1/2 years.

On our Safari motorhome, we have a bank of four 6 volt batteries which are hooked together two in series to create 12 volts for our motorhome and then the two sets of two are hooked together in parallel to double the amp hours available.  4 batteries are sufficient to run all of our electronic items, via inverter, things like TVs, lights, curling iron, chargers for cell phone and laptops Etc. Just not the air conditioning. Our solar charges us back up to 100% easily by mid-morning the next day.

Steve checks the water and acid levels every other month. He only uses distilled water to top them off, and cleans the posts with a baking soda solution.

Our solar system on the roof keeps them charged right up to snuff on a daily basis. We equalize them once or twice a year, with our three-stage charger system. An equalizing cycle blasts all of the corroded stuff off the plates by giving it a really high charge for a short period of time.

A couple months ago, one of our 6 volt batteries was shorting out. Steve quickly removed that battery and it's paired up partner from the system. A shorted out battery can do damage to the delicate electronic control boards on all of the appliances, as well as the TVs, and anything else that is sensitive that we might have plugged in. Like computers and cell phones.

After the removal of the two batteries, we were running on just the two remaining batteries paired together to make 12 volts for the camping portion of the motohome. But they were both getting very weak. They would hold a charge and go up to 100%, but they drained down awfully quick. It was time for new batteries.

Side note--- the driving portion, the chassis, of the motorhome also operates on two large 12 volt batteries for the diesel engine. Those had been replaced a couple years back and are just fine.

Steve, with his wonderful investigative nose for a deal, ferreted out a money-saving situation on Facebook Marketplace. Seems like a guy with 4 batteries that were only 1 year old decided to switch over to lithium instead of wet cell acid batteries.  He had a 1 year old motorhome and it has a residential electric fridge and he is using a lot of computer power while travelling for his job.  He felt lithium batteries would go further for him (and he invested $3,000.00 to change over to them).

Steve was able to snap up his one year old batteries at half of the cost of new 225 amp hour T105 batteries! $75 each. We drove 35 miles to get them, and they were immaculate. The guy just pulled them off his rig yesterday when he had the new lithium batteries installed. We struck our deal and the guys loaded up the batteries in the trunk of my car... and off we went back home.

It's always a good thing to take careful photos with a cell phone of your existing entire battery hookup before removing anything. That way you can refer to the photos as you hook on the cables and wires in the EXACT places on the new batteries.

The first step is removing the power going into our batteries from our solar system on the roof. Steve pulled the breaker out of the cutoff box rather than just relying using the on and off lever.

Next he gathered all of his tools and some rubber mats for kneeling on. He decided that our cables were looking a little sad and we needed to replace them. He made up four brand new cables for the ones that needed to get spiffed up.

Whenever Steve does anything with electrical connections on our motorhome, he coats them liberally with a product called dielectric grease. You can't read it very well but this product is made by Permatex and you can pick it up at any auto parts store.  It prevents rust and corrosion on electrical connections.

Now it is time to concentrate closely at what we are doing.

We have to be very careful because one crisscrossed wire can mess up all of the electronics on board. So we need to use due diligence when changing over a complex system of four different batteries.

Please don't rely on some service station or big box store worker to correctly install your new batteries, especially on an expensive system like a motorhome. We do have an onboard energy management system to help shut it down in case of incorrect current, but it's better to be careful now, than sorry later.

We started to remove the old batteries from the compartment. Each one is carefully released from the grid and please take care to not let positive and negative cables touch each other in the back area of the compartment while the batteries are in the process of being removed.

Here we go out with the old batteries.  They served us well. We purchased these from Batteries Plus back in February of 2009 for $87.50 each. They were only a 180 amp hours, less capacity than the ones we bought now today.

Steve will turn them in 
and get a few bucks 
for each one 
for recycling it.

With my cell phone photos on hand to refer to, Steve carefully started applying each of the connections and cables to the batteries. We connect the positive battery last after we get everything else assembled.

It was getting hot out in the sun this afternoon, so I whipped out the beach umbrella to help cover Steve up while we worked. See? I'm good for something....

Soon all of the connections were made and everything was spiffy clean and ready to go. We double checked and triple checked everything to be sure.

He hooked up the final positive lead and powered up the bank of batteries. Then he put the breaker back in the cut-out breaker box for the solar system.

We checked our onboard Progressive Industries Power Management System and everything seemed to be operating. We checked the Trimetric gauge inside which registers the capacity of the battery bank, as well as how many amps and volts are going in and out. It shows the percentage of charge which we knew the batteries were already charged up to 100%.  This gauge is very handy to have and it has a little wire that goes through a fuse and a temperature sensor device that also attaches to the batteries. It's nice to have it inside mounted on the wall so we can monitor what is going on without having to go outside and look at the Blue Sky MPPT Controller in the basement compartment.


Well, now that the batteries are done on the motorhome, we should be good to go this weekend.

We are going camping with some of our kids and grandkids.  A "Last Blast" before school begins. The batteries will be an added plus to be done and in place. Although we will be camping at a campground that does have electric hookups, we will be set in case we decide to do some fall camping with no hookups - boondocking - or take off somewhere this winter. Who knows?


For those of you blog readers who only tune into my motorhoming maintenance blogs, I will catch you up quick with what we've done the last 3 months.

Since Steve is now fully retired, we decided one day to put our house on the market in Chilton. It sold the very next day.  We put an offer in on a cute little National Folk Farmhouse back up in Oconto, closer to most of our grandchildren. We have spent the last three months fixing it up and making it our "home".

It is located in town, but is situated on 2.5 acres of land. It already has a new large four stall garage and a motorhome parking pad for Steve. So he decided that we could convert the single stall little attached garage into a "She Shed" for me!

We removed the single garage door and started closing it in with new windows and adding French doors around both sides and French windows across the back. It will house my weaving looms and large quilting machine, our sun room furniture, as well as operate as a kind of mudroom for leading into the kitchen.

it is a work-in-progress, and we are doing a little bit every day while we intersperse our time between visiting with our grandchildren, going camping, and taking long walks with our dogs.

Last week on the "She Shed" project, we've gotten two more steps further and did one other step item out of order!

I'll start with the two steps first:

1. We removed the big ugly awkward pantry that was jutting out into the She Shed area by 3 feet. It was covered with old paneling, the top portion had a squirrel nest and bat droppings, and the bottom portion had a funny charred burn smell???

The three sides that aimed out into the attached garage were butt ugly with paneling. The fourth side that faces into the kitchen had a cheap plastic vinyl door. I didn't even put anything into the pantry because it smelled. The previous owners also said anything they put in there froze, because of the freezing temperatures in the unheated garage. Well, that would change because we are going to insulate and heat this "She Shed" by fall.

As we dismantled the old pantry we discovered there had been a fire at one time on the floor in the pantry! So THAT was the smell! I can only imagine somewhere along the line of the 25 years that there were renters in this home, that somebody had a little firebug kid that was squatting down in the pantry playing with matches and started a fire! It seemed to only be on the floor area and not up the walls or the ceiling, so someone must have extinguished it quickly. But being renters, they obviously didn't want the landlord to know what had happened. So they just covered over the charred burnt floor with another piece of linoleum! As we were excavating, we discovered it!!!

We pulled out the pantry walls and adapted the existing doorway opening from the kitchen. We made a shallow open pantry of only 11 inches deep. That is the width of the thick walls that are in this house.

We made a shallow pantry and removed the existing door. It was just one of those cheap vinyl wood look simulated doors anyhow. We made it an "open pantry" and added 8 shelves with adjustable brackets.

Now I had a perfect spot to display and store all of my home canned goods. I have my pickled beets, canned tomatoes, and jars of homemade jam. There's some extra space, so I filled it up with some white mixing bowls and serving dishes and other assorted items.  I want to get a couple of nice white bins for at the bottom to put things like bottled water or potatoes on the bottom row.


Now on to step 2 that we worked on.

Right next to the pantry is the doorway that leads from the kitchen down into the "She Shed". There had been a big awkward exterior wooden kitchen door that was in very rough condition on the back side. Also a screen door that had been patched, kicked, and battered over the years.

We decided to remove those doors completely, change the swing so it went to the left instead of the right. We replaced it with a heavy glass French door with safety glass panels. We ordered the door to size, and it came primed and ready to paint.

What was interesting is that the glass was all covered with a film of plastic material that let you paint right up to the glass and over it without taping off the glass.  Now I could easily paint all of the wooden grids of the window glass without taping.  Once two coats were done on each side, just peel away the plastic and the door is ready to hang!

Now the door is on full range hinges that are able to let it swing completely wide and it can cover the pantry area if we want it to. Once we finish the lower "She Shed" it will also be heated and we will probably leave this door open most of the time.

It lets in much more light and sunshine, as well as adds to the french window type theme of the "She Shed". We added little handles that match our kitchen cabinets instead of a big awkward doorknob that would bump against items in the open pantry. We also put the small hotel type safety lock back on. This is a good preventative lock to keep toddlers from going down into the "She Shed" when I'm babysitting the grandkids.


Now for the other item that we did that was out of order, but again that marvelous husband of mine with his nose for a deal found something we just couldn't pass up.

We weren't ready to buy flooring yet. That's one of the last steps of the room. Again, we are doing this on a tight budget and only trying to spend so much each month on materials.

Our original plan was to put down level floor framing, insulation and subfloor, then some vinyl plank flooring BUT not until we had the walls and ceiling completed.

But.... That Bargain Hunter ran across a Marketplace ad for someone selling brand new beautiful 16 ft long strips of tongue and groove wood flooring. The price was only $1 a square foot versus $4 to $5 a square foot at the stores. It was left over from a job he did a while back and he never used it.

He had 660 square feet to sell, but we really only needed about 430 square feet. The deal was for him to hold it overnight but that we had to agree to take it all. So I think we will use the extra pieces by cutting off the tongue edge and using it as trim around the windows, doors, and baseboard... as well as making it into stair treads when we construct the new stairs going up into the kitchen.

We needed to buy it by the next day, or lose the deal. He had multiple people calling on it but we were the first. The problem is that he lived way up north of Sturgeon Bay.  Which is 75 miles away. Steve and his very helpful brother Pete drove all the way up to Sister Bay 100+ miles to get his dad's trailer which was sufficiently long enough to haul our wood flooring. From there they had to travel back down to Sturgeon Bay to load up the wood. Then back to our house to unload the wood! So it was about a 250 mile round trip to get this wood flooring!!!

They backed it in and unloaded it onto some wood supports and a tarp to keep it off the cement floor in our garage until we are ready to use it.  It was a long day for the guys, and we really appreciated Pete's help in getting the wood to our house.

I'm going to mess around with a couple different colors of stain on a scrap piece and see what color we want to go with. I'm kind of leaning to leaving it clear and just covering it with two good coats of polyurethane. Still thinking on that one. We will see!

But for now, I'm just going to keep plugging away at my "She Shed" and finish organizing some of my books and shipping materials in our little office room. Our son-in-law Waylen came over and helped Steve carry in this humongous book case.

It was left in our garage by the previous sellers, and I gave it two good coats of paint to spiffy it up.

It just fit in the office without even an inch to spare between the two pieces of baseboard and quarter round molding trim. Talk about lucky!

We so appreciate living closer to the kids now. For the ones who help us, they can pop over and lend a hand with things as we need it. In return we can babysit their kids or run over to let out their dogs if they are out of town. It's a good thing that we moved here because it's a win-win situation for all of us.


  1. Having a Nose for Bargains is a good thing to have when you are renovating a house like that.
    Being closer to everyone is handy for all concerned.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

  2. Hi! we are in the UP. We will be camping with friends at Porcupine Mountain Sept. 11 - Sept 18. After that I have no clear plans other than heading back West. It would be quite possible for us to stop in Oconto for a couple of nights. I would love to see your house and the She Shed in person. Will you be home Sept 18 -19? Is there an RV park in Oconto?, Or may I be so bold as to ask if we could park in your drive for two nights?

  3. Havent heard from you in awhile --- checking to see if youre okay!!!


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