RV Batteries

 Posted by at 7:05 am  Nick's Blog
Jan 242010

It’s time to go shopping for house batteries for our Winnebago motorhome. For those armchair travelers or newbie RVers, I’ll give you a quick explanation, keeping in mind that I am not a technical person.

Most motorhomes have two separate battery banks. One bank is called the “coach” battery bank, and is used to start the engine and power the headlights, taillights, etc. on a motorhome. Depending on the size of the motorhome, this bank usually consists of one or two 12 volt batteries.

The second battery bank are the “house” batteries, which power the 12 volt interior lights, the fans for the furnaces, supply power to start the refrigerator when operating on propane, and provide spark to light the water heater, among other tasks. Again, depending on the size of the motorhome, the house battery bank can be anything from one battery to as many as you can carry.

House batteries can also be 12 volt batteries connected in parallel, or 6 volt batteries wired in series. Connecting two or more batteries in parallel keeps the same voltage of the individual batteries, but doubles (or triples) their capacity. Connecting two or more batteries in series doubles the voltage, while keeping the same capacity, as I understand it.

Anyway, when we bought the Winnebago, the previous owner told us that he had put three new deep cycle house batteries in a couple of months earlier. Terry and I have noticed that the batteries do not hold a charge very long when we have done any dry camping, so while we were visiting with Mike Steffen a few weeks ago, we pulled out the battery tray and discovered that the house batteries in the motorhome are actually starting batteries, which do not hold up to RV service.

In our bus conversion, we had three huge 8D Lifeline Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) batteries, which provided a lot of power and served us very well. The Winnebago cannot accommodate such large batteries, it has the smaller Group 31 size.

As with all RVers, our needs have changed over time, and we do not expect to do as much dry camping as we have done in the past. Back when we did a lot of boondocking, we once spent over seven straight months off the grid. But these days we may spend two or three nights in parking lots as we make a trip, or at an RV rally, but that’s about it. We prefer to be in an RV park, so we do not feel that we need to spend the extra money for AGM batteries. We will probably go with regular deep cycle RV batteries, which cost much less than AGMs.

I stopped at a battery store yesterday, and they carry Deka batteries, in both standard RV style deep cycle, and in AGM. I’m not familiar with the Deka brand, but in looking online, I see a lot of good reports on them. I think they are better known in the eastern half of the country. Does anybody here have any experience with Deka batteries?

Once we get the batteries replaced, we’ll be tire shopping, but that’s another day, and another blog.

While I was out battery shopping, Bad Nick was home posting a new Bad Nick Blog titled The Tennis Ball. Check it out and leave a comment.

Thought For The Day – God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  10 Responses to “RV Batteries”

  1. We as well or motorhome friends us 6volt golf cart batteries available at Sams/Walmart of around $70 each. Unless your batteries are very easy to service would also recommend the Flow-Rite Remote Battery Fill System which makes water filing a breeze and not a job that you overlook.

  2. Nick – Deka makes some good batteries. I bought and used them in large backup UPS systems. Withstood the heat well and preformed for the time they should have during the 2003 power outage. It was not supposed to last for 5 days. They did what they were supposed to for as long as they were supposed to.

    The Remote fill?? you got caught in freezing weather this winter. That is a reason that I have not put one in the trailer. Is the battery compartment heated? NO, so your call.

  3. The battery system and the sound system are the two systems that have been most perplexing to us on our 2006 Phaeton. Everyone tells us something different OR they use different words to describe the same thing. You used the word “coach” to describe the ones that start the engine. I’ve always known the “coach” batteries as those that power the “house.” The other ones have been referred to as the “starting” batteries, the “truck” batteries, and most recently the “cranking” batteries. I like the words “cranking” for the engine battery and “coach or house” for the ones that control my living space.

    Actually, though, I don’t really care what they are called. We’ve had several evaluations and have replaced almost new batteries. Maybe the most recent fix will prove the right one.

    I just wish someone could figure out why our “coach/house” batteries don’t seem to hold a charge and don’t charge while we’re driving. As I said, maybe the most recent fix did the trick. We’ll know this spring.


  4. Nick:

    Just a little input on my battery experiences. My wife and I bought a new Travel Supreme 5th wheel in 1995 and started full-timing in it. The batteries that were installed in it were a brand called Thermoil (two 12 volts). They didn’t have the clear
    electrolyte that is common in most batteries, but had a dark oil in each cell. These two batteries lasted us through 10 years of use and abuse. We did a moderate amount of dry camping in those years and as usual ran them flat several times. They always performed great and never failed to recharge and hold a full charge during that time. One amazing side benefit was that the top of the batteries always remained dry and I NEVER had any corrosion around the battery posts. Also, there was very little addition of distilled water over that 10 years. (Yes, you did use distilled water to top the cells off like a normal battery) When I tried to replace them after they started failing, I found that the company had been sued by several major battery companies and they lost the lawsuit. From all that I could find out about the lawsuit, was that they were producing a very superior battery and, to keep the story short, in court they lost the case. There is more to the story about how these battery manufactuers won the case, in my opinion a few shady sounding tests were performed and their high priced lawyers won the case, but thats a story for another day.

    Anyway, when I tried to replace these batteries, I found that the thermoil company was barred from shipping their batteries out of their state, so what they did was sell the thermoil product itself to be added to your battery when you bought a new one or to your battery after it was in use. I did find a local dealer that sold Continental batteries that would put thermoil in them when I bought them. So that is who I’m dealing with now. I did put new ones with Thermoil back into the RV and they are performing great as usual. Also, When my Dodge Ram Diesel needed new batteries, I put 2 new Continental batteries with Thermoil in it. They have also been doing great for the last 5 years.

    A few last notes. I’m not endorsing this product and have no connection with the company. I’m just telling you what my experiences have been. But if you want to do some interesting reading, just Google the word Thermoil. Some of the sites do sound like snake oil endorsements, but in my opinion, it works.

    Take care – Gary

  5. I’ve used Deka in the semi trucks, and really like them they stand up to the abuse that we put them though. Setting along fields with all the lights running while waiting to get filled with corn, and bouncing around in cornfields. Also had interstate batteries and seem to be having problems with them, supplier changed brands, so I did too. Will go back to Deka’s.

  6. I just picked up three Max 29 batteries (made by Johnson Controls) for my Winnebago Journey from Walmart. I’ve read some good reports about them. They are rated at 125 amp hours each, which is a little more than most, and of course there is a Walmart on every corner if you were to have any warranty issues.

  7. Nick
    How about our Friend John at Palmer Energy
    Just a thought, he has been great for my electrical needs. I purchased the surge protector from him and he gives great service to RV’ers. ~ken

  8. Nick – not much – really not any – experience with Deka RV batteries but I have used Deka marine deep cycle batteries in my bass boat for many years. They seem to have great life and they recharge faster than others that I have used like the Walmart brand. Al

  9. Nick, just a quick self promotion.
    At the RV Safety & Education Foundation RV Lifestyle, Safety & Education Conference in Bowling Green KY June 3 – 6 2010 we will have Gary Motley teaching a class on RV 12 Volt systems. Gary says he gets better than 20% of his booming RV service business from RVer’s not understanding their 12V and Battery systems. I found on the used Motor home I just got, as you did, starting batteries instead of deep cycle in the ‘House’ bank.
    Proper matching and maintenance of the battery system will go a long way in saving money and aggravation.
    Safe travels.

  10. When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and
    now each time a comment is added I get several emails
    with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people from that service?
    Many thanks!

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