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Old 11-15-2007, 08:59 PM   #1
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I think my batteries are bad.

I have been doing a little here and there to my bus. I have not used it since our last camping outing in mid Oct. The temp then did get in the low 40s and maybe high 30s. On that day, I tried to leave and my bus would not start. I believe that the temperature was in the fifties when I tried. I did finally get it to start and it did not seem like a problem for the few stops I made getting home. I have started my bus once since then and it cranked for about seven to ten seconds and did start on a mid 60s degree day.

I have been preparing my bus for a trip to the in-laws ( 850mi - one way) for the Christmas holidays. Today, I was going to install a CB radio and was about selecting an unused terminal in the electrical power box. I got my volt meter out to check terminals and I was disappointed to find that the voltage was 9.54 volts. The temperature today is 32 degrees. I figure that my voltage should have been 12 volts plus even if it is that cold. I didn't do any more than that because the daylight was gone and I have more days to look at it with a clearer mind. Maybe my starting problem in Oct. was related to my batteries. What is the assessment of my problem and where do you suggest to find good replacements at a reasonable price? What is and reasonable price for good replacements?
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Old 11-15-2007, 09:17 PM   #2
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Re: I think my batteries are bad.

did you check your voltage at the battery? Your terminal could be reading lower because of a bad ground or other bad connection.
Also if you had your bus parked for a while and didn't have everything turned off something could be putting a small draw on your batteries all the time.
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Old 11-15-2007, 09:37 PM   #3
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Re: I think my batteries are bad.

First things first, as already mentioned, check open circuit voltage. If you don't get 12.6 volts across the terminals of the batteries stop and start charging.

If you are questioning whether the batteries are sulfated because they don't seem to be "taking a charge" (I used to hate hearing that when I sold batteries...it's not really what happens in most cases...) then I would suggest a 3 minute charge test. Remember though...you have big batteries and big batteries take a long time to charge. For a single automotive battery you are looking at 6 hours at a 10 amp rate to fully charge them from dead. I digress...

Three Minute Charge Test:

1. Fully charge the batteries as best as you can

2. Hook up charger. Charge at a rate of 40 amps (use an inductive meter to verify if at all possible) for three minutes.

3. At the conclusion of the 3 minutes check the voltage across the terminals with the charger still on. If you are reading 15.5 volts or more there is a strong possibility the batteries are sulfated.

When batteries get sulfated it is usually time to replace them. Yes, there are some tricks that can sometimes bring them back, but it's like giving a 3 pack a day Cowboy Killer smoker oxygen...it'll keep 'em alive longer, but the problem still exists.

Do that much and report back. If you find sulfation I can give you some tips on trying to break it up so the bus can make it through winter hopefully.

I also second the notion that you probably have some line drop from connections, bad grounds, etc. You can also test that easily.

1. Hook meter up to positive battery post. You may need a long jumper because....

2. Touch the other lead to the HOT side of what you're trying to test. In this case I would imagine it is that fuse.

If you read more than about .75 volts on the meter (remember...this is a parallel circuit now) I would deduce that you have an issue on the feed side.

3. Hook meter up to negative battery post.

4. Touch ground side of the item you are testing.

You will probably read less than the insulated side because ground is usually a more direct path. Again...if you see a high number it is time to look at what is causing that voltage drop like bad grounds, connections, etc.

Hope that helps some.
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Old 11-15-2007, 09:44 PM   #4
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Re: I think my batteries are bad.

i purchase my batteries from a local interstate battery dealer. I like having an 8D battery in my bus. Most buses i've seen come with the huge 8D, but occasionally i see buses that have a pair or triplets of smaller batteries. I would much prefer a single 8D. That is what most big trucks use...perhaps they even use a pair of 8 D's. I find that the 8D runs things in my bus for as long or longer than a pair of golf cart batteries when parked. Expect to spend between $150-200 for one.
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Old 11-15-2007, 10:43 PM   #5
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Re: I think my batteries are bad.

I'm willing to bet that it's the batteries. If I remember right, your bus is a diesel right? That sounds like a battery problem to me. A diesel takes a LOT of power to crank. Take a Chevy 350 for example. It takes about 650 CCA (Cold Cranking Amps) to fire it up. A spark ignites the fuel. In a diesel, there is a LOT more compression. Not only that, but the glow plugs have to heat to around 850 degrees to burn the diesel. So, if you're cranking and cranking but it's not firing, you probably have enough juice to turn the motor over, but not enough juice left over to get the glow plugs hot enough. A 7.3L diesel needs about 1500 CCA to crank up. The Chevy 350 needs 650. Also, I've read that it takes a lot more power to fire diesel fuel injectors. I'm not sure about that. But heating glow plugs to 850 degrees on top of cranking a high compression engine requires some power! If you have weak batteries or just one bad battery, you're not going anywhere. The cold only makes this problem worse. Have you ever heard how when some diesels shut off it sounds like the belts chirp for a second? That's because the engine stops so fast due to the high compression, that the accessories like the alternator, power steering pump etc, can't stop that fast. The pulleys spin on the belt for a split second and cause that chirp. Not all diesels do this, but the 7.3 does.
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Old 11-16-2007, 11:15 AM   #6
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Re: I think my batteries are bad.

They have 8D's at Sam's Club. They used to be about $100. Last time I looked, they were about $115 +/-. When in doubt about the batteries, change them. After you make sure it's not something else. If your battery is not 100%, it give give you problems at the worst time. That is what always seems to happen to me.
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Old 11-18-2007, 06:04 PM   #7
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Re: I think my batteries are bad.

I have not got home in time to start diagnosing my battery power problem. I can't seem to find both daylight and dry conditions. The things I have metered looks as if I will be replacing my batteries. Crazycal's suggestion of 8Ds from Sams Club would have been something to consider, but I have let my membership laps over three years ago.

What do you guys suggest as the best batteries for the price and where do you purchase them?
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Old 11-18-2007, 09:23 PM   #8
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Re: I think my batteries are bad.

Batteries Plus usually has competitive pricing, a nationwide warranty, and they will have fresh 8D's in stock. I might be a bit biased because I used to work there, but rest assured that I speak the truth. They sell many different 8D's, but I think you would probably consider an 8DA or an 8D-DC (deep cycle). They are very similar in reserve capacity with the deep cycle having slightly more. Our batteries were all from East Penn (American made) which is a huge company that makes a high quality product. They provide Caterpillar with their OEM 8D batteries for what it's worth.
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Old 11-20-2007, 09:56 PM   #9
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Re: I think my batteries are bad.

Update:

I was trying to cut corners and took my batteries out to be tested at one of the local shops. (I really thought that they were dead and would not be any good.

Well, the shop charged and tested them and says that they are good.

So, now I got to figure out whats draining them. When I was removing them, I put my meter in line to the heavy positive cable and it shown an insignificant amount of amp draw. I got thinking, I removed a smaller wire from the positive post that was heavy enough to carry a good heavy load. I should have been metering the amp draw to this lead. I figure this lead is what feeds my instrument panel. I got thinking about what has changed. I did remove the flip out stop sign. I disconnected the leads on the outside junctions and taped them off. I also had cut the two leads that fed the blinking lights that were located on the stop sign ( these were taped off too). I wonder if the circuit is somehow sucking power because I might not have disarmed it properly.

Any thoughts?
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Old 11-20-2007, 10:54 PM   #10
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Re: I think my batteries are bad.

You're on the right track doing an ignition off draw test. When you find a draw greater than .050 amps you will know you have a problem assuming you don't have any clocks or anything draining. Without a computer you shouldn't see any draw in theory, but .050 amps is the allowable limit for OBDI cars so I'm willing to let that fly on your bus as well. If you do find a draw start pulling fuses until it goes away. That's the only good way to find it unfortunately.

Also...how long did you go with the bus sitting? Batteries don't like to sit and will go dead. It's just nature of the beast. I recommend a Deltran charger or similar automatic trickle charger if you can.
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