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Old 03-03-2024, 04:02 PM   #1
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Exclamation Bus Batteries DEAD

I have a 2002 Thomas bus with a CAT 3126 Diesel Engine. I got it in April 2021 and the batteries had been replaced in 2020 - she fired up just fine. It then sat for a good while and when I went to work on it in the fall of ‘23 the batteries were dead - they wouldn’t even take/hold charge using a smart or trickle charger. We tested it for a parasitic drain and found nothing but thought, “oh well, it’s been sat for a while in the summer so they must have got damaged, we’ll replace them.”

Replaced them 11/23 with new batteries, connected in parallel to get enough cranking amps to get the bus started. She started up just fine, again. We even installed a Victron box to divert the solar power from the RV system to keep them topped up, just in case there was a parasitic drain we somehow hadn’t identified. Just came out to work on it to find that the batteries are both reading >9 volts. We took them out and had them on a trickle charger overnight, no result.

Any idea what could be causing the batteries to die, in the winter, when there is no drain? The server at NAPA said that if batteries sit for more than 2 weeks the “acid turns to water” and they just die…which doesn’t sound right to me! Is it because they are connected in parallel? Any advice would be gratefully received!

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Old 03-03-2024, 04:27 PM   #2
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A suggestion: Install a Cole Hersey battery switch between the batteries and the rest of the bus. They make a model that allows for connection of two batteries. It was an option on Crown busses. My "old Crown" has one. The new crown didn't come with it. I have 1 Kw of solar on the roof of the "new Crown" with two solar charge controllers. One charge controller is connected to the starter batteries and the other to the house batteries. Two of the solar panels are connected through a switch to the charge controller connected to the starter batteries. With this configuration I have gone through this winter with no issues keeping the starter and house batteries charged. Just a flip of a switch configures the solar array to supply 400 watts peak to the starter batteries and 600 watts to the house batteries OR all 1000 watts to the house batteries. When the bus is running the second alternator keeps the house batteries charged.
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Old 03-03-2024, 04:52 PM   #3
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all electronic engines can have some sort of parasitic load.. I have no idea of your solar setup.. did you verify before you put the bus in for slumber that the solar was in fact feeding a proper charge / float voltage to your batteries? is it possible the vicetron box blasted them with too hgih voltage and boiled their fluid out? or that the solar went for long periods without pushing anything in due to low winter sunlight?


my redbyrd bus has a T444E.. i have 2 deep cycle AGM batteries in parallel in that bus.. if I dont keep my victron wall charger on it in maintain mode, its batteries will go down to about 11.5 in just a few weeks.. winter or summer..



when i parked that bus for a few months with no shore power i poulled the fuses for the ECM, transmission, and the radio... its batteries were still at 12.4 a few months later... batteries wont just die froim sitting if theres no draw..



I just went and got my vintage superior bus out today for the first time in close to 4 months of winter storage, it has no computers or parasitic loads.. with some cranking and pumping to get the carb refilled with gasoline it fired right up.. never once did i feel like the batteries are low.. so the mechanic saying "batteries just die" is incorrect, something is running them down.



as others mentionhed, a battery disconnect switch can be installed where you can turn the electrical system off when its in storage..
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Old 03-03-2024, 06:25 PM   #4
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battery acid

Not so on the battery acid. I needed some acid to re-fill a battery and used some from a battery that had been sitting a couple years, wow, that acid really liked to neutralize on that limestone gravel that I spilled it on. Still quite potent.
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Old 03-03-2024, 10:21 PM   #5
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Or just disconnect

A disconnect switch is a good idea. But you can just remove the negative (ground) cable from the battery(s) and your parasitic drain will stop. I did that for a few years until I hooked up a 4 amp Battery Tender. I plug that in while the bus is at home. I still will just disconnect the Negative cable if I'm out boondocking somewhere for a while. I want the bus to START when it's time to move.
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Old 03-04-2024, 08:00 AM   #6
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You've got a drain somewhere. If you did the test with dead batteries, that wasn't correct, do the test with fresh batteries, after you just started/ran/turned the bus off, and then watch the draw over an hour or so period.

Anything more then 100 milliamps isn't good. Truthfully, if this is sitting for months, you're supposed to disconnect them anyways, as even a normal draw will kill them in that time. My bus would have low batteries every spring after sitting 6 months just due to the power used for the radio presets.

Napa guy has no clue, or you misheard him. Good batteries are lead and sulfuric acid, dead batteries are lead sulfate and water. It's the chemical reaction that occurs that makes power. That reaction doesn't occur unless you're pulling a current from them. So batteries sitting not connected to anything have a much longer shelf life then 2 weeks.

FYI, when your batteries are dead, the water inside can freeze, wrecking the lead plates in the process, creating a short between them. That short when a charge is applied to the battery can cause heat and an explosion if not careful. So be mindful of what you're doing.
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Old 03-04-2024, 08:17 AM   #7
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To be completely expected with the way you described your situation. You let it sit for two years. As Cadillackid stated all Electronic Engines have a drain.

These buses were meant to drive daily (Minus weekends) kids to school so the drain by design was left in because the purpose was that the buses would be used enough to charge back what is drained. But now it's with an owner who lets it sit for 2 years without a crank. It needs a battery disconnect switch, and the simplest way I can suggest adding it is to the Negative ground lines. The small positive wires (with fuses) that currently go to the ECM of your bus drain them. Some model buses have ECM's that throw huge fits if you take away the drain or disconnect them, but not many and hopefully you don't have one of those. (I can't tell you which but I've seen people post here having that issue after adding a disconnect switch. Which leads me to my next point.

A Battery disconnect could cause surges to electronic components upon reconnecting which could also permanently damage your ECM. A good quality one may have a buffer to protect against that, but I wouldn't rely on it. This is why I hook my battery disconnect between the battery and ground planes on the negative side.

Crowns often have disconnect switches already installed from factory, and they put theirs on the positive side. I wouldn't recommend this on any bus other than Crown buses because Crown probably takes into account some things in their wiring to account for surging. If adding one from scratch, add it to the negative and here is why.

Imagine a circle of wires (or a circuit), and a surge occurs from one source on the circuit, the battery itself will act as a buffer because it's a storage device, it'll soak up a surge if needed. From a ground plane to the battery, there's no electronic components between the two. A Ground plane is a lot of metal and can also soak up a surge. So the safest place to place a battery disconnect is on the ground plane. It's practically impossible to surge fry any electronics on reconnect if you do it this way. Surging is the reason I wouldn't put it on the Positive side.

Typically if surging wasn't an issue you could place the disconnect anywhere safely to reconnect the circuit, positive or negative, but you want two sides capable of soaking up a surge, and the best place for that is between the battery and ground planes. I've been doing this on my bus now for 6 months since I installed my battery disconnect, with no issues. And I have a 30 year old ECM. Bus starts up every time.
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Old 03-04-2024, 12:10 PM   #8
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dont ask a parts person for mechanical advice.they will allways try to baffle you with bull .... they probaly did not want to warrenty it. also i have a new charger and if the battery is almost completely dead it wont charge it. i have to put it in start mode for a few minutes then i can get it to charge. do buy a 6 amp maintainer if you have 120 ac available as my starter batteries were 5 years old when we bought our bus 5 years ago. yea they are 10 years old and start in any weather. make sure you use the red and green felt washers to keep your terminals clean. i did buy a new battery for a 9 year old arcadia and the guyat autozone did not even ask just set a pair of those washers on the new battery.
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Old 03-04-2024, 12:14 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sportyrick View Post
Not so on the battery acid. I needed some acid to re-fill a battery and used some from a battery that had been sitting a couple years, wow, that acid really liked to neutralize on that limestone gravel that I spilled it on. Still quite potent.
yea this is right that stuff dont go bad that quick.
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Old 03-04-2024, 12:18 PM   #10
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now on these computer controlled buses if you keep shutting off the computer with a master disconnect switch every time you start it it must learn all its parameters again as thats not stored in its pernament memory and you might notice sluggish or lower performace until it figures out what to do. the maintainer is the best way to go
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Old 03-04-2024, 12:34 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mmoore6856 View Post
now on these computer controlled buses if you keep shutting off the computer with a master disconnect switch every time you start it it must learn all its parameters again as thats not stored in its pernament memory and you might notice sluggish or lower performace until it figures out what to do. the maintainer is the best way to go
Interesting that you mention this. Just recently I tried to help out with a headlight low voltage issue and my research lead me to what is called a Body Control Module.

The first BCM's came out in 2001, there was not third gen. and the current model is Gen. 4 which is supposed to be downwards compatible to Gen. 1 & 2.

Gen. 2 models came out in 2007.

Gen. 4 came out in 2015.

The Gen. 4 do have a backup battery in them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Navistar doc
The Real Time Clock, or RTC, has been integrated into the Generation 4 Body Controller and broadcasts the time and date information to modules on the network.
With the addition of the RTC, vehicles equipped with the Generation 4 Body Controller from the factory do not require a Stand Alone Real Time, or SART, Module.
A replaceable backup battery supplies power to the RTC to maintain the time and date information when battery power is removed.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Navistar doc
Cross Functionality
The Generation 4 Body Controller is unique because it has been designed with internal relays which reduce the number of relays, wires, and circuits used on Navistar® vehicles.
The Generation 4 Body Controller is backwards compatible, meaning it can be installed on a vehicle that was originally equipped with a Generation 2 Body Controller. Backward compatibility is possible in part due to the changes in electrical architecture, or the way the BCM is designed to operate with other modules.
How long this backup battery lasts ??? I have no idea!

But this info is to your point about relearning parameters.
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