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Updated : 16/03/2018.   

                            

 

"I would like to thank you once again for the excellent and prompt service you gave to me when I travelled to North Wales. The repairs to the Schaudt Elektroblock EBL 271 unit certainly saved my holiday to Spain, the Ferry had already been booked for that weekend. 
I just wish that all companies were as friendly and efficient as yours. 
Vernon"
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         Which are the cheapest Motorhome/Caravan area Habitation Batteries?


                      WE DO NOT SELL ANY BATTERIES, THIS IS INDEPENDENT ADVICE


What is our expertise?

We have carried out extensive research cutting open expired Motorhome and Caravan batteries to see how they aged and why they failed. 

We specialise in the repair of Motorhome and Caravan battery chargers for almost all makes from around the World, we also specialise in Leisure vehicle electrical and electronic repairs

We not only understand how a battery gets charged but we have real world specialist battery experience. It is therefore no surprise we are being recognised as battery charging experts.



15 years ago most Leisure Wet Acid batteries were pretty much the same technology, but battery technology has advanced so much in the last 5 years. There is now a massive gulf between high technology wet batteries and those still using technology from the 1990's, yet the difference in cost is often small.


The industry prediction 4 years ago that, in Motorhomes, the wet acid battery will be replaced by the AGM battery, hasn't materialised. 

When comparing batteries, don't forget that AGM batteries cost twice as much as Wet Acid batteries, so to compete they need to be at least twice as good as the best Wet Acid batteries average 5 year life. 


A Wet Acid battery doesn't need special Alternators and Mains chargers, the absence of which severely compromises an AGM battery in the average Motorhome. 

It is because most Motorhomes, and almost all Caravans, are still being rolled out with charging systems that can cause premature AGM battery failure that we do not recommend the fitment of AGM batteries. The forums are full of stories of AGM batteries lasting a meagre two years.

This is supported by Audi/Volkswagen ditching AGM in favour of Wet Acid EFB technology batteries, see the big latest news on the AGM battery web page.

 


Those wet acid batteries that have adopted new technology can last twice as long as a conventional wet battery, yet cost little more.

Below you can see evidence of a Hankook 'Deep Cycle Leisure' battery that has only 60 cycles at 50% Depth Of Discharge (DOD).

The graph below, supplied by the Korean battery manufacturer of the Hankook ranges, Atlasbx, shows how the Hankook DC range (Yellow line on the graph) has just 60 cycles at 50% DOD and meagre 30 cycles at 60% DOD.




Despite being described by the Retailers (not the manufacturers) as 'Deep cycling', it clearly is only suitable for shallow cycling.

Yet this battery is actually one of the better 'budgets' so you can imagine how poor the worst are. 

 


Clearly the technology deployed is now creating a major difference between the best and the worst wet acid batteries. 
The Hankook XV27 has only reached 30 cycles in tests, yet is £80. The Varta LFD90 has 200 cycles at £99, literally more than 6 times the life for £19 more. To match the life of the Varta, you would have to buy six XV27's equalling £480 expenditure for the Hankook or £99 for the Varta to get equal life.


Imagine the real cost of buying the bottom end of the budget market, remember the Hankook XV27 is far from the worst in it's group, like the £73 one that was recently tested at just 7 cycles!!. 
Such a battery would generate a real cost of £2,000 trying to match the same cycle life of an LFD90.

As Charles Dickens once wrote, "Don't buy cheap, buy clever". My friend Charles, from 63 Beach Drive, is a very wise man.


                                Time to stop thinking that all wet acid batteries are the same?



We started this page about 5 years ago with the intention of trying to point folk away from the nasty budget batteries that were causing so much charger and alternator destruction. Almost all the Motorhome and Caravan charger failures were down to poor batteries, an overlarge battery bank or both.

So we started trying to find a battery that didn't break the bank, had decent lifetime and was kind to chargers.  Only a short time earlier Varta had announced a new patented battery technology called Powerframe that was outperforming everything else else at the sub £100 end of the market by a huge margin. 

Even the Powerframe Starter batteries were outperforming the budget so called 'Leisure' batteries.

It became our 'Best Budget Buy' recommendation.


But so much has happened in the last 5 years, even more in the last 12 months. The Leisure battery industry lost it's way a little bit by diverging off into short life AGM's, leaving the Powerframe Bosch L5/Varta LFD to have the upto £150 sector to itself, and it has reigned supreme.


With the industries realisation 12 months months ago (can I just say 'told you so'?) that AGM's were not going to deliver the promised life time, there was a massive flurry of activity. 

Activity like you would not believe.


Investment into Enhanced Flooded Batteries (EFB), sometimes also known as Advanced Flooded Batteries (AFB) or whatever you want to call it, has dominated. Other technologies like Exides 'High Carbon' abound.

With the result that in the next few months we are going to see the 'Best Budget Buy' Varta get really serious competition. 

For example, the Yuasa L36-EFB was part of a 'secret' group test that made the Varta LFD/Bosch L series batteries look the poor relation. Of 5 batteries tested, the Varta, was bottom of what looked an exceptional class. 

Using the Hankook XV27 comparison above, the Yuasa L36-EFB would last nearly 8 times longer, versus the LFD's 6 times. 

We already have the Yuasa L36-EFB test data results to BS EN 50342, so it has laboratory data to back up Yuasa's claims.

  

There was also a new Banner EFB battery that did very well in that group test. 

This new Banner EFB range, like the Yuasa L36-EFB, is listed as ZERO fluid loss. 

Not the 'very low' fluid loss of AGM and Gel batteries, but the ZERO gets particular emphasis on the web pages. 

Have a look at the Banner battery website it is full of new ranges of EFB batteries, they are trying really hard, so expect these to also be very good. 

We are due to talk to Banner Batteries next week, hopefully they will supply details of all the batteries and the related British Standard test data to back up their claimed Technical Specs.


We need to find out more about these new batteries, until then please bear the above in mind when you read the page below, as it will take me a long time to rewrite the whole page. 

We are hoping Yuasa and Banner will consider donating a battery so we can cut them open. Obviously we extend this courtesy to all Leisure battery manufacturers.  







So what is a good battery that is also cost effective?
We have more real world experience about Battery Chargers and charging Batteries than anyone we know. 
We are Battery Charger repairers, repairing and replacing them inside motorhomes not just on the workbench.
We also get to see the electrical infrastructure where the battery charger damage occurred.


There is one battery range that uses advanced technology, that is so good it is patented so can't be copied, yet the adoption of that technology has resulted in 20% lower production costs that are being passed onto the customer. 
This battery performs better than almost anything else in it's class, yet because of the lower production costs is little more than the cheapest budgets.
In reality, as you would expect from high quality manufacturers, it's life should exceed the paper specifications of most similar priced batteries because it won't suffer the debilitating corrosion that affects most other batteries as they age. 

It has a 5 year guarantee, showing the confidence in the batteries quality. 



The most outstanding Habitation Area battery that stands above all others in it's class, is only slightly more than the budgets, £99 (May 2018). 

The reason it is like no other is because the advanced technology is Patented, called 'Powerframe'.

Johnson Controls build two identical battery ranges on the same production line, one labelled as Varta LFD and the other built for Bosch : the Bosch L series. 

The Bosch  L version sometimes has a better guarantee and different marketing, but it's specification is identical to the Varta LFD.

They are Wet Lead Acid batteries, so operate with ALL existing chargers and Alternators. 


The Bosch L series and the Varta LFD range our our 'Best Budget Buy' battery.


They have unique technology inside that results in higher performance than almost all other Lead Acid batteries : longer life, greater real power, more efficient with faster charging times. They can charge up to twice as fast as conventional batteries and they don't self discharge or vent ANY Gas or fluid. 

These are safer inside the habitation area than a Gel or AGM battery.



So why is a Varta LFD90 and the Bosch L5 so special?



A conventional battery starts to corrode internally from the moment it is used, as in the photo on the left above. Corrosion, some times called Grid Growth, acts as a barrier to current flow. Plate Corrosion also causes 'Paste shedding' which can result in a battery Self Discharging faster than normal. 

You can see from the photo on the Right that Powerframe technology reduces this Corrosion to zero levels, which also means zero fluid loss. It endows the battery with higher efficiency than anything in it's class, Bosch/Varta claim upto 70% better electrical flow as the batteries age. 

Bosch claims very high charge acceptance - it is one of the fastest charging batteries around on conventional Alternators and mains chargers. 

In the average Motorhome, it charges even faster than an AGM battery, yet the Varta/Bosch Powerframe doesn't suffer the AGM's charger intolerance, temperature issues and resultant short life.


The lack of Corrosion/Grid Growth also means that the normal loss of adhesion by the Lead Paste is reduced, so there is less 'Paste shedding' which is the primary cause of shorted plates and rapid self discharge. Therefore the battery AH Capacity does not deteriorate to the extent other batteries do, performing closer to maximum Ah capacity for longer, right up to end of life from exhaustion of the Paste/Active material. 

 

The Powerframe high Silver content further adds to battery efficiency at both High and Low temperatures. The Bosch L5 Deep Cycle battery will start a big truck engine in freezing conditions and last longer and perform better than most batteries in hot Desert temperatures.      

This technology also has very, very low self discharge rates. Put a perfect Varta/Bosch in the Shed in October and it will still be near full charge in March. Although an interim 3 month charge is recommended.



So How Does It Manage To Be So Good?

The special Silver Alloy Grid is manufactured using a rolling and stamping process, which changes the molecular structure of the metal resulting in it becoming highly corrosion resistant. 

This combination of the Silver Alloy (Silver is a very efficient electrical conductor with exceptional anti-corrosion properties) and the Rolling process makes a huge difference to the way it behaves. There are several other clever manufacturing touches, but the Powerframe Silver Alloy Grid is the key. 


This resistance to corrosion not only improves battery efficiency, but when corrosion is the primary cause of Wet Acid battery failure, battery life is also dramatically improved over a conventional battery. 

See the chart below from a battery Lifetime study of thousands of batteries showing that 86% of Wet Acid batteries go 'End of Life' from Grid Corrosion as the primary cause of failure.

If you take Corrosion damage out of the equation, you have the potential for one very long life battery where the actual cycle life of the battery will determine it's replacement, not some other side issue :


Two other things you might note about the above chart -

1. That AGM and Gel (VRLA) suffer slightly less from Corrosion, but it still destroyed nearly 60% of all AGM/Gel batteries in the survey 


2. That 30% of AGM and Gel batteries died from 'drying out'. Remember hearing the myth that Gel and AGM's never Gas or lose fluid? 

Together 'Dry Out' and Corrosion accounted for the destruction of 92% of all AGM/Gel batteries. 


So not only does Powerframe technology address the primary forms of battery failure, like Corrosion, Fluid Loss, etc but endows it with efficiency streets ahead of anything else. Efficiency that lasts right to EOL. 


You don't believe a Powerframe battery will never Gas or lose fluid?


The graphic below from the Bosch website shows the 'Special Lid Structure' that prevents fluid loss outside the battery making it 100% gas tight. 

We quote from the Bosch page : 

"...Labyrinth construction ensures that evaporated liquid remains in the battery. This makes the battery 100% maintenance free, as well as leak-proof and tilt-proof. The Central ventilation opening (as in linking the cells, not as in 'to the atmosphere' ) means it is suitable for installation inside the passenger compartment".


Note how they are so confident they say, "it is suitable for installation inside the passenger compartment". 


Full extract here :





The above Bosch web page twice states "100% Maintenance Free" and  "evaporated liquid remains in the battery". 

Despite all the above some people still compare Powerframe batteries it to a conventional Wet battery when it really, really isn't. Even battery retailer sales teams rarely have a clue how special this battery technology is.


This battery is safer to use inside the habitation area of a Motorhome/Caravan than even a Gel battery. 

 

The Bosch PDF, available further down the page, states : 

PowerFrame® technology

▶ PowerFrame®: flow optimized grid design for optimum current flow, reduced corrosion and a long service life

▶ Maximum safety through double backfire protection

▶ No leakage of the acid thanks to the sealed design of the battery lid

▶ Absolutely maintenance free

In the notes of the same document it states :

"Labyrinth lid : returns condensed water to the battery".




More evidence to back up Powerframe capability :

Extracted from the Varta website : 

Greater efficiency, up to 70% improved current flow, longer life, more power, faster charging, extreme temperature operation, etc.

     




Our Summary of the benefits of a Varta Bosch Powerframe battery


Low self discharge : Stays highly charged up for 6 months +. Varta claim a 12 month shelf life.

High efficiency : Up to 70% better current flow over a similar age older battery. 

Very Low internal corrosion : This makes it more efficient than the opposition, especially after 2 years +. 

Long life and strong performance right to End Of Life

Maintenance free : Zero fluid loss (so as safe inside the MH as Gel/AGM battery, see evidence below), actually safer, as the LFD is less likely to explode than either Gel or AGM.

Low cost : It's production uses 20% less energy, so it costs less than it's technology would normal merit., 

Faster charge up : Upto twice that of a budget 110Ah battery. See more below on "110Ah Budget batteries". 

Lightest load on a charger of any battery technology : Significant from our point of view, they place a lighter load on the battery charging systems, both Mains 230v and the Alternator.

Exceptional high/low temperature operation rangeTo support the claim of high temperature tolerance, we publish this image below showing a Varta Silver/Bosch Silver Powerframe lasting more than twice as many miles as ordinary batteries in Desert conditions :


 


This real world independent test In extreme desert temperatures shows a Powerframe lasted 94,000 miles versus 41,000 miles. A ratio greater than 2 to 1. In other words, at an annual mileage of 10k, a Varta Powerframe starter battery used in the hotest conditions, lasts 9.5 years versus just 4 years for a conventional battery.

We think, strong evidence that the Varta LFD90/Bosch L5 will not only out last a conventional wet habitation battery by a big margin, but do so when used in the Desert like conditions of Morroco

Some budget Leisure's suffer from a Summers day in Brighton. 



Motor Movers on Caravans.

Because the LFD90 is also designed to start an Engine, it copes well with a short duration high current draw. It is better suited for powering a Motor Mover on a Caravan (some of which can draw over 140amps from the battery) more than almost any other battery. However, even an LFD90, AND the Mover Electric Motors, should be rested for 1 minute for every minute of use of a powerful Motor Mover setup.


Please do not use an AGM or Gel battery, as a 4 wheel drive mover going up a slope or on a tight turn uses huge amounts of power for several minutes which will overheat an AGM/Gel with resultant short life. It is also very important not to charge up a battery that is warm from excessive power drain, let it cool for at least 60 minutes first. 

If a Caravan Mover is operated for several minutes manoeuvring into position on a new Pitch, don't switch on the charger when you connect EHU for at least 60 mins if you can avoid it. Charging a discharged, warm battery really affects it's cycle life. 



Where to buy a Varta LFD 90/Bosch L5?


This company below sells the LFD90 at around £95, it is a small business with limited stock space so you can be sure the battery has not lost half it's life from sitting on the shelf for months. They can deliver to your door and because the Varta LFD 90 is so well sealed it travels better than most wet batteries. 

However be warned the 'Sales Team' appear to have a brief to sell batteries with the highest profit margin, not those that are the best. They push quite hard their own label batteries, saying they are as good when they are not half the battery the Varta is : Tayna batteries - https://www.tayna.co.uk/  -  01745 823399


Battery Mega store is another good source with a high turnover of Varta Batteries so they should also be 'fresh' stock. Again watch out for the Sales team pushing higher profit margin, poorer quality batteries. 

What is better for a battery Sales Team : To sell you a battery that lasts a long time so you won't be back for 5 years, or a poor battery for similar cost that brings you back inside 2 years?




How can the Varta LFD90/Bosch L5 wet batteries be safer inside the Motorhome than a Gel battery?

                  Because :

                        1. The special Powerframe technology reduces bubbling to zero levels.

                        2. it does not Bubble, but should that occur, the fluid condenses back to Water, remaining inside the battery.

                        3. Gel and AGM batteries operate under pressure, the safety valve can, and does, fail causing explosion.   

                        4. See the section near the bottom of the page on Battery Explosions and Thermal Runaway.

                         

AGM batteries used in the Motorhome environment where an AGM optimised charger is rarely available, have a higher premature failure rate and a higher risk of explosion. See top of the "Long Term EHU" webpage for the email from Sarah if you think that is rare.


Note that Gel, like all VRLA batteries, can have a higher 'resting', or 'start' voltage which affects the 'guide' discharge voltage. If you look at the chart below from Yuasa Batteries, a VRLA/Gel battery is 50% discharged at 12.5v, whereas a conventional battery is 50% discharged at 12.1v. 


We suggest you use the Sealed VRLA column above as a guide to the discharge level for a Varta LFD/Bosch L5 battery as they have a resting voltage nearer to that of Sealed/VRLA and their characteristics are more on par with a VRLA than a 'conventional' battery.  

You will find many different charts around, but most seem to be based on redundant technology Antimony based batteries, which fell out of favour in the eighties. 

A battery 'State of Charge' chart that doesn't recognise that different technology batteries have different voltages, is clearly out of date. 

A Customer who brought his own LFD90's for us to fit had charged them at home for 24 hours the week before.

When they arrived with us they were showing 12.88v on a very cold day (5 degrees) and once charged/discharged a few times (most batteries only reach their peak after 20'ish charge/discharges)  typically reach 12.95v at 20 degrees, very close to that of Gel and AGM VRLA batteries. 



The chart shows just how different this battery is in REAL use :

If you look at the chart above, you will note that the VRLA/Powerframe column has a voltage range of fully charged to discharged of 13.0v to12.0v. A full 1volt range. The chart shows a Yuasa Conventional batteriry has only a 0.8v range from 12.6v down to 11.8v. Remember this is a Yuasa chart of Yuasa quality batteries, don't expect a Numax Battery to perform as well as a Yuasa Conventional battery.


Not only does this suggest a Powerframe LFD 90 is a more usable battery, but when 50% discharged they have almost the same voltage as a fully charged conventional Lead Antimony battery!!  

A HALF discharged Varta Powerframe LFD 90 is 12.5v and a FULLY charged QUALITY conventional battery is 12.6v.

That is useful higher 'voltage' when it comes to Diesel heating, which can  draw so much start-up current it can cause significant voltage drop. Likewise some TV's that require a minimum voltage, will run better on a Varta/Bosch Powerframe.


If nothing else, this demonstrates that the LFD90/L5 is no ordinary 'wet' battery, it's efficient technology translates to real World, visable voltage improvements. 




That is all very well, but a 90Ah battery is too small for me, I like 110Ah batteries?               

          

Why you should think twice about 110Ah batteries?

When a battery is constructed there are choices that have to be made on Capacity versus Durability. For Deep Discharge strength the plates have to be stronger, this takes up more space effectively reducing the Plate 'capacity'. 

Generally (very broad brush generalisation for Lead batteries) the greater the durability that is required, the lower the battery Ah capacity for the same technology. This is about battery comparisons at the budget end of the market. 

Where advanced technologies are employed it might be possible to squeeze 'a quart into a pint pot'.     


For example the very durable long life Exide G80/ES900 is an 80Ah battery at the physical size of L-353mm, W-175mm, H-190mm of most Motorhome battery boxes

The Deep Cycle Bosh L5/Varta LFD90 is 90Ah, again in the same physical size as a G80. 

The Banner Energy Bull is 100Ah in the same physical package 

The similar physical sized Atlasbx XV is a 110Ah, the capabilities of which is assessed in the opening sections. 



When we were cutting open batteries in 2012 - 2013, the budget 110Ah batteries all showed poor quality construction and significant signs of failure. They might start off at 110Ah but we would suggest their 'real' capacity drops below 110Ah very quickly once it is used. 

 

We don't sell any batteries, this is as independent as it gets. 

If the new Exide Carbon Boost Battery technology developments advance as we suspect, we may be switching our advice to that technology. 

We will always publicise what we think is the best habitation battery, we have no allegiance to anyone. However, any Battery companies looking 

  





Lead Crystal Batteries?


We would advise caution in regard to buying Lead Crystal batteries as the technology inhibits the heat transfer that develops whenever any battery is used. Therefore it's use may be severely limited by this restriction to an even greater degree than the poor temperature performance of Gel or AGM.

It is now universally accepted that AGM won't deliver the capability suggested by laboratory tests, often failing in miserably short times. As these are AGM based cells, with even tighter temperature working tolerances, they are likely to be even poorer performing in real world use.


The marketing blurb states : 

"A unique micro-porous high absorbent mat (AGM), pure lead plates, safe SiO2 electrolyte solution that solidifies into

a white crystalline powder when charged/discharged"


They also require special battery chargers/Alternators, see this below from the Blurb, which took me some time to find on the Betta website as it's not covered at all on the usual marketing pages :  

"Our patented Lead Crystal® Batteries have different charge characteristics compared to conventional lead based batteries and therefore need suitable chargers to function optimally. The Lead Crystal chargers are embedded with optimized micro-processor controlled charging algorithms that ensure correct charging of all Lead Crystal® Batteries".


Note that failure to use of one of their special chargers will almost certainly invalidate the Warranty, see the second paragraph in the Warranty extract in Red letters below, plus cause the battery to under perform.

How you would integrate one of these chargers with something like a Sargent EC325, EC328, etc. and still have the charging information displayed on the LCD unit above the door would be a complex puzzle for someone. As it would be for most Power Controllers where the charger is integrated into the entire Power control/Distribution unit. 



Note that despite a claimed 8 - 10  year life, the warranty is just 3 years, less than some poor quality budget batteries.

In any case the warranty is pretty much useless as the battery has to have failed to the point were it is absolutely devastated beyond scrap before you can even think of making a claim, see this extract from the warranty manual :

"Betta Batteries will replace a battery if, when used within its parameters, the available capacity falls to a level lower than 40% in 10 hours under no load within 18 months, or if the capacity falls lower than 30% in 10h under no load within 19 to 36 months.

The guarantee will be null and void in the event the battery is installed incorrectly, misused, used or (dis)charged outside specifications, damaged by external influences".


In other words the battery has got to be so bad that the warranty will only be valid if the battery leaks 40% of it's capacity in just 10 hours when standing unconnected to any wires!! A self discharge of 40% of capacity in 10 hours is a battery that actually became unusable months before.  

I would guess that to get to the position of making a claim, you would need to continue using the battery long, long, long after it was past it's best. Past the point it will have overloaded the Alternator and mains charger.

The warranty stipulates the battery must be used 'within it's parameters', but I can't find anywhere where those parameters are printed.

 

To me that is a warranty from a company that expects lots of premature failures so has designed a warranty where no one can make a claim. Add in the ridiculously short warranty period for a long life product, the stipulation of a specialist charger to keep the warranty active and that doesn't suggest to me this is a battery to avoid. 


So anyone trying out this new technology who thinks the Warranty provides a 'cushion' if things go wrong, might be a bit disappointed. 

 

Not a confidence boosting start when considering such an expensive £450 for a 100Ah battery?. 





BATTERY EXPLOSION + TOPPING UP BATTERIES

Battery explosion is not common, but does happen, see the email we got from Sarah at the top of the "Long term EHU" webpage.


Precautions When Checking/Topping up lost fluid and Battery Explosions 

 According to PREVENT BLINDNESS AMERICA, nearly 6,000 motorists suffered serious eye injuries annually from working around car batteries. We know in the UK what horrific injuries 'Battery Acid on the face' can cause.


While rarely fatal, each year battery explosions cause tens of thousands of eye and burn injuries from battery acid globally.

We can't find any similarly good advice from a UK source so we publish this US based guidance :


PREVENT BLINDNESS AMERICA write :

"Be especially careful when topping up the fluid in a battery,. Hydrogen and Oxygen may be released the minute you unscrew the top. Hydrogen is explosive in just a 4% mixture with Air.

Before topping up a battery, turn off the 12v power and EHU, ensure the battery is not being charged. 

Ideally top up the battery after it has been standing unused for a week when the explosive Gas has had time to disperse. 

Take great care not to make Sparks, by undoing/re-attaching a battery clamp during/after the Top Up process. Ventilate the area well before starting the Check/Top-Up procedure.


Ensure the battery is a wet battery, some AGM batteries have seemingly removable caps which should never be removed.

If it is a Wet Acid battery meant to have maintenance, undo the Battery Caps. If the battery does not have battery caps then it is probably not meant to be topped up so seek advice.

Shine a torch down into the Battery and check the electrolyte is at least covering the Plates. Some batteries have min/max marks which should be used, if available.

If the Plates are visible it is likely the battery has suffered damage.

Add distilled water, or at least de-ionised water. Tap water can shorten the batteries life by years.

Note exactly how much water you need to add as this will be a guide to how often you need to check the battery, but also a guide to the likely damage if the Plates were visable. 

If you need to add significant water to cover the Plates, we would suggest you consider battery replacement. At the very least, monitor the battery carefully and check it more regularly. Also monitor the charging voltages of all the charging systems, Alternator, Mains, Solar, etc to ensure they are all within specification.  


A less common form of battery explosion occurs when the battery is subjected to high temperatures while charging causing thermal runway in AGM or Gel batteries.

Should a battery explosion occur and battery electrolyte (battery acid) gets in the eyes, flush with any drinkable liquid immediately because SECONDS count, continue flushing with water for at least 15 minutes, and seek immediate medical attention. 


In addition, neutralize residual battery acid in the area around the incident, by thoroughly washing the area with a solution of one-pound baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) to one gallon of warm water and rinse thoroughly with water".



Better still, only use a 100%, Absolutely Maintenance free battery that does not lose fluid so does need topping up.



 


Example battery types and sizes:


The Varta LFD90 is L - 353mm W-175mm H-190mm, Capacity 90ah, MCA 1,000A, CCA/800A, Cost about £95  


The smaller Varta LFD75 is 278mm long, 175mm wide, 175mm high. 12V, capacity 75Ah, cold test current 650A (sometimes called cranking amps).  

Note that the Exide ES900 and the older G80 Gel batteries  are 353 x 175 x 190 (incl. terminals) so a match for a 90Ah Varta LFD90  (information courtesy of David Chambers).

Note 2 : The Varta LFD 90 and Bosch L5 make a better Starter battery than almost any other battery when used in a Motorhome. Motorohome Starter batteries tend to discharge lower when idle for weeks at a time than most Starter batteries are designed for. A load the Varta LFD 90 is designed for and surprisingly they are more powerful than many dedicated Starter batteries, especially during the freezing conditions on mid Winter.

The size matches most Fiat, Renaults, Mercs made after 1999, direct swap for the OEM Starter battery.


The LFD 75 Silver is a perfect replacement for Ford Transit Silver starter batteries, more powerful than the originals at half the cost of a Ford OEM battery. 



bosch brochure 2014.pdf bosch brochure 2014.pdf
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A cautionary warning about industry 'Battery testers' and different technologies

A cautionary warning about "Industry 'Battery testers" as they can be quite misleading in relation to a Motorhomes true battery condition.

Bear in mind that while we probably know more about batteries than many, battery tester units are not our speciality as we don't think there is a better battery test than carrying out your own, see bottom of page for details.

However we will try and give a run down on what we know of the battery testing tools, their strengths and weaknesses, in laymans terms. Perfectly happy to be corrected by those specialists in this area.


There are three common test units. The first is the old fashioned 'Drop Tester' which places a huge load on the battery to see how it handles that load. 


These are becoming less common as they can stress the battery, sometimes resulting in a damaged battery that was previously good, especially a leisure battery. 

The second type of tester is a small electronic device that attempts to 'guess' the batteries state by checking it's resistance and voltage then making an assessment based on what it finds. The technology is more complex than this simplified explanation. 

 
The third, and more expensive type, places a small load on the battery (not as stressful as the old Drop Tester) and monitors what power the battery actually delivers plus other parameters. They usually also use this data in association with a battery resistance/voltage check. These are very expensive so less common.


The problem with the old fashioned car battery Drop tester is the stress it places the battery under. They were designed for Starter batteries so assumes the battery is from a Car/truck and so designed to deliver the big currents drawn by a Starter Motor for Starting an Engine. 
Clearly a Motorhome Leisure/Habitation area battery isn't designed to do that, they deliver small current over long periods of time so a demand for a large current might not do a Leisure battery any good. 
It may pass the test but have suffered internal damage that will show up later.. 

Suggest you never let anyone 'Drop Test' a pure leisure battery, especially if it is less than 100AH and/or Gel based.


The second type of tester measures battery voltage and resistance.
The resistance varies with the state of charge, not just internal degradation, which can skew the results. While they sometimes use the voltage to ascertain a batteries state of charge, few are able to cater for the different voltage ranges of the different battery technologies. 
The resistance may also vary with different forms of degradation, such as Internal corrosion, plates partially shorting, etc. So while the resistance may indicate an issue, the device can only guess at what that issue might be.
Further to that, one issue may reduce the resistance, like Antimony poisoning, while Internal Corrosion may increase it balancing each other out and showing a 'healthy' battery when it isn't.

Batteries degrade for a number of reasons and it is possible to fully charge a battery that then delivers enough power to start a Fiat 3.0, but will slowly lose charge over days.

So while the Starter battery might get a 'Pass' of 550 out of 650 'cranking amps' when tested straight after a recharge, it may be down to half that after just a week.
Such a battery is no use to many motorhomes that stand idle for long periods, but be perfectly adequate for a Car/Van that is used every day.
Conversely a battery could be down to 70% of it's rated capacity yet hold it's charge for months.  


The third type of battery tester that adds a 'small 'load' just prior to the resistance check, can be more accurate, but is still flawed when used on Motorhome/Caravan batteries..


All the test units check primarily for the 'instant' power a car/Van/truck Starter battery can deliver, as this is the most important factor for the vast majority of vehicles that are used every day. 
But a Motorhome Starter battery can be used very differently, A Motorhome Starter battery can stand unused for many weeks where it's ability to hold capacity, is a more important factor. Not one of these testers are able to report on the actual Self Discharge rate.  






Testing your own Starter and Habitation batteries:

In my opinion, you can't beat your own test of fully charging a battery, leaving it for 2 weeks (to test it's ability to hold a charge), then placing a known small load, about 4 amps, to see what it's capacity is (to test how many Ah it can deliver).

However, it is VERY important not to discharge the battery in the test below 50% Depth Of Discharge (DOD) and the voltage you need as guidance will vary according to the batteries Technology.

A conventional battery will be 50% discharged at about 12.1v, a Gel battery at 12.5v and a Lead Acid Powerframe battery, like the Bosch L5/Varta LFD90, very close to the Gel voltage range.
See chart below :




You can see from the chart that discharging a quality technology battery down to a conventional batteries 12.1v will discharge it more than ideal, so likely to seriously shorten it's life or even destroy it totally.

In the graph below, you can see that something like the Hankook DC27 depicted by the Yellow line will give just 3 cycles if discharged below 80% DOD, so use 50% DOD as your absolute test minimum.