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Need Advice: Failure of Trojan AGM Batteries and Wanting to Replace with Lithiums


Spike
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CALLING ON THE EXPERTISE OF TECH-SAVY OLLIE OWNERS

Our about-five-years-old Trojan batteries failed us last night in an alarming way. My wife, Liz, noticed an electrical odor and then heat radiating from the battery compartment under the pantry. I checked the Zamp solar controller. No error message was displayed, and all else—voltage, amp hours, amps being use—looked normal. Upon sliding out the battery tray, we noticed one of the batteries was oozing fluid and the top was distorted with something like a bubble. That battery was very hot, and the others also more than warm.

I have very little knowledge of batteries and electrical systems in general, so I was very fortunate to have met, a couple of hours earlier, a fellow camper who had described building his own solar system on his own home-built travel trailer. With his help and an alarming warning that a battery this hot could explode, we disconnected all four AGM batteries, removed them from the tray, and sealed all exposed wire connections well with electrical tape. 

We are now on shore power at an RV park in Escalante, UT. (We are here to perform at the festival this Friday.) It is now Sunday, and the one auto-parts dealer/auto-mechanic shop in town is closed. My fellow camper suggested that—with assistance of someone from this shop—we might be able to temporarily install an inexpensive 12-volt battery to suffice for the couple of boondocking stops we had planned to make before returning home in Southern AZ. He also recommended eventually replacing the blown AGMs with Battle Born lithium batteries, which I think I would like to do. 

I sure would appreciate any advice and answers to these questions that occur to me now:

1. If the local auto-parts dealer/auto-mechanic shop has a 12-volt battery that could suffice before I find someone to sell me and install the lithium batteries, would that temporary fix work with my solar-electrical set-up? If so, what things do I need to consider when dealing with the mechanic who may be able to help? (The octopus of wiring after the disconnect baffles me, but perhaps a good mechanic familiar with 12-volt-solar-converter set-ups like mine would be able to install the battery efficiently and safely until I get to a larger metropolitan center where I could have the lithium batteries installed. We plan to be in Flagstaff soon.)

2. When I DO find an outfit—I hope in Flagstaff—that could sell me the lithium batteries and install them, what things do I need to consider? Will my current equipment suffice to handle the new lithium batteries, or will other things need to be changed, like the solar controller, the inverter, etc.? All suggestions concerning this lithium battery replacement of my AGMs will be appreciated. 

Here is the list of components in our 2017 Oliver Elite II that I hope will help those who may be able to offer suggestions and answer any of my questions:

1. Four Trojan T-105 6v AGM batteries
2. Zamp solar Package 
3. Progressive Dynamics converter
4. Xantrex 2000W inverter

I thank all respondents in advance for any suggestions offered. I have previously received great advice on this forum and hope to receive some now. (Our Ollie had been, before this trip, more or less stationary for almost two years.) Also, please, if you can, avoid technical terms that a non-tech-savvy guy like me will not understand—or please define such terms. Thanks!
 

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I'd say go for the cheapo battery to get you by.  It will work with everything you've got, though the zamp controller has a separate setting for lead acid vs AGM, which you should change - choose the WET setting for traditional lead acid.  It's in the manual how to do so, which is in the Oliver University section if you don't have it with you, but I think it's just pressing the battery type button until it displays the right type.  The PD converter doesn't have a separate lead acid setting.

As for the Battleborns - I'd call them in the morning to verify this, but I'm pretty sure they'll tell you that you will be fine at least temporarily hooking them in to your system without making any other changes.  The charge profiles between AGM and lithium aren't that different.  Your PD converter will eventually need a new board that has a lithium specific charge profile, which Battleborn may have in stock, and I don't know for sure if the Zamp controller from that period will have a lithium setting or not.  I think it does, but hopefully someone else will know for sure (or just flip though the battery type setting and see if it shows up).  Regardless, the nice folk at Battleborn will walk you through everything you need to do - I've found them to be extraordinarily helpful and patient.  They'll also be able to help you find a good installer in the area.  Or maybe just drive over to Reno and let them do it, lol.

Sorry for the issues - best of luck getting everything sorted.  It might be a good idea to ask the electrician if he can run through the very brief  troubleshooting instructions for the converter, which you'll find in the manual.  Just to be certain that the battery issue was't caused by the inverter.  

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Since I am cheaper than Overland, I’m retired and he isn’t, I vote for a Battleborn battery or two or three.  If you do decide to buy a "cheap" battery, try Walmart.  Buy buddy swears by their deep cell lead acid batteries.  Reno looks like a 10 hour trip so I don’t think it’s that convenient if your heading to Flagstaff, but as Overland suggest, call Battleborn first.  You are in their neighborhood and they should be able to provide some guidance.  Your Zamp charge controller should have lithium and lead acid settings, my 2017 LE2 did.  Your PD charger may support a lithium setting with a jumper change, you need the serial number and confirm that with PD.  Their support team is top notch and will steer you in the right direction.
Did your camping neighbor check for voltage in the battery box during battery removal.  You may need to turn off a breaker or two if there is still voltage on the battery cables.  And post some pictures of your battery box wiring so we can offer wiring support for your new battery choice if you need it.

I attached a Zamp manual below.

Mossey

ZAMP SOLAR ZS-30A Charge Controller.pdf

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Mike and Krunch   Lutz, FL  
2017 LEII #193 “the dog house”

 

 

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Thanks, Mossemi. 

I have tried to attach a photo of the octopus wiring in the battery compartment. I've also attached photos of what might be relevant control panels.

My camping friend did not enter our Ollie. I

Is the button or switch in the attic marked "12 V DC" what needs to be shut off? If so, is it a button that needs pushing or s switch that needs moving? 

IMG_2477.HEIC IMG_2476.HEIC IMG_2478.HEIC IMG_2479.HEIC

Edited by Spike
correction of typo

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Hey Jeff, glad you and Liz found the issue before something bad happened.  We had the same issue, our four AGM batteries were also in bad shape.  The hold down straps had worn holes in a couple of them and one was visibly swollen, two were leaking.  I replaced all four with two Battle Born lithium batteries, their basic model at 100aH each.  We’ve been on several trips since then (January) and so far the two batteries have been plenty, even when we’ve been out with no hook ups for long periods.  If you call Battle Born they will work with you and give good advice/guidance.  You probably will have to replace a board in the fuse panel underneath the dinette.  Battle Born has those also.  I had a fellow Oliver owner and general smart technical guy help me with the replacement and cleaning up the cabling.

Here’s a link to the thread I started in January - LINK.  It has a lot of information, maybe too much.  Keep us posted on your progress/solution.  We’re going to be at Kartchner Caverns in January, maybe we can drive down to Sierra Vista for a coffee or something.  Mike

 

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Texas Hill Country | Elite II #135 | Ram 2500 6.7L

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Thanks for the information, tips, and link, Mike and Carol. We will indeed call BB. It's good to hear from you now that we are back on the road after a too-long hiatus. Yours was the first Ollie that we got to touch and see in person. Yes, let us know when you get down to our corner of AZ.

 

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3 hours ago, Spike said:

I have tried to attach a photo of the octopus wiring in the battery compartment. I've also attached photos of what might be relevant control panels.

The picture of your PD panel label shows you have a 45 amp charger.  
If you turn of breaker 6 in the PD panel which is labeled charger, it will kill all of your 12v in the trailer as well as the charger circuit.

Your battery box looks pretty typical for a LE2.  Just make sure that the 3 red cable terminals coming into the battery box are taped up very well before traveling.  You don’t want cables flopping around while you are driving.  I believe the cable coming into the box on the bottom right is the 3rd red cable, but I can’t see it to be positive.

Good luck and let us know if you have any more questions,

Mossey

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Mike and Krunch   Lutz, FL  
2017 LEII #193 “the dog house”

 

 

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15 hours ago, mossemi said:

If you turn of breaker 6 in the PD panel which is labeled charger, it will kill all of your 12v in the trailer as well as the charger circuit.

 

Thanks, but doing that disabled lights, fans, etc. that we need--as we are connected to shore power. I WOULD like to disable shore and solar that formerly went to the batteries if possible. What switch or button might I need to turn off to do that?

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4 hours ago, Spike said:

Thanks, but doing that disabled lights, fans, etc. that we need--as we are connected to shore power. I WOULD like to disable shore and solar that formerly went to the batteries if possible. What switch or button might I need to turn off to do that?

I believe I said breaker 6 would kill all 12v in the trailer.  It is powered by shore or any other 120v AC input you connect to the trailer.  You can turn the solar charge controller off via the button on the face plate.  And also try the breaker under the street side bed by pushing the red button.  See the picture attached.

Do you have a multimeter, test light or anyway to test voltage?

Mossey

B81D88ED-4790-4D24-83BD-7CB143F4D8EA.thumb.jpeg.91bcc8d7182374cb4235ff75d90a135d.jpeg

 

 

   

 

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Mike and Krunch   Lutz, FL  
2017 LEII #193 “the dog house”

 

 

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I finally connected with Mike from Oliver, who said, after putting me on hold to research the issue, that there was no way on my trailer to cut off the power to the battery compartment. I then asked if the best thing for me to do was to just make sure all of the wire ends were covered with electrical tape. He replied, "Yes, Sir." 

I'm a bit concerned about his answer; it seems that there should be a way to easily cut the power to the batteries.

Yes, I do have a way to test to discover whether there is electricity in the wires. Thanks. I will try that soon. 

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1 hour ago, Spike said:


I'm a bit concerned about his answer; it seems that there should be a way to easily cut the power to the batteries.

You should be concerned, that is the function of a battery master switch, it completely cuts off the batteries in case of catastrophic failure or for service safety. Unfortunately it also kills every 12 volt device inside the hull, there is no way around that. In your shoes I would buy the cheapest single 12 volt battery I could find and install it until you get all this figured out. Good luck.

https://olivertraveltrailers.com/forums/topic/5450-how-to-battery-master-cutoff-switch-under-the-rear-dinette-seat/

John Davies

Spokane WA

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"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags, Safari snorkel.

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3 minutes ago, John E Davies said:

You should be concerned, that is the function of a battery master switch, it completely cuts off the batteries in case of catastrophic failure or for service safety. Unfortunately it also kills every 12 volt device inside the hull, there is no way around that. In your shoes I would buy the cheapest single 12 volt battery I could find and install it until you get all this figured out. Good luck.

https://olivertraveltrailers.com/forums/topic/5450-how-to-battery-master-cutoff-switch-under-the-rear-dinette-seat/

John Davies

Spokane WA

Agree with John.  If I was in this situation on the road I would find a Walmart or auto parts store and get a cheap 12V battery.  Hook the reds to positive and blacks to negative and continue on my trip - fix once I got home.  Mike

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Texas Hill Country | Elite II #135 | Ram 2500 6.7L

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Oliver is right and wrong about cutting power to the batteries. Yes, there is no ‘easy’ way to do so; but if you or your mechanic are at all comfortable with a screwdriver and 12 volts, you can cut the power by simply removing the charger section from the converter. The instructions on how to do so are in the manual.

But I agree that it should be easier.  Not to be a thorn in Olivers side on this point, but with Victron equipment, you just turn charging off from the control panel, and as always, a premium trailer should have premium components. 

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Yes, covering the wires with tape, and securing, is a "possible" answer. Not one I'd like to travel with.

If I were traveling, I'd want wires attached to "something." A single inexpensive  group 26 or so battery will give you 12v for lights, pump, fans, etc. Just make sure wires are all connected,  properly.  Not a huge deal to change charger settings, for a short time,   if you are boondocking, and working off solar. 

How far are you traveling,  and how long would it take you to get the battleborns you want? Can you stay that long?

The single cheap 12v flooded could work. Wired correctly.  

Either way, you need something,  imo, in that cavity, to receive and deliver power, and eliminate loose wiring flopping around. And, give you a minimal 12v source for getting home with power for your 12v systems-- lights, fans, control board for 3way fridge,  etc.

I'm guessing there is only one positive and one negative in the whole octopus of wires that really makes a difference,  in your original setup. It's now to determine what's what, if you go to a single 12v battery.  The rest will be superfluous,  because it was all connecting 4 x 6v  batteries into a 12v  bank, 2 x2. 

 

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34 minutes ago, SeaDawg said:

I'm guessing there is only one positive and one negative in the whole octopus of wires that really makes a difference,  in your original setup. It's now to determine what's what, if you go to a single 12v battery.  The rest will be superfluous,  because it was all connecting 4 x 6v  batteries into a 12v  bank, 2 x2. 

Well, sort of, all the smaller wires should connect to the temporary battery positive and negative, with the exception of the two big inverter cables. Those can be taped and secured out of the way with some nylon ties. He can figure stuff out in detail later when he gets the trailer back home. A battery with eye type (drlled) terminal posts

0E912BB6-6056-4E27-9ACE-F379E24BD38C.jpeg.ffa5dceadac1e1f7fc5d849765e5c87a.jpeg

will be able to support all the cables, but it might require purchasing a couple of longer bolts. All the extra jumper cables can be stored away in a safe place, AFTER neutralizing any battery acid!!! Here is the 2017 schematic:

DA93EE1A-0424-449C-A8B6-CD87AA6EE5DA.thumb.jpeg.7061c292a1011bcbb0fd66b46efa2881.jpeg

On MY trailer #218 some ground wires were yellow. I have the optional (at the time) side solar port and that adds to the confusion.

John Davies

Spokane WA

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"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags, Safari snorkel.

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Thanks to all who offered advice. Most of you seem to agree that a cheap 12-volt battery, properly connected, would suffice for the short term--getting us home. Mike at Oliver, however, did not agree, saying that we would drain the battery to uselessness within an hour or so. As I wrote earlier, he told me the best temporary solution was to tape up the ends of the cables and secure them until I could get new high-grade batteries.

I decided that I wanted to upgrade to the Battle Born lithiums, thinking I might find someone along the route home from whom I could purchase the batteries and who could install them with the needed components. That turned out to be a fruitless search, as those I contacted either could not get the batteries or were scheduled way into the future with other repair jobs. 

My solution was to order the batteries and needed components-- BBGC2 Battle Born 100Ah GC2, PD4045LICSV Progressive Dynamics Replacements 4000 Series 45 Amp Lithium Converter, and BAM030712000 Victron BMV-712 Battery Monitor--from Battle Born. If their shipping promise holds true, I will receive them after we return home. I have contacted my local RV repair shop in Sierra Vista, AZ, and they assured me that they have the ability to install the batteries and components, having done so before with a couple of other rigs. The downside is that they too are swamped, and will not be able to do the work until the beginning of December. 

In the meantime--since we are committed to staying in Escalante, UT till Tuesday, performing in the festival here--I have made an appointment with a mechanic for Tuesday at what seems to be the only auto repair shop for many a mile, who says he will try to install that cheap battery to help us get home. (I understand that we will have to be very conservative with our power consumption on that trip, hoping that Mike from Oliver might not have had it exactly right.)

Despite all of the worry, hassle, and time, I am looking forward to eventually having an upgraded solar/battery system. I received the sale price on the batteries and a reduced price on the components. Folks who said Battle Born had good customer service seem to be correct. 

Thanks again for everyone's help.

Edited by Spike
correction of typo
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@Spike, I presume your installation is complete by now?  Could you send pics of it and info about what components needed to be upgraded replaced (we have the same setup in our 2018 #333)?  I'm going to move in this direction and yours is the closest situation to ours that I've seen posted

2018 LE2 #333  "the Otter"

2015 Silverado 2500HD

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1 hour ago, Liana said:

I presume your installation is complete by now?  Could you send pics of it and info about what components needed to be upgraded replaced (we have the same setup in our 2018 #333)?  I'm going to move in this direction and yours is the closest situation to ours that I've seen posted

The only photo that might help in the least would be that of my Battle Born batteries (see mention of their installation below).

Here are the components that I had my RV tech install:

1.    4 BBGC2 Battle Born batteries, 100Ah GC2 
 
2.    1 BAM030712000 Victron BMV-712 Battery Monitor

3.    1 PD4045LICSV Progressive Dynamics Replacements 4000 Series 45 Amp Lithium (converter/charger)

4.    1 Micro-Air EasyStart™ 364 Soft Starter with install kit (inside of the Dometic air conditioner)

After this installation, I discovered that—since my AC was wired to function only when connected to shore power—the AC would not run off of the new batteries. With the Battle Born lithiums, I’m hoping to eventually be able to run an AC without shore power, and with great advice from a few smart folks on the forum (check out discussions of the Houghton by RecPro), I think that I have come up with a way to do just that. It involves switching out my Dometic AC for a Houghton, which is much quieter and uses less power. 

I have purchased the following components which my RV tech has agreed to install in early February:

From RecPro (9.5K AC):
https://www.recpro.com/rv-air-conditioner-low-profile-9-5k-quiet-ac-with-remote-control-non-ducted/

From Amazon (Transfer Switch):
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00IKVHA9K/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER&psc=1

From Amazon (Heat-Only Thermostat):
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00204WWGE/ref=ox_sc_act_title_2?smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER&psc=1

Here is part of the instructions I will be giving to my tech:

1.    Install Houghton using best foam for noise reduction.
2.    Reinstall soft start from Dometic to Houghton.
3.    Install Zamp solar port in battery compartment door and to battery bank (some say to the busses, whatever they are)
4.    Install transfer switch to allow AC to run off of inverter.
5.    Wire system so new thermostat controls furnace.
6.    Test to make sure batteries and inverter can now run AC

I have also recently purchased a 180-watt portable solar system from Zamp. I wanted this because now that I have a larger battery bank, I want to be able to fill it more quickly. I'm testing it now (connected to the battery bank with alligator clips) while I type.

Note: My tech called me—when  trying to replace the 4 6-volt AGM batteries with the 4 Battle Born lithiums—to tell me that the Battle Borns would not fit in the battery compartment. After some consultation with the Battle Born (Dragonfly Energy) representative, he got them to fit by placing them on their ends.

Thus far, all seems to be working, with the exception of the Victron monitor which has been giving me some quirky readings that I am still attempting to understand. 

I hope this helps. I will try to post a report on the forum after my tech has completed the work. 

P.S. Since our hull is #222, I like it that yours is #333.

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@SpikeI saw a Houghton installed in a SOB trailer about 2 years ago when they were super hard to come by, glad you were able to secure one, they really are so so so much quieter!  We have the soft start in our A/C, but we try to stay out of places where we need it!  🙂

Battleborn tells me that likely I can just drop batteries in, that my components likely are compatible with them (I have to go get the model number off our our PD4000 to verify).  I think I might go that route for now then if it's not optimal, upgrade later.

Thanks for all your good information, I saw someone else post that they squeezed four of them into theirs.  I don't think we really *need 4, might be able to get by on 2, but I'd be more comfortable with 3.

I agree with you about how helpful the folks in this forum are!  They're amazing!

I like that your hull is #222 and that you are also in Arizona!  🙂

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2018 LE2 #333  "the Otter"

2015 Silverado 2500HD

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57 minutes ago, Liana said:

Thanks for all your good information, I saw someone else post that they squeezed four of them into theirs.  I don't think we really *need 4, might be able to get by on 2, but I'd be more comfortable with 3.

Among others - Mike and Carol went with 3.

Bill

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22 hours ago, Spike said:

Thus far, all seems to be working, with the exception of the Victron monitor which has been giving me some quirky readings that I am still attempting to understand. 

This guide may help.

 

E1327664-9CC1-4CD4-B44B-E14C4DCB6854.thumb.png.5fb684cab550131f847b57647d2e4a74.png

You also said:  Install Zamp solar port in battery compartment door and to battery bank (some say to the busses, whatever they are)

Below is a picture of a busbar.  It is used to allow multiple connections on either the positive or negative side of the battery bank, just like your fuse box at home.  The difference is that in the fuse box each wire or circuit is attached to a breaker and the breaker connects to the busbar.  When your rv tech installed the BMV-712, it included a shunt that is connected to the negative side of the battery bank.  The shunt has 2 posts with one post connected to the battery negative post and that should be the only wire or cable connected to the negative side of the battery bank.  All other negative wires should connect to the other post on the shunt.  There usually isn’t enough room on that post for all of the wires to connect to, so a busbar is added to increase the connection points.  The BMV display is connected between the 2 shunt posts and measures the amount of energy going into or out of the battery bank.

Mossey

6D6D9FE5-7DB9-49B3-998D-0641BF2B9B29.thumb.jpeg.d20d7236c47d707c38d8afa52a7727b7.jpeg

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Mike and Krunch   Lutz, FL  
2017 LEII #193 “the dog house”

 

 

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3 hours ago, topgun2 said:

Among others - Mike and Carol went with 3.

Bill

We initially went with two 100 aH Battle Born batteries.  Two provided plenty of electricity for our camping, even when we had no electrical hookups for extended periods.  I’ve contacted Battle Born for a third battery in case we decide sometime in the future to change refrigerator technology.  I was told last January when we swapped out the AGMs for the lithiums that as long as I added a third in the first 12 to 18 months it would be fine. Three fit in the battery box without putting them on their sides.  Mike

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29 minutes ago, Mike and Carol said:

We initially went with two 100 aH Battle Born batteries...

I thought I'd seen a picture somewhere of your setup and true to form, I can't find it.  Derrick at BB said I can "just drop the batteries in and change the settings on the charge controller and converter" but I don't think that's completely true, I think they need to be secured in some way.  I've seen a couple of different configurations and was looking for your picture to remind myself of what the two battery tie downs looked like.

It looks like our J hooks are rubbing *a little bit* on our AGMS but not catastrophic like some others have posted.  Could those be re used?

I'm no electrician, but I do think if I can build some confidence in how to secure them, I can certainly swap them out myself without having to go to a shop.  I see where the LI-WIZ jumper is on our PD4000, seems super easy and changing the battery type on the charge controller is also easy

2018 LE2 #333  "the Otter"

2015 Silverado 2500HD

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1 hour ago, mossemi said:

This guide may help.

Thanks, mossemi.

I am familiar with the Battle Born guidelines for the Victron monitor. I have double-checked my settings with a Dragonfly Energy (Battle Born manufacturer) representative, with whom I have spoken on the phone a couple of times now about the quirky readings.

One issue is that the monitor shows no auto syntonizations which, according to the Victron manual, is needed to keep the monitor accurate. For several days, the monitor displayed that my battery bank was fully charged by my solar around 10:00 AM each morning even though it also showed that my batteries were less than 100%--diminishing about 1/2 percent each day. Also, the Zamp, SeeLevel, and Victron monitor most often displayed about 13.6 voltages in the middle of the day, which seems to be the standard reading for a full battery. The rep suggested that I manually set the monitor to 100%, which I did.

I recently purchased a 180-watt portable solar system from Zamp, which I have connected (about four times now) to the batteries using the alligator clips. Within an hour or so, the monitor on the portable unit, the Victron monitor, and the Zamp monitor in the cabin all display about 14.4 volts before the monitor on the portable unit displays "FUL" and reveals that it is in float mode at about 13.8 volts. According to the Victron manual, this should cause the monitor to synchronize, but it has never displayed that it has done so. Also. now, in the last few days, the Victron monitor does not display that the batteries received a full charge. Even though all of the monitors reveal that the batteries have been fully charged one day, the next day it reads that the batteries received their last full charge days in the past, for instance, will read something like "Last Full Charge: 3D1h." 

I left a voicemail message with the Battle Born rep two days ago, and he has not yet returned my call. He is perhaps tired of trying to help me. I called Zamp, and a rep there immediately answered the phone. (Zamp seems to have really good customer service, but Victron apparently does not provide direct support to end-users and installers.)  He said that he did not have detailed information about the Victron monitor, but he did suggest that I might try deleting the app and downloading it again on my phone. I am somewhat hesitant to do so, fearing that it might not sync with my monitor. I was hoping to get more advice from the Battle Born rep who has not yet returned my call.

If you or anyone else has some insight into these quirking readings of the monitor, please let me know. And thanks for explaining the busbar.

Onward through the Fog!


EarthPicks of Cochise County


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